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Short-Term vs. Long-Term Treatment

The length of addiction treatment varies depending upon the program chosen. Most programs, particularly residential treatment centers, offer either long-term or short-term rehab. Here is a look at the details of each.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Treatment: Length

Short-term rehab is addiction treatment that lasts 30 days or less. The shortest programs last about 12 days. Long-term rehab is addiction treatment that lasts longer than 30 days, typically 60-90 days. Some programs can last longer than 3 months.

Differences Between Short-Term and Long-Term Rehab

Besides the length of the stay, short-term and long-term drug rehab programs have a few important differences to consider.


As a critical first step in recovery, detox provides a medically-supervised environment where the patient can go through withdrawal. Most long-term treatment programs integrate detox into their treatment services. However, short-term programs are less likely to offer detox, so patients will need to attend a standalone detox center before entering a short-term rehab program.

alcohol and drug treatment facility


Each type of rehab program requires patients to commit to the program and recovery. However, because long-term programs last significantly longer than short-term programs, the commitment they require is correspondingly higher. As a result, patients must often put their lives and jobs on hold while attending treatment and be prepared to devote themselves to recovery for a quarter of a year or more.


The longer a patient is in treatment, the more expensive that treatment tends to be. As a result, short-term rehab tends to be less expensive than long-term rehab.

Comprehensive Treatment

Because of the longer treatment time, long-term drug rehab generally offers more intensive and comprehensive treatment than short-term rehab. For example, patients may be able to access a wider variety of treatment approaches, spend more time exploring their addiction and developing habits to manage it, and have the opportunity to develop a more structured daily life. Here are some of the differences in scope between short-term and long-term drug rehab.

  • In-depth therapy sessions
  • Expanded treatment variety
  • Healthy habit development
  • Exploration of underlying issues
  • Extensive aftercare planning

The difference in success rates between long-term and short-term rehab programs is striking. 70% of patients who attend long-term addiction treatment maintain their sobriety, while only about 20% of patients who attend short-term drug treatment do the same.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Treatment: Cost Differences

Drug and alcohol rehab can be a significant financial investment, but exactly how much they cost depends upon several factors, including the length of the stay and the type of treatment program chosen. Inpatient treatment, for example, can cost almost twice as much as outpatient treatment for the same amount of time.

long term group therapy

Short-term rehab is less expensive than long-term addiction treatment when it comes to the length of stay. On average, a 30-day inpatient stay can cost between $2,000 and $20,000, or $250 - $800 a day. Typically, you will need to add additional costs to this total for detox ($600- $1,000 a day) and outpatient therapy ($500 per session).

Long-term rehab can cost significantly more than $40,000 - $80,000. However, certain expenses, such as detox and therapy, are often included in this amount.

These expenses may seem high, but the good news is that many facilities offer assistance programs for patients who cannot pay, accept insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, or make treatment affordable in other ways. Here are some avenues you can take to affording both short-term and long-term drug rehab:

  • Find a facility that accepts your insurance
  • Choose a facility that offers free care
  • Select a facility that offers services on a sliding scale
  • Look for a facility that receives funding for their services

As an investment, short-term and long-term rehab can pay dividends that make them well worth the cost: A life free of addiction is priceless.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Treatment: Success Rates

The difference in success rates between long-term and short-term rehab programs is striking. 70% of patients who attend long-term addiction treatment maintain their sobriety, while only about 20% of short-term drug treatment patients do the same.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it takes at least 90 days in rehab to give patients a solid chance at long-term success. The reason is that it takes weeks for patients to form new, healthy habits, address the underlying drivers of their addiction, and establish a solid aftercare program to help them avoid addiction after they leave rehab.

holistic drug rehab

Consider, for example, counseling. On average, patients receive just 3 therapy sessions during short-term addiction treatment. Only about one-third of patients can benefit from 3 counseling sessions: More is required to help patients heal. Long-term rehab offers access to long-term counseling and other treatments that can establish a foundation for long-term recovery.

Short-term and long-term rehab offers patients an opportunity to break free of their addiction. However, despite a longer commitment and more intensive therapy, long-term rehab often provides a more successful method for addiction recovery.


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