Long-term Alcohol Rehab: What to Expect

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Fighting alcohol addiction can be a long and difficult journey, but it’s never too late to seek help. Sometimes, a short rehab stint may not be enough to achieve lasting sobriety.

For individuals with severe addiction or co-occurring disorders, long-term alcohol rehab may be the best option for achieving and maintaining recovery.

But how does long-term alcohol rehab differ from traditional programs? What can you expect during your stay? What are the benefits of long-term alcohol rehab?

We explore these questions and more in this guide.

How Long Does Alcohol Treatment Programs Last?

Treatment for alcohol addiction isn’t a one-size-fits-all affair. Therefore, the length of time one might spend in a rehabilitation center also differs by individual. Critical factors that may affect the length of treatment include:

  • The severity of the addiction and the length of time the victim has been misusing alcohol.
  • Presence of co-occurring disorders.
  • Past treatment history.
  • Physical health.
  • Insurance coverage, ability to pay, and insurance plan stipulations.
  • Level of care needed.

Although the treatment duration varies from person to person, longer treatment periods are associated with higher success rates.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that treatment programs lasting less than 90 days may have limited effectiveness.

NIDA also says that recovery from alcohol addiction is a long-term process that may require multiple treatment episodes.

After all, alcohol addiction is a chronic illness. Plus, relapse is part of the process, meaning that treatment needs to be reinstated at some point.

You must also keep in mind that treatment for alcohol addiction isn’t exclusively carried out at inpatient treatment centers.

Different treatment settings and levels of care exist. In fact, short-term stays at an inpatient rehab center is supplemented by other forms of treatment.

The first step in alcohol addiction treatment is detoxification. The time it takes to detox from alcohol varies depending on how long you have been drinking, how much you drink, age, weight, and physical health.

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Most patients begin experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms within six hours after taking the last drink. They tend to worsen after 48 hours and peak after 72 hours. The withdrawal symptoms may last for up to two weeks.

Therefore, detox programs last between two weeks to one month, but they are mostly integrated into a medically assisted rehab program, allowing patients to begin therapy once the worst of their withdrawal symptoms subsides.

Inpatient rehab programs last between 28-30 days but are only recommended for people with mild addictions. Some last 60-90 days, while others last up to six months.

Outpatient programs, also known as intensive outpatient programming, usually consist of several hours of group therapy and one hour of individual counseling every week. Patients are advised to attend outpatient programs after completing a residential program.

Outpatient programs mainly focus on relapse prevention, support groups, reinforcement of coping skills taught in inpatient rehab centers, and life skills.

Patients are also advised to enroll in aftercare programs after completing the initial treatment. Aftercare programs allow patients to receive ongoing support and assistance as they transition back into their daily lives.

The two common forms of aftercare programs are sober living and 12-step meetings.

Sober living homes provide a structured and safe environment for individuals in recovery, typically requiring residents to attend support group meetings and follow house rules.

On the other hand, 12-step meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or SMART Recovery offer peer support and a sense of community for those in recovery.

What Is Long-Term Alcohol Rehab?

Long-term alcohol rehab is a residential treatment program typically lasting 90 days or more.

Unlike traditional short-term programs that last for only a few weeks, long-term rehab provides an immersive and structured environment for an extended period. Sometimes, long-term alcohol rehab may take up to 12 months.

This lets you fully focus on your recovery without distractions or triggers.

Patients admitted to a long-term rehab program are usually given a long-term care plan and aftercare plans for when the treatment ends.

Medical professionals may not monitor the aftercare part, but following through is still very important.

What to Expect During Your Stay

During your stay in long-term alcohol rehab, you can expect to participate in various therapies and activities designed to help you overcome your addiction and address underlying issues.

These may include individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), holistic therapies such as yoga and meditation, and more.

Long-term alcohol rehab programs often offer a structured daily routine that includes nutritious meals, exercise, and recreational activities. This helps to promote physical health and overall well-being while in treatment.

Different treatment models may be used in long-term alcohol rehab programs. One popular treatment model is the therapeutic community (TC) model.

During TC, alcohol addiction is viewed as a disorder of the whole person, and treatment addresses not only substance use but also other aspects of life, such as social, psychological, and vocational needs.

Long-term Alcohol Rehab

The patient is encouraged to develop self-accountability and responsibility as part of recovery.

Treatment is highly structured and may be confrontational at certain times. However, the model activities are designed to help patients examine damaging self-concepts, beliefs, and destructive behavior patterns that may have contributed to their addiction.

The TC model is usually focused on entire lifestyle changes. The primary objective is to reduce the chances of relapse after treatment. This model offers other services in addition to addiction treatment, such as job training.

Another model is the 12-step approach, which involves following a set of guiding principles to help individuals achieve and maintain sobriety. Other programs may incorporate a combination of different treatment models to best meet the needs of everyone.

Who Should Enroll in Long-Term Alcohol Rehab Programs?

Unfortunately, this question has no right or wrong answer since different treatment programs work for different people.

However, long-term alcohol rehab programs tend to be effective for people who have struggled with alcohol addiction for relatively long periods and cannot maintain sobriety even after completing other rehab programs.

Sometimes, these people need more time to work through their underlying issues and develop the skills and strategies needed to maintain long-term sobriety.

It is also recommended for individuals with a dual diagnosis, meaning they struggle with addiction and mental health issues. Long-term rehab programs can help address both of these complex issues simultaneously.

Long-term Alcohol Rehab

Long-term alcohol rehab programs may also be beneficial for individuals who have relapsed multiple times and need more intensive treatment to break the cycle of addiction.

However, you need to remember that long-term rehab programs may not be ideal for some people. The idea of staying in a rehab facility for such a long time can be daunting for some victims.

Typically, you should avoid enrolling in a long-term rehab program if you have other responsibilities, such as caring for young children, or if you have a job that you cannot take time off from.

It is also important to consider the cost of long-term alcohol rehab programs since they can be more expensive than shorter programs. However, many facilities offer payment plans or accept insurance to help make treatment more affordable.

How Much Does It Cost?

Many people delay long-term alcohol rehab over cost concerns. However, that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to avoid rehabilitation.

Consider researching payment options and weighing the actual cost of treatment versus potential benefits before you decide.

Furthermore, there are many options available that can help reduce the financial burden of long-term rehab. Insurance coverage, sliding scale fees based on income, and scholarships are just a few ways to make treatment more affordable.

Medicare and Medicaid can also cover inpatient rehab services at some facilities if you qualify.

Think about the true cost of not seeking treatment for alcohol addiction in the long term, both financially and emotionally, before you decide your next course of action.

Why Is Long-Term Rehab the Best Option?

NIDA says that any addiction treatment program that lasts less than 90 days lacks efficacy. The same organization reiterates that significantly longer stays at a rehab facility may result in a better outcome.

But that is not all. The American Society of Addiction Medicine reports that long-term treatment is necessary for opioid addiction due to relatively higher relapse rates in shorter lengths.

The Residential Substance Abuse Treatment for State Prisoners Program usually requires state and local treatment to last at least six months, while jail-based treatment must last at least three months to qualify for funding. This is based on the projected efficacy of the program.

Long-term Alcohol Rehab

The National Institute of Justice adds that patients who complete long-term rehab are less likely to return to jail or prison within three years.

The bias of these institutions towards long-term rehab is based on evidence of its effectiveness in treating addiction and addressing underlying issues.

With longer treatment periods, individuals have more time to work through their challenges and develop crucial coping skills for long-term sobriety.


Long-term alcohol rehab may be a more suitable option for individuals with severe or long-standing addiction to alcohol.

It provides the opportunity for extended treatment and support as well as addressing underlying issues that may have contributed to addiction.

During your stay, you can expect a structured environment, various therapies and activities, and aftercare planning to help prevent relapse.

Long-term care plans and follow-up support are important aspects of successful recovery from alcohol addiction.

At CCIWA, we are fully committed to helping individuals overcome their addiction to alcohol and lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

We partner with certified clinics that offer long-term rehab programs structured in an environment for extended treatment and recovery.

Contact us today to get connected with a long-term rehab program that meets your needs and starts your journey toward lasting sobriety.

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