If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, you might be considering a stay at a drug or alcohol rehab. It’s natural to have questions and concerns and one of the first questions many people want to know the answer to is, ‘How long is rehab?’.

The short answer is that it varies. Rehab programmes typically last for 28 days, but rehab treatment can last longer or be shorter depending on individual needs.

Rehab and Treatment Duration

The first thing to consider when asking ‘how long is alcohol rehab?’ (or drug rehab) is what the rehab programme actually consists of.

Rehabilitation, or rehab, refers in general terms to any programme designed to restore a person to health or normal life through training and therapy. This could involve learning to walk again after an injury or illness, or adjusting to normal life after a spell in prison. In terms of addiction treatment, it can involve a number of different treatment models.

These can include outpatient or community-based rehab but are generally used to refer to inpatient or residential rehabilitation. This is where you stay onsite as a resident for the duration of your addiction treatment programme.

The rehab will generally last up to 28 days, but some programmes may be longer or shorter. It is generally considered most effective to stay for up to four weeks if possible, as this gives you more time to work on the various elements of your addiction.

How Long Are Drug and Alcohol Rehab Programmes?

Some rehab programmes focus only on drug or alcohol detox while others start after this process has been undertaken. Some people may have already gone through this stage, for example, but are struggling to maintain their recovery. Rare government-funded placements in private rehab may also require the person to detox in a community setting as this will save overall costs.

While detox is a very important step, it is generally only the first in a long journey of recovery. A holistic detoxification programme will also incorporate a range of therapies and other treatments aimed at helping you to deal with every aspect of your addiction and substance misuse problems.

This may involve attending group therapy sessions, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and one-to-one counselling that can help you to explore the root causes of your substance misuse and to change the way you think and behave around alcohol and drugs.

You are also likely to attend relapse prevention sessions that can help you to develop coping skills and strategies to remain clean and sober once you leave rehab. There may also be other therapies and sessions such as family therapy, yoga, meditation and mindfulness, creative therapy and nutrition workshops.

All this takes time but you might expect options to include:

  • 7-day rehab
  • 10-day rehab
  • 14-day rehab
  • 21-day rehab
  • 28-day rehab

A 7-day rehab might only cover detox while a 28-day rehab is the most common duration and is generally considered the optimal length of time to cover everything you need to and set you up for a full and lasting recovery.

Rehab Programme Timeframes

A residential programme at a private rehab will usually begin with a period of supervised detoxification, or detox. This is a process during which your body rids itself of the drugs or alcohol in your system, sometimes from years of abuse. It can sometimes be quite quick for your system to physically metabolise the actual drugs or alcohol, depending on the substance involved.

Withdrawal symptoms can last for much longer however and can be very difficult to deal with – as well as potentially dangerous.

Despite the fact that alcohol is a legal and widely available drug, for example, withdrawal symptoms can be particularly severe.

  • The first symptoms, which can include nausea, anxiety, insomnia, and abdominal pain, tend to begin within 8-12 hours of the last drink.
  • Secondary symptoms including high blood pressure, increased body temperature, abnormal heart rate, and confusion may begin 24–72 hours after the last drink.
  • More severe symptoms (delirium tremens or the DTs) can include fever, seizures, hallucinations, and agitation. These may follow the secondary symptoms and can last for several days.

At Nova Recovery, we use monitoring and the respected Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment of Alcohol Scale (CIWA) to gauge the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Prescription medicines such as Librium and Diazepam may be prescribed where appropriate.

Factors Influencing the Length of Rehab Treatment

There are numerous factors that influence how long rehab can take. As outlined above, the detox process and its after-effects can take around a week. This means that people who are only undergoing detox might only be in rehab for 7 days. On the other hand, those who turn up having already detoxed elsewhere might have a shorter stay in rehab than they otherwise would.

Other factors that may affect the length of rehab include the type and severity of addiction, the exact make-up of the treatment options and the progress being made – some residents may feel they need to stay longer than initially agreed. Budget, schedules and work and family commitments may also play a part in the overall length of a rehab programme.

How Long Are Outpatient Rehab Programmes?

While residential rehab can be very intensive, with treatment scheduled most days, outpatient rehab tends to be more flexible and outpatient rehab takes longer. This is because you will attend treatment sessions and appointments that may be on a weekly basis (but could also be more or less frequent), with support provided through various sources such as telephone and video calls in between.

An outpatient rehabilitation programme could take 10-12 weeks but could also vary depending on individual needs and circumstances.

Extended Care and Aftercare

While residential rehab is designed to provide you with the tools and resources you need to maintain a long-lasting recovery, the recovery journey does not end when the door closes behind you. Good rehab centres will also offer an aftercare service and at Nova Recovery we provide 12 months of free support following the completion of the private rehab programme. Former residents can contact us any time via phone for support or advice, as well as attend regular catch-up sessions that are generally done through video calling.

All of this gives you the best possible chance to make a full and long-lasting recovery and move into a more positive future free from drugs and alcohol. Get in touch on 01475 303998 or fill out our contact form to learn more about how long rehab takes.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: June 6, 2023

John has travelled extensively around the world, culminating in 19 years’ experience looking at different models. He is the European pioneer of NAD+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) treatment to Europe in 2010; and recently back from the USA bringing state of the art Virtual Reality Relapse Prevention and stress reduction therapy. His passion extends to other metabolic disturbances and neurodegenerative diseases. The journey continues. In recent times, John has travelled to Russia to study and research into a new therapy photobiomudulation or systemic laser therapy working with NAD+ scientists and the very best of the medical professionals in the UK and the USA, together with Nadcell, Bionad Hospitals own select Doctors, nurses, dieticians and therapists. Johns’ passion continues to endeavour to bring to the UK and Europe new developments with NAD+ Therapy in preventive and restorative medicine and Wellness. In 2017 John Gillen was made a visiting Professor at the John Naisbitt university in Belgrade Serbia.