Pros and Cons of 90 Day Rehab


“The best friend a patient has in treatment is time.”

A few years ago, 90 day treatment programs became the new gold standard for addiction treatment. For decades, research has proven that people who attend a longer treatment plan have a lower rate of relapse. A 1999 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that

  • 35% of those in treatment for less than 90 days reported drug use the following year, versus
  • 17% of people who were in treatment  90 days or over reported relapse in the following year

But how do I know if the 90 day treatment program is right for me? What are the advantages and disadvantages to a longer stay in rehab? To help answer these questions, we have compiled a brief list of the pros and cons of 90 day treatment program.

Pros

A longer stay in rehab provides:

  • The ability to focus on your recovery. In 28–30 day rehab, the first week or so is focused on detoxification and the physical and emotional side of recovery. Even after that, some may need additional time to transition and focus. Many guests are also distracted during the last week, focusing more on leaving than learning. This leaves very little time for effective learning. On the other hand, a longer program allows guests to immerse themselves 24/7 into treatment activities.
  • More time to master the skills of recovery. Short term programs do not provide enough time to master the skills needed for life outside of rehab.  Skills such as managing interpersonal relationships, engaging in conflict resolution and exercising personal discipline are essential for lasting sobriety. And like any other skill, they require practice. As we all know, the more your practice, the better prepared you will be.
  • A breather from the demands and temptations of life. Sometimes, 30 days is just not enough of a “getaway” from the stressors of life. A longer stay within the safety of rehab bolsters your recovery muscles so you will be ready for the temptations outside rehab.
  • A richer learning experience. A longer program allows you to dig deeper into the concepts of recovery and benefit from detailed education sessions. Duffy’s extended care program offers a separate educational curriculum, relapse prevention series, and include Steps 4–7 from the Big Book.
  • A chance to change a habit. Scientific evidence shows it takes approximately 90 days for the brain to reset itself and shake off the effects of an addiction. Researchers discovered re-engaging of decision making and analytical functions in the prefrontal cortex of the brain after an addict has abstained for at least 90 days.
  • Better outcomes. Not only does 90 day rehab decrease the chances of relapse, but research also shows that a longer stay in rehab increases the likelihood of getting hired. According to a study funded by the substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), individuals who stayed in treatment longer than 90 days were 22–43% more likely to be employed in the year following treatment than those who stayed a shorter time.

Cons

The disadvantages of long-term rehab include:

  • Cost. Expensive is the biggest disadvantage to long-term rehab.
  • Conflict with work and home responsibilities. Understandably, 60 or 90 days away from home can be very disruptive to your life. Taking two or three months off of work or school is a challenge for many employees and students. Additionally, leaving off other commitments—who will pick up the kids? who will pick up the mail?—requires a substantial amount of sacrifice.

You may think you are saving more with a shorter treatment plan, but the possibility of relapse may cost you more time and money in the end.

Everyone is different

There is no “magic number” to treatment, and we’re certainly not saying that a shorter treatment program does not work. Truth is, the best plan for you depends on…you. The “gold standard” of treatment losses its value unless it is based upon individual needs. However, research finds that long-term drug rehab is especially appropriate for certain individuals:

  • Those who have used drugs by injections
  • Those who have a long history of addiction
  • Those who already have a history of treatment and relapse
  • Those who have a severe drug or alcohol problem

Is it worth it?

Even though a longer rehab may mean more time and more money, the long-term goals are significant in relation to your quality of life. Think about it: the impact of addiction on your health, relationships, and finances may overshadow the financial cost of treatment. Rehab isn’t just a financial burden: it’s an investment—an investment into your life. A longer treatment stay may require sacrifice, but the ultimate goal (a fulfilling life without drugs or alcohol) may be well worth the cost.