If you or a loved one is interested in setting out on the road to recovery, you may wonder how long it takes to break an addiction to drugs or alcohol? Recovering from addiction will vary depending on the individual and substance being abused, but there are a few common stages most experience.
How Long Does it Take to Break an Addiction?
It’s one of the most frequent questions we hear from people interested in our addiction treatment programs – how long does it take to break an addiction?
It really depends on the individual, the substance they’re abusing, and their support system.
The most abused drugs continue to be:
- Prescription medications
- Crack cocaine
Many of the people addicted to drugs do not want to be. They hate being tied to a substance that doesn’t allow them to have a happy life, feel more like a slave to the drugs they use, and find it hard to be employed. But quitting a drug can seem impossible to do, especially when they have spent months, maybe years, trying to break their addiction on their own.
What Is Addiction?
Addiction doesn’t happen overnight. It can take months, even years, to develop an addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a brain disorder. It is described as someone seeking dangerous substances and participating in compulsive behaviors, despite negative consequences.
This can mean that even though a person may lose their job, lose relationships, or even lose their home, they continue to use drugs. They find it almost impossible to stop using drugs, even though they know it is harmful.
Drugs activate the reward center in the brain. The “feel good” chemicals are released and urges the addict to continue using the drug. Over time, the brain builds up a tolerance to the drug and needs more and more of it to receive that same feeling of reward.
Long-term addiction can change the brain’s structure and alter functions related to stress, judgment, learning, coping, memory and behaviors. It is a chronic disease that often involves multiple relapses.
Breaking an addiction for good can be a difficult and slow process. Getting help from professionals is essential, as they provide proper tools to help you maintain sobriety. How long it takes each addict to break an addiction can vary based on a few key factors.
What to Expect During Withdrawal
Withdrawal begins just a few hours after the last time someone takes a drug or a drink of alcohol. It can look different for everyone, depending on how much use is involved and the length of addiction.
Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, from nausea and vomiting to stomach cramps. Some people experience sweating even though they feel cold and clammy. Others find themselves crying or trying to cope with extreme anxiety.
One person’s withdrawal symptoms may last longer than another, depending on the substance. Some symptoms last a few days, while others last two weeks or more.
Withdrawal can be more dangerous for some than others. For instance, detoxification from alcohol can lead to fatal reactions from the body. Therefore, it is important to receive proper medical detox from a drug and alcohol hospital.
There are a variety of treatment programs established to help you become sober. Inpatient detox is the best way to start your journey. Here you are medically supervised, and any negative symptoms can be treated for relief. This process can last up to two weeks.
Once detox is complete, you can move on to inpatient rehabilitation, which can last 28 days or more. The longer you stay in treatment, the better your chances of breaking an addiction.
Other types of treatment can include:
- Intensive outpatient programs
- Individual counseling
- Support groups
- Family therapy
This process can last from a few months to a year or longer. Many factors play into how long it takes to break an addiction, especially if you face a relapse.
Relapse Prevention and Addiction Treatment
Learning how to prevent relapses is an important part of breaking an addiction. With therapy, you can learn how to avoid potential triggers that could cause you to start using drugs or alcohol in the future.
Relapse prevention is an extremely structured plan of action involving all areas of your life that can help you overcome your desire to relapse. It involves where you will live, work, and socialize. It also involves family members, friends, and letting go of negative people in your life.
If you can implement your plan, you are likely to succeed at breaking your addiction for good. Many times, this means changing many aspects of your lifestyle. Relapse prevention can take a year or more. It can even become an ongoing part of your life, updating your plan as needed.
Breaking an Addiction at Westwind Recovery®
You must commit, for the rest of your life, to avoid hanging around people who are negative influences. You cannot socialize with people who are still using drugs and alcohol. It is too tempting. While this may seem harsh, you must focus on maintaining sobriety so that you can live the great life you deserve.
Building healthy relationships is essential. You can do this by attending healthy activities. Go to events like support groups, take a class on your favorite hobby, or get a job in a workplace that has a healthy environment.
Learning to cope with stress can aid you in staying sober. Stress is just one thing that triggers us to revert to our favorite way of handling situations, by using. But if you proper stress management techniques, you will be able to better handle the urges to relapse.
In conclusion, the time it takes to break an addiction will vary and will be based largely on the steps you take to help you maintain sobriety. Breaking an addiction is rarely something that can be done on your own.
Dr. Deena is the Chief Clinical Officer of Westwind Recovery®, an award-winning outpatient treatment center in Los Angeles where she oversees the clinical and administrative program and treatment methods. Dr. Deena is a doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker since 1993. LCSW #20628. Originally from the East Coast, Dr. Deena has worked running treatment centers, worked as a therapist in psychiatric hospitals as well as school settings and currently has a thriving private practice in the LA area. Dr. Deena has appeared regularly on the Dr. Phil Show as an expert since 2003. She has also been featured on many other TV shows, podcasts and has contributed to written publications as well as podcasts.