Breaking The Habit Of Addiction | How Long Does It Take?
Some people compare drug addiction to a bad habit. In reality, addiction is not a habit but a serious, chronic disease. Fortunately, as with a habit, you can break an addiction. The time it takes to do so depends on various factors, including the type of addiction treatment you receive.
How Long Does It Take To Break The Habit Of Addiction?
You may have heard that it takes 21 days to break a habit. Although popular, this claim has been proven false.
Research suggests that while 21 days may be enough time to build a new habit, breaking an old habit takes much longer (especially when the “habit” is actually a chronic illness, as is the case with addiction).
According to a study by University College London, it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days to break a habit, the average being 66 days.
The average time needed to recover from addiction is even longer.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), most people must spend at least 90 days (3 months) in an addiction treatment program to successfully stop drug use. The exact amount of time you will need depends on personal factors, such as:
- which drugs you used
- how long you have been using drugs
- why you started using drugs in the first place
- whether you have a strong support system
- whether you have any co-occurring mental health conditions
Considering these factors can help you choose the right rehab program so you can recover faster.
Choosing The Right Rehab Program
If you live with opioid or alcohol addiction, you should likely choose a program that offers medication-assisted treatment (MAT). In MAT, doctors prescribe medications that ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with opioids and alcohol.
Similarly, if you don’t have a good support system at home, you should choose inpatient care instead of outpatient care. That way, you can receive 24/7 care and supervision.
Also, if you have a co-occurring mental health condition, you should choose a dual diagnosis program. These programs offer specialized treatment for addiction that occurs alongside other mental health concerns.
The Importance Of Evidence-Based Treatment
No matter the specifics of your addiction, you will likely recover more quickly if you receive evidence-based treatments. Evidence-based treatment is any treatment scientifically proven to help people recover from addiction. The most popular evidence-based treatments include:
One of the most common symptoms of addiction is physical dependence. That means your body starts depending on drugs to function normally. If you stop using them, you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, shaking, and sweating.
In most cases, withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening. However, they can be extremely uncomfortable. That’s why they cause many people to relapse. To avoid or reduce withdrawal symptoms, you should attend a medical detox program.
During medical detox, a team of doctors will help you stay as comfortable and healthy as possible while you become drug-free.
Generally, they will recommend that you slowly stop using drugs instead of quitting cold turkey. This strategy lets your body gradually adjust to life without drugs, which can decrease withdrawal symptoms.
Your doctors may also prescribe medications to ease certain withdrawal symptoms.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Most addiction relapses occur due to triggers. Triggers are people, places, or other things that make you want to engage in drug or alcohol use.
In cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a therapist will help you identify your triggers. You will then learn ways to cope with them. The most popular coping skills include:
- deep breathing
- listing all the reasons you stopped using drugs in the first place
- talking to supportive friends and family members
CBT can also help you manage any co-occurring mental health conditions. Treating these conditions can significantly reduce your risk of relapse and continued substance abuse.
Twelve-Step Facilitation Therapy
Many people with addiction benefit from twelve-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
These self-help groups teach skills that can lead to long-term recovery. Twelve-step facilitation therapy introduces you to these skills. In particular, it teaches you how to:
- accept that addiction is a chronic disease
- accept the fellowship and support of other people in recovery
- become actively involved in 12-step meetings and other activities
The Importance Of Aftercare
Once you complete treatment, you might think your addictive behaviors are cured. However, addiction recovery is a lifelong process.
In fact, between 40% and 60% of people struggle with addiction relapse. This is similar to the relapse rate of other chronic diseases, including asthma and hypertension.
Relapse does not mean you failed. Instead, it just means you need additional or modified treatment. To reduce the risk of relapse, most rehab facilities offer aftercare planning. An aftercare plan is a list of strategies meant to promote your long-term recovery. Examples include:
- regular therapy
- support groups
- wellness activities, such as exercise, meditation, and journaling
- treatment for any co-occurring mental health conditions
- assistance with education, employment, or housing
If you or someone you love lives with addiction, please reach out to the helpline at Recovering Champions. Our board-certified healthcare providers offer medication-assisted treatment, family therapy, and other evidence-based services to help you or your loved one stay sober.
Recovering Champions Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.