How Long-Term Treatment Leads to Long-Term Sobriety

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Not everyone might realize just how important the difference between short-term and long-term treatment can be. (faithie/Shutterstock)

Not everyone might realize just how important the difference between short-term and long-term treatment can be. (faithie/Shutterstock)

Depending on your knowledge and experience when it comes to addiction treatment, you might have one or two views regarding the general length of most treatment programs. A number of treatment centers have programs lasting about ninety days, but those who have watched multiple episodes of Intervention may have seen addicts with major drug problems sent away to thirty-day programs. If we assume that all of these treatment centers are equally reputable and exhibit equal care for their patients, then one might wonder why the gap between short-term and long-term treatment is as wide as two months. Surely both have the same goal of eventually leading to long-term sobriety, right?

The answer to this question is rather complicated. If you look at our full continuum of care, it seems pretty obvious that Amethyst believes long-term treatment to be more beneficial when seeking long-term sobriety. That is not to say that no one can achieve long-term sobriety after receiving short-term care. Many can, and many do. But there are multiple reasons that long-term treatment might be seen as more beneficial, especially in cases involving particularly addictive drugs such as heroin and other opiates.

Below, we will talk about why short-term treatment programs appear to be the norm at many facilities. We will then talk about the reasons that we at Amethyst prefer long-term care, and why long-term treatment has more potential to result in long-term sobriety. Remember that many members of our staff have achieved long-term sobriety after their own battles with addiction and alcoholism, so the anecdotal evidence we present here is based on real experiences. We have very good—and very personal—reasons to believe that long-term treatment is the right way to go.

Why Short-Term Treatment Is Common

The popularity of short-term treatment is basically fueled by money. (Trueffelpix/Shutterstock)

The popularity of short-term treatment is basically fueled by money. (Trueffelpix/Shutterstock)

The proliferation of thirty-day programs can largely be attributed to insurance. As noted by New Beginnings, another treatment center in support of long-term treatment programs, most addicts and their families cannot easily pay for treatment out of pocket. They rely on their insurance, and many companies are not willing to pay for more than about a month of treatment. This gives the appearance that treatment centers and their patients have only two options. The first is that patients with such insurance coverage could simply not seek treatment. The second is that more treatment centers could offer treatment programs that were only ever meant to last for thirty days in the first place.

Of course, there is technically a third option, and it’s one that occurs quite frequently. Patients whose insurance will not cover long-term treatment can go to a long-term treatment facility, and simply leave treatment when their insurance has run out. But many patients would not prefer this option, as it leaves them feeling that their treatment has not been completed. In the eyes of these addicts and their families, a short-term treatment facility would be beneficial because they would be able to complete the program before they run out of funding.

This viewpoint requires a few rather large assumptions—primarily that thirty-day programs will be intensive enough to make up for the sixty days that patients are losing. And while some treatment centers do try to intensify their programs under such circumstances, even these facilities cannot fully accommodate the sort of care that is generally provided by long-term treatment programs. Again, we are not saying that patients cannot benefit at all from a short-term treatment program, but it would be unwise to assume that short-term and long-term treatment will offer the precise same benefits just as long as the program has been completed in full.

Perhaps there are ways that those who seek short-term treatment can make up the difference. The most plausible means of doing this would be for a patient to seek residence in a sober living facility. We have seen many patients grow immensely while residing within our own sober living facilities, and they often become even stronger in their recovery than they were while in treatment. But even those who plan to extend their care through sober living would still benefit from long-term treatment beforehand. We will explain some of the reasons for this below.

Why We Prefer Long-Term Treatment

For those who wish to avoid relapse, long-term treatment is simply the safer alternative. (zimmytws/Shutterstock)

For those who wish to avoid relapse, long-term treatment is simply the safer alternative. (zimmytws/Shutterstock)

One of the reasons we begin with day/night care, not to mention one of the reasons we so strongly recommend sober living, is that it takes time for treatment to sink in. It can take some patients about thirty days just to start breaking through their denial so that they can move forward in therapy. Other patients, the rare few who enter with few shreds of denial whatsoever, may go in the opposite direction and find themselves feeling a bit cocky after the first month when they feel as if they are strong in the program and no longer need help. In either case, it benefits the addict in question to spend a bit more time in a safe space. Releasing them back into the same environment in which they were previously using can be a dangerous move at such a crucial point in their early recovery.

This is not to say that recovering addicts are not intelligent enough to realize the dangers of their addictions. But no matter how smart they might be, you must bear in mind that it will usually take north of a week just to detox. Until the body is free from all traces of the abused substance, we cannot expect patients to approach treatment with an unclouded mind. Without long-term treatment, we are expecting patients to undergo a lot of growth in just a few weeks after their body has detoxed. It’s simply not a reasonable demand, and it isn’t fair to the patient or to the families who want to see their loved one recover.

Furthermore, long-term treatment is necessary in cases of long-term use. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that, put quite simply, detoxification does not mean that the body has healed. When we wrote about the changes that addicts undergo in recovery, we made great mention of the physical transformations they will experience. Drugs and alcohol have all but wrecked out bodies by the time we enter treatment, and we will feel that quite a bit in early sobriety. Without long-term treatment in an intensive program, addicts may be driven to numb their physical discomfort in the only way they know how. If this happens, then the cycle will begin anew and thirty days of treatment will go right out the window.

The other reason that long-term treatment is needed for cases of long-term use is that addicts and alcoholics need sufficient time to figure out their triggers and build a relapse prevention plan. We are quite dedicated to this, to the extent that we work hard to help patients navigate their insurance coverage to the best of their abilities. Some insurance plans may offer more benefits than patients are initially aware, and it can be helpful to have employees with requisite knowledge in the field analyze your coverage and assess whether or not you may be covered for more than thirty days. Because as we will discuss below, long-term treatment often results in long-term sobriety.

Long-Term Sobriety Via Extended Care

The pathway to long-term sobriety may not be short, but it’s easy to find. (Gustavo Frazao/Shutterstock)

The pathway to long-term sobriety may not be short, but it’s easy to find. (Gustavo Frazao/Shutterstock)

Most of what we have said above pertains to the link between long-term treatment and long-term sobriety, especially the extra time to develop a relapse prevention plan. But it’s more than just that. Like anybody who repeats the same behavior consistently over a long period of time, addicts and alcoholics can become quite set in their ways. Triggers are not just things that make us want to drink or use drugs—they are psychologically conditioned responses to environments and stimuli that recall the memories of those behaviors. Long-term treatment provides patients with a chance to completely alter their routine until sobriety begins to feel natural. Some may be able to accomplish this in thirty days, but most will likely still have quite a bit to do in terms of breaking their old habits.

Long-term treatment also gives patients more of a chance to build up their support network. A month is definitely a long enough time to make some friends. But over the course of long-term treatment, those friends become something more. They become comrades in arms, people to whom we can look for support when we feel as if our recovery needs a boost. Nobody can recover in isolation. And when people have undergone long-term treatment together, soaking in the beauty of the Treasure Coast and going on therapeutic outings every weekend, it’s easy for them to form long-lasting bonds with one another.

Between these bonds, the ability to craft a relapse prevention plan, and the general benefits of long-term treatment itself, we fully believe that anyone who goes through our full continuum of care at Amethyst will be able to achieve long-term sobriety. Combine all of these benefits with our promise of personalized care, and patients will be able to spend their time in treatment working on the specific issues with which they struggle the most. For those who want a treatment center that truly works for them, this is a benefit that cannot be ignored.

For more information on our programs, our continuum of care, or our accepted insurance coverage, contact Amethyst today. Addiction treatment is not to be taken lightly. If you care about long-term sobriety, you need a treatment center that can give you the right tools. You’ll find such a treatment center here.

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