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Why The 28 Day Treatment Model May Not Work for You

If you’ve decided your drug or alcohol addiction has become too much to handle your best and safest bet is checking yourself into an inpatient drug treatment facility or rehab. There are dozens of different rehabs and detoxes across the country, but they have many similarities including the traditional length of stay – 28 days.

Where does 28 days come from and why is it the standard for drug and alcohol treatment? Do 28 days always take care of issues? Does something trigger in our brains and bodies after 28 days of treatment? Let’s learn more about the 28-day treatment model including what it means and several reasons a 28-day treatment model may not work for you.

There’s Nothing Special About 28 Days

28 days, or 4 weeks, is the standard timeframe for inpatient rehab drug and alcohol treatment. 28 days is enough of a standard to warrant a movie about rehab known as you guessed it – 28 Days. Here’s the secret though, 28 days isn’t a magical number. There’s nothing to suggest a patient will get much less from 26 days of treatment or much more from 30 days of treatment. There’s no magical reset in your brain that triggers at the 28-day mark and if you’ve heard the old saying about habits take 28 days to kill – that’s also hogwash. 28 days is simply a reasonable amount of time for someone to seek treatment, but it’s not nearly enough for everyone.

28 Days May Not Be Enough For:

Chronic Relapse Problems: Those with chronic relapse problems have likely already been to some type of treatment including 28-day inpatient treatment without success. As most addicts know insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. If a 28-day treatment program hasn’t worked once or twice before, what makes you think it will work again? If you can’t find long-term success during a traditional 28-day treatment, other treatment may be more suitable for you.

Dual Diagnosis: Dual diagnosis is a diagnosis of addiction and a secondary mental disorder like anxiety or OCD. Someone who is addicted to painkillers and suffers from major clinical depression would be considered a dual diagnosis.

Dual diagnosis is much more complex to treat than addiction alone. Addiction and mental illness can play into each other and cause several other issues compared to someone who is only chemically dependent. During treatment doctors and personnel must figure out where the issues stem from, determine the right course of action, and then implement that action. Unfortunately, 28 days is normally not enough to combat an immediate addiction in addition to other accompanying disorders.

If you have received a dual diagnosis 28 days is just not enough time to fix both issues and get you set up for long-term success and sobriety.

28-day treatment

Other Health Factors

If you or a loved one is in bad health overall, a 28-day treatment model may not be the appropriate setting. All inpatient treatment facilities are certified medical facilities, but they only have so much staff and specialized care and can’t always help patients with special health requirements. There are several reasons you may want to seek help outside of a traditional inpatient rehab for:

  • Heart issues like advanced hypertension or congestive heart failure
  • If you require external oxygen
  • If you have a severe dual diagnosis like schizophrenia or psychosis
  • If you’re in danger of suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms like delirium tremens

There are rehab and drug treatment facilities who can help patients with these issues, but many can’t. If you or a loved one has external health issues you need to take more time when choosing a drug treatment facility.

Alternatives and Extra Steps Past 28-Day Treatment

Long-Term Inpatient Treatment: 28 days is not enough treatment for all, which led to the creation of long-term inpatient treatment centers. Long-term treatment centers are like in-patient facilities. Staff will attack your addiction to education, therapy, guidelines on relapse prevention and much more. Short-term treatment traditionally lasts 28 days while long-term inpatient treatment can last anywhere from a couple months to a full year. If you don’t think 28 days is enough for you, you should consider long-term inpatient treatment.

Follow-Up IOP: IOP stands for intensive outpatient therapy, one of the most effective types of treatments outside inpatient care. IOP is a great follow-up after inpatient treatment to provide a step between direct treatment and heading back to the real world.

IOP is highly recommended after inpatient treatment. Again, 28 days is simply not enough time for most people to fix their issues and set themselves up for future success. There are several different levels of IOP. You can start something more intensive directly after treatment like 8-hour treatment sessions Monday-Friday before stepping down to less intense programs, like one to three two-hour meetings per week. Follow-up IOP is like any other follow up treatment and increases chances of long-term sobriety and success.

Sober Homes: Sober homes are another step between inpatient treatment and the ‘real world.’ A sober home is a temporary living situation to help people transition from addiction to sobriety. Sober homes require their residents to stay off drugs and alcohol, attend 12-step meetings, get a job, and much more. You can try a sober home from a few weeks to a year after 28-day treatment to help round yourself as a person before plunging back into normal daily life.

Finding the Right Treatment

28-day inpatient drug and alcohol treatment has long been the gold standard of treatment length, but the truth is 28 days has no magical power or does nothing special to increase chances of long-term sobriety, it’s just a great rounded number of 4 weeks that can help most people. Inpatient treatment is still the standard for direct intervention but considers additional help like IOP or a sober home to make certain you’re set up for long-term sobriety. 

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