How Long Does It Take To Break an Addiction?

How long does it take to break an addiction? Unfortunately, there is no specific answer to that question. The length of time it takes for someone to break an addiction depends on several factors. Also, some people may be more susceptible to relapse based on addiction history, life events and more. Relapse happens when someone gets sober and then starts using a substance again. For people who struggle with addiction, relapse rates are between 40% and 60%.[1] Some people will relapse more than once. This article will help you better understand the stages of addiction, the factors that affect how long it takes to break an addiction and the steps involved in overcoming addiction. It is important to remember that breaking the cycle of addiction and staying in recovery is a lifelong journey that takes work and commitment.

Break an Addiction

What Are the Stages of Addiction?

Depending on the source you find, you may read about various stages of addiction. Some divide specific stages up into smaller substages. However, there are five key stages involved in developing an addiction.[2] It is important to remember that addiction is a brain disease that is treated but cannot be cured.[1] We will cover the treatments in later sections. These are the five stages of developing an addiction:

  • Initial use
  • Regular use
  • Risky use
  • Dependence
  • Substance use disorder

Initial use happens when a person starts taking a substance. It may be due to peer influence, curiosity or something else. For example, some people develop addictions to prescription opioids when they are prescribed painkillers after a surgery. Regular use often turns into risky use, which may involve taking too large of a dose, taking it too often or taking any prescription substance without a prescription. Dependence happens when a person’s body starts relying on the substance.[3] Without it, the person may experience symptoms of withdrawal. At this stage, people may not realize they have a problem.

Dependence can lead to a substance use disorder, which involves addiction. A person is addicted to a substance when the individual cannot stop using it despite knowing and experiencing the negative effects of it.[3] When a person develops any form of SUD, it is time for treatment. Only professional treatment can help a person address important issues that are key components in breaking the addiction cycle.

What Factors Affect How Long It Takes To Break an Addiction?

As you read the upcoming sections, it is important to know these factors. Along with treatment and other factors, they can help you better gauge how long it may take to break an addiction. These are the main factors:

  • Existence or lack of support network
  • Type and typical dose of substance
  • Length of substance misuse history
  • Existence of any mental health issues
  • Life experiences and perceptions
  • Treatment plan

The last item is a critical factor. Not all treatment plans are the same. For example, someone who is addicted to alcohol may simply stop taking the substance as part of treatment. However, someone who is addicted to heroin may go through medication-assisted treatment for tapering or long-term treatment instead.[4]

The Process of Breaking an Addiction

How long does it take to break an addiction? The answer often relates to how long a person needs treatment. For example, some programs are much longer than others. Breaking an addiction can take a few months or much longer for some people.[5] The process of breaking addiction includes three main steps.

Step 1: Detox

This first step can be physically uncomfortable for many people. Unless a health care provider recommends MAT, it typically involves going through the unpleasant effects of withdrawal. Because some withdrawal side effects of certain substances can be dangerous, it is important to go through detox under medical supervision. Some people may be sent home to detox, and other individuals who have more risks may stay in a facility where they are monitored 24/7.

One of the benefits of medical supervision is having access to supportive medications or treatments that can ease the negative side effects of withdrawal. Also, people are more likely to experience stronger cravings during withdrawal.[6] Without the help of medical professionals and a support system, they are more likely to relapse and take a higher, more dangerous dose of a substance.

Step 2: Initial Treatment

Initial treatment may involve staying in a facility 24/7 or going only for outpatient appointments. Inpatient treatment is often called residential treatment, and it can last for a month or up to a year.[7] The length depends on a person’s living situation, risks and other factors. With outpatient treatment, there are a few different levels. Some programs involve more than three long sessions per week, some involve a few shorter sessions per week and some may involve only one or two short sessions.

There are several types of therapy that professionals may use. They typically use cognitive behavioral therapy to help people identify and modify behaviors or learn to deal with triggers.[8] Therapists may use other approaches to address past trauma as well. Therapy may be individual or in group settings with others who struggle with addiction. There are also family therapy sessions in many cases. These focus on helping families learn to support one another and understand addiction. Also, people are usually introduced to 12-step programs that become a vital part of long-term recovery.

Step 3: Ongoing Treatment and Relapse Prevention

Ongoing treatment involves 12-step meetings or similar recovery programs. For example, Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous are two popular groups. There are some that do not involve the 12 steps. Groups typically include a sponsor or mentor for someone who is newly sober, and people who attend the groups are others who struggle with addiction. Members support one another, share their experiences and encourage each other to keep going on the sobriety journey. Some people may also need ongoing psychological therapy if they have co-occurring mental health disorders. This is because the effects of untreated mental health issues can fuel addiction or relapse.[9]

Learn More About Breaking Addiction

So, how long does it take to break an addiction? Again, it can take at least a few months.[5] If you or a loved one is struggling and is ready to start the process of breaking the addiction cycle, we are here to help. Long Island Interventions can connect you with nearby resources for interventions, detox and treatment programs that fit your needs.

[1] https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
[2] https://online.alvernia.edu/articles/stages-of-addiction/
[3] https://www.webmd.com/connect-to-care/addiction-treatment-recovery/dependence-versus-addiction
[4] https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment
[5] https://addictiontreatmentmagazine.com/how-long-does-it-take-to-break-an-addiction/
[6] https://www.webmd.com/connect-to-care/addiction-treatment-recovery/prescription/why-medical-supervision-is-critical-for-opioid-withdrawal-medications
[7] https://nida.nih.gov/publications/principles-adolescent-substance-use-disorder-treatment-research-based-guide/treatment-settings
[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2897895/
[9] https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/co-occurring-disorders

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