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If you want to overcome addiction and are contemplating what type of treatment can give you the optimal chance for an effective and lasting recovery, experts say that long-term residential care is the best choice. That’s based on statistics, not guesswork.

Addiction1, says the American Society of Addiction Medicine, is a “primary, chronic disease of brain reward, memory, motivation and related circuitry.” Characterized by an inability to abstain from alcohol and/or drugs, addiction also results in behavioral control impairment, cravings, inability to recognize problems with work, school and interpersonal relationships, and significantly diminished emotional response.

Another characteristic of addiction, like other chronic diseases, is that it typically follows a pattern of treatment, relapse and remission. Addiction that’s left untreated and lacking participation in recovery activities such as self-help or 12-step groups can result in a severe downward spiral, culminating in disability or premature death.

Finding a Way Back from Addiction

While the statistics about addiction are startling – some 23.5 million people in the U.S. need drug or alcohol treatment, yet only about 2.6 million get the specific treatment they need – addiction needn’t be a death sentence. There is help available and solid, results-proven treatment that can help the addict find his or her way back from addiction.

The familiar form of treatment for addiction to drugs, alcohol or other substances of abuse, including prescription drugs, involves a 30-day stay in an inpatient or residential rehab facility. While short-term (30-days) treatment is effective for some individuals, for those with chronic addiction, individuals diagnosed with substance use disorder and a mental health issue, a better alternative is long-term residential care2 of longer than 30 days, typically six to 12 months.

Indeed, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) good outcomes from drug addiction treatment are “contingent on adequate treatment length.”3

Treatment is More than Just Detox

Ridding the body of toxic substances, a process known as detoxification or detox, alone will not solve the problem of addiction. It is a necessary first step, however, and should take place in a licensed facility with 24/7 medical supervision and care. Following drug detox or alcohol detox, an assessment and either referral to a treatment facility or transitioning from detox to formal treatment with an individualized treatment plan is the preferred route to recovery.

Long-term residential care facilities are often referred to as therapeutic communities4. It’s this healing aspect and interaction between staff and clients that fosters both motivation and adoption of skills that can form the foundation for lasting recovery. Residents of inpatient drug rehab centers learn about the disease of addiction, receive individual and group counseling, learn to identify and cope with triggers and cravings, receive relapse prevention, are introduced to 12-step groups, participate in healthy lifestyle activities and more. In this, care in a long-term rehab center is like short-term rehab. Both cover the same essential ground in addiction treatment.

Where long-term residential care differs is in the breadth, length and scope of treatment. During treatment, residents will examine long-held and mistaken beliefs, challenge destructive self-concepts and examine behavior that’s contributed to their addiction. Since this takes place in a highly-structured environment, the issues and emotions that surface can be confrontational. This, however, is a necessary part of learning to manage the disease of addiction, as it involves the acceptance of and practicing constructive behavior and healthier ways of coping with life’s everyday stressors.

Key Benefits of Long-Term Residential Care

In addition to the all-important factor of higher success rates for recovery5 with long-term residential care, other key benefits6 include:

  • Motivation to change drug-using behavior
  • Family treatment and education programs to help provide necessary support to the recovering addict
  • Establishment of a positive, therapeutic relationship between therapist and patients
  • Development of a comprehensive, integrated treatment plan in cooperation with the patient
  • Monitoring to ensure that the treatment plan is followed, or modified according to changing needs and wishes of the patient
  • Appropriate medical, social and psychiatric services
  • Intensive interventions and treatment modalities to help deal with dual diagnosis, serious medical conditions, or criminal involvement
  • Building self-confidence and solid skills to transition from treatment to recovery
  • To ensure ongoing support following residential treatment, connecting with formal aftercare or continuing care and community self-help groups7



  1. http://www.asam.org/quality-practice/definition-of-addiction
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/drug-addiction-treatment-in-united-states/types-treatment-programs
  3. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-long-does-drug-addiction-treatment
  4. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/therapeutic-communities/what-are-therapeutic-communities
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11015800
  6. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/what-helps-people-stay-in-treatment
  7. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/therapeutic-communities/what-therapeutic-communitys-approach

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