Is a 30-Day Rehab Program Actually Long Enough to Jumpstart Recovery?
Originally, addiction rehabilitation (rehab) was developed as a 3-to-6-week hospitalization followed by outpatient therapy. Today, more than 14,500 specialized facilities treat alcohol and drug use disorders, including providing 30-day rehab programs.1 Although no treatment facilities are exactly the same, all 30-day programs have similarities.
In this Article:
What’s the Purpose of 30-Day Rehab?
Rehab is an inpatient form of treatment for alcohol and substance use disorders. It can range from:1
- A few days, which usually only includes detox services
- Short-term, which can last 3-6 weeks—30-day programs fall into this category
- Long-term, which can last 6-12 months
Rehab is designed to help you stop the compulsive use of alcohol or drugs. Rehab is also designed to treat both the physical dependency on and addiction to alcohol.1 Physical dependence refers to withdrawal symptoms you experience if you stop using alcohol or drink less. Addiction, or alcohol use disorder, encompasses many symptoms including:1
- Compulsive use of alcohol despite known consequences
- Attempts to stop using
- Failure to meet familial, social, and occupational obligations due to alcohol misuse or recovery from the misuse
Alcohol can significantly change the brain how it functions. These changes can remain long after you have stopped using alcohol and contribute to an inability to control your alcohol use.1 The 30 days sober in alcohol addiction rehab are intended to give you distance and teach you skills to manage the effects of the brain changes that may still exist.
Other factors in your life can also contribute to alcohol misuse. Short-term rehab programs also serve the purpose of working to address how and why these influences facilitate your addiction. These factors include:1
- Family and relationship issues
- Work-related stress
- Financial stress
- Mental health symptoms or disorders
- Medical problems (e.g., chronic pain)
- Social cues (e.g., influence from others)
- Environmental cues (e.g., spending time in places where others use alcohol)
These contributing factors may influence you and your use without your conscious awareness. Rehab can help you identify these stressors and develop plans and skills for coping without the use of alcohol.
Are 30-Day Rehab Programs Effective?
Completion of the entire 30-day program is closely tied to long-term recovery outcomes. Several factors, both with the treatment providers and the individual, influence an individual’s choice to stay in treatment, including:1
- Motivation for change
- Degree of support from family and/or friends
- Influence from outside sources, such as a court mandate to complete rehab
If you are satisfied with your rehab experience, it also increases the likelihood of utilizes aftercare services.2 Aftercare services are also linked to positive recovery outcomes over time.
What Can I Expect in a 30-Day Rehab Program?
Licensed and accredited rehab facilities may take different approaches, but you know some of what to expect in rehab based on the qualities experts recommend that treatment must have, including:1
- Be readily available
- Not be a one-size all approach
- Address problems associated with substance use in all areas of one’s life
- Include individual, group, and/or family therapies
- Include medication-assisted therapy when needed
- Have an individualized treatment plan with continued reassessment
- Incorporate screening and treatment of co-occurring disorders
While in rehab, you will be provided with a room, sometimes shared with others, where you will sleep. Your meals will be provided, usually at specific times. You will also be expected to participate in individual and group therapy.
You will also have time to reflect and work on things of importance to you, all of which are designed to help you develop tools to utilize in your recovery and management of symptoms.
The most effective forms of rehab include comprehensive alcohol and drug misuse treatment. Comprehensive treatment includes:1
- An intake assessment
- A collaborative treatment plan
- Monitoring of use
- Behavioral therapy or counseling
- Case management
- Peer support groups
- Continued plan of care
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Rehab may also include services for the following domains:1
- Infectious disease
- Chronic illness
- General medical
- Mental health
- Housing and transportation
- Vocational or employment
What Services Are Specific to Alcohol Addiction Rehab?
Some rehab centers do not provide detoxification or withdrawal management services, and you may have to arrange these services prior to your admission into rehab. Alcohol rehab centers may or may not require that you complete a detox program or be sober before enrolling. This may depend on an assessment of your risk for severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
The specific types of interventions in a 30-day alcohol addiction rehab program depend on the person, their needs, and the facility’s capabilities.
However, many individuals are prescribed medication to assist with detox and reduce the risk of relapse. You may also be prescribed medication for management of mental health symptoms or medical symptoms.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three medications for alcohol addiction treatment:1
- Naltrexone—Naltrexone (Vivitrol, Revia) can help reduce the positive effects of alcohol and reduce cravings.
- Acamprosate—Acamprosate (Campral) can help manage withdrawal symptoms like insomnia, restlessness, anxiety, and dysphoria.
- Disulfiram—Disulfiram (Antabuse) interacts with alcohol and results in a very unpleasant reaction when combined with alcohol (e.g., nausea and vomiting, heart palpitations, and flushing).
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Therapy is used to help you and your loved ones, stay motivated with recovery, and learn:1
- Strategies and skills to cope with cravings
- Relapse prevention skills
- Techniques to improve communication and relationships
- Parenting skills (as applicable)
Most rehab facilities incorporate multiple types of therapy. These can include individual and group therapies. Group therapies provide additional social support, which can help you feel more connected and build a network for recovery after rehab.1
In addition to your therapist, who may be educated as a social worker or professional counselor, you may interact with:1
- Support staff, such as medical assistants, case managers, and aftercare coordinators
Co-Occurring Condition Treatment
If you experience alcohol use disorder, you may also have additional physical or mental health symptoms.1 After you have been assessed for co-occurring mental health conditions, your therapist can choose specific therapies to help address your symptoms. For example, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a behavioral therapy that may be more useful for individuals who have alcohol use disorder and a personality disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than CBT.
Your rehab facility can also assist with management of medical symptoms.
Some rehab facilities, such as luxury rehabs, add alternative therapies into their main programming or as optional activities. Mindfulness and low-impact exercise, like yoga, may be available during leisure periods or as part of your weekly schedule.
Research also suggests that the inclusion of spirituality in therapy for the treatment of alcohol and substance use disorders has been shown to benefit recovery.3 Your rehab facility may encourage working the 12 Steps of AA to connect with your higher power or doing other things that connect you with your belief system.
What Happens After a 30-Day Rehab Program?
The rate of reoccurrence of use after rehab is similar to those of other chronic diseases like diabetes.1 What happens after rehab is almost as important as what happens in the program.
Relapse Prevention Planning
Before you leave rehab, you work with your rehab therapists and case managers to develop a strong relapse-prevention plan. This plan outlines steps to assist you in maintaining your recovery and help reinforce the use of various coping skills.
Your plan may also include a plan for what to do in the immediate time after a relapse if one happens. When relapse happens, it is commonly viewed as a failure of treatment, but it’s not. The successful treatment of addiction requires ongoing evaluation and modification to your plan, similar to the continued evaluation and modification for the treatment of any other chronic medical condition.1
The use of aftercare services has been shown to be effective in preventing reoccurrence of use, allowing individuals to regain sobriety after relapse, and improving long-term recovery outcomes.4
In addition to your relapse prevention plan, your rehab center will likely provide resources for you to follow up with upon your discharge. These resources can include referrals to:
- An outpatient program, such as an intensive outpatient program (IOP)
- Therapists specializing in addiction
- Community resources and support groups
- Sober living houses
Peer support groups can enhance the effects of rehab.1 Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the best known peer support group, but there are many others. These groups can help by increasing your level of social support, which has been shown to help maintain recovery.1 Some alternatives to AA include:
- SMART Recovery, which is based on CBT principles
- Celebrate Recovery, which uses Biblical principles in addition to the 12 Steps of AA
- HAMS, which advocates for harm reduction and moderation in addition to abstinence
Studies indicate preliminary effectiveness of smartphone apps in helping individuals maintain recovery efforts.3 Similarly, a study showed that individuals who had completed a 30-day program and had co-occurring depression experienced lower rates of relapse and lower levels of perceived stress when receiving daily supportive text messages.5
If you are interested in seeking alcohol addiction rehab, call 800-839-1686Who Answers? to speak with a treatment specialist.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (Third edition).
- Arbour, S., Hambley, J., & Ho, V. (2011). Predictors and outcome of aftercare participation of alcohol and drug users completing residential treatment. Substance Use & Misuse, 46(10), 1275-1287.
- DiReda, J. & Gonsalvez, J. (2016). The role of spirituality in treating substance use disorders. Journal of Psychology and Clinical Psychiatry, 6(4), 00365.
- Farren, C., Farrell, A., Hagerty, A., & McHugh, C. (2021). A 6-month randomized trial of a smartphone application, UControlDrink, in aiding recovery in alcohol use disorder. European Addiction Research, 1-12.
- O’Reilly, H., Hagerty, A., O’Donnell, S., Farrell, A., Hartnett, D., & Murphy, E., Kehoe, E., Agyapong, V., McLoughlin, D. M., & Farren, C. (2019). Alcohol use disorder and comorbid depression: A randomized controlled trial investigating the effectiveness of supportive text messages in aiding recovery. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 54(5), 551-558.
- McKay, J. R. (2021, January 21). Impact of continuing care on recovery from substance use disorder. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 41(1), 01.