The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) considers, based on research into the science of addiction that a minimum of 90 days’ residential treatment will have a significantly stronger outcome with reduced relapse rates compared with those who stay for shorter periods. Therefore, NIDA had coined this duration as the gold standard for addiction treatment. Here is why:

1) It takes time for change to happen in the brain.

The brain is so used to addictive thinking and addictive behaviour. It will take as much time as necessary, to develop ways of thinking and behaving that is considered recovery. The neurological pathways of addictive behaviours, which have been deeply ingrained over years of using/drinking, need to be replaced with recovering pathways, which are barely grooved. The latter has no chance of survival should patients leave treatment earlier than 90 days because the process has barely begun. It takes at least 90 days for those new grooves to make any lasting effect in the way a person thinks and acts. So neurological structures take time to reconstitute.

2) At the end of 30 days, some patients are barely recovered from withdrawals and medically assisted detoxification.

The first thing addicts do upon entering treatment is withdrawing and detoxifying from the effects of their addiction. This varies based on the addiction that is being treated. For a healthy alcoholic, it may take just 48 hours to detoxify from his/her addictive substance. Compare that with someone whose withdrawal is inundated by seizures, which may require a hefty load of depressants to control the symptoms; full withdrawal is only complete whence all chemicals have left the system successfully. In such cases, at the end of a month in treatment, withdrawal and detoxification would have been addressed but recovery barely touched. Chances of a relapse are inevitable thereafter as the client in question would not able to apply the tools of recovery within a sobriety that was free from the effects of withdrawals and detoxification.

3) 30 days is not long enough to practice and apply the tools learnt within a safe setting.

Active addiction is an all-encompassing illness, that effects all aspects of an addicts life. Hence, returning to life to live it productively has to be re-learnt from scratch. Patients need to process their feelings without the need to return to active addiction as a coping mechanism. These skills, once learned have to be practiced on a day to day setting. However, by the end of 30 days, there would not have been enough time to practice and apply these new skill sets to ensure and solidify one’s new life. Triple that time is an ideal time to learn the skills piecemeal and apply it accordingly. For example, how does an addict in recovery express feelings without controlling or manipulating others for his/her own gain? Such problems need the support of counselling staff in order to ensure that it doesn’t regress into relapse. With such minimal exposure at dealing with these issues within a month’s period, it is highly unlikely that success in recovery is certain.

4) Strong denial patterns take time to break.

Many addicts feel that they are not addicts upon entry to treatment. It will take time for the denial to be broken through individual and group therapies. Even if an addict could admit that he/she is powerless over his/her addiction, he/she may assume that other addictions and control patterns play no bearing to a relapse cycle through the phenomenon of crossaddictions. Therefore, minimal treatment in 28 to 30 day’s treatment is inadequate time to stabilize recovery therein.

5) The Consequences of Active Addiction Needs Addressing.

Active addiction leaves life in ruins and shambles. The effects of the disease needs addressing. For some it could be a loss of relationships and jobs to name a few. For others, it could be as serious as being convicted of a felony, while others may struggle with comorbidities or pre-existing mental disorders; or even a mix and match of all the above. Whatever the case may be, a stint of 30 days in rehab is not going to address all these issues. The necessary counselling, therapies, and interventions will barely touch the surface of some of these issues. Hence, the need to stay on longer.

6) Relapsing After Treatment Research shows, alcoholics/addicts who are in for 90 days enjoy 78% long-term sobriety outcomes.

This is because addiction is a chronic illness. Its symptoms don’t just go away in a whirl of short-term treatment. Like diabetes and cancer, it is in need of proper treatment so that it doesn’t end up in remission; in the case of addiction, would be relapsing after treatment. Giving up control in treatment. Usually the need to refuse extension in treatment and leave against clinical approval is due to a lack of surrender and the need to control personal outcomes. However, if one were to look at addiction, giving up control is necessary for wholesome recovery. Hence, there is no choice at the end of the day: do people want to recover or relapse? Relapses await personal and wilful decisions, while entrusting one’s care to a professional for as little as 3 months for a lifetime of hell, is a small price to pay for recovery.