The use of illicit drugs and alcohol in Colorado is considerably higher than the national average. Charles Smith, the Director of the Behavioral Health Division of the State Department of Human Services, has been quoted as saying, “It’s always worrisome when we look at Colorado and other mountain states for substance abuse and serious mental illness.”
Yet, there is an idea held by many Colorado “experts” in the field of addiction recovery that 30 days is enough time for a person to recover from a substance abuse disorder such as alcoholism or drug abuse. Not only is this a mistake – it is also a very dangerous misconception.
Short-Term Rehab Can Often Leads to Short-Term Recovery
With almost no exception, the 28/30 day “standard” of drug rehab treatment as a way to effectively recover is an unsustainable premise.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that between 40% and 60% of people enrolled in rehab programs of less than 90 days return to abusing drugs or alcohol.
Why Doesn’t Short-Term Recovery Work?
As an addiction develops, the substance abuser’s brain changes profoundly – physically and chemically. 30 days is not sufficient time for the drug/alcohol-affected brain to heal.
In addition, most people entering substance abuse treatment first need to spend one or two weeks detoxifying – refraining from the use of any alcohol or drugs, in order to give their body time to rid itself of the addictive substance.
This is a very necessary first step – yet it is not part of the recovery process. Before that process can begin – before the addict/alcoholic can be open to the lessons and message of recovery, that person first has to be free from a physical dependence on their drugs of choice.
One of the most typing used strategies for in effective drug rehab in Colorado is behavioral modification. The newly-sober substance abuser has to now learn how to change their mindset and actions if they want to support a sober lifestyle.
With a “30 day” treatment model, they would only receive two or three weeks of actual treatment – not nearly enough time for them to acquire the knowledge or practice the skills they will have been taught.
If 30 Days of Drug Treatment in Colorado Isn’t Enough, What IS?
Most medical professionals and addiction scientists are in agreement that for treatment to truly take hold, it has to last a MINIMUM of 90 days.
The length of sobriety/treatment that a person has can actually predict how successful their continued sobriety and recovery will be:
- According to the Los Angeles Times, at least 35% of individuals who stay in treatment for less than 90 days will relapse within the first year.
- In another study, it was found that individuals who drop out before 90 days will have a relapse rate very similar to those who only stayed in treatment for one or two days.
- Conversely, only 17% of those who remained in treatment for 90 days or more relapse within the first year.
Lisa Onken, Head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Behavioral and Integrative Treatment Branch, said, “The more you have a treatment that can help you become continuously abstinent, the better you do. You have to figure out how to be abstinent. You still have cravings. You still have friends offering you drugs. You still have to figure out ways not to use. The longer you are able to do that, the more you are developing skills to help you stay abstinent.”
So Is 90 Days Enough Time to Cure Addiction?
There is NO CURE for addiction, and so there is no “magic number” of days that a person has to stay in treatment before they never again have to worry about abusing alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription medications.
However, just as is the case with other chronic, incurable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, or asthma, a person can learn to MANAGE their disease. With timely intervention, effective treatment, and lifestyle changes, a person can learn to protect themselves from the worst ravages of their disease and live a happy and productive life.