Why Long-Term Addiction Recovery Is the Only Way to Go

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Signs | Addiction Recovery | The Hills

In this post, we’ll dive into addiction—what it is, how long it lasts, and the best way to go about treatment. Did you know that when it comes to addiction recovery, there is definitely one treatment option that stands above the rest?

In this post, you’ll discover how long-term addiction treatment differs from short-term options. You’ll learn why therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Multidimensional Family Therapy, Contingency Management and Motivational Interviewing make long-term treatment the option of choice for anyone serious about addiction recovery.

Read on.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a psychological and physiological inability to refrain from consuming a drug, chemical or substance, even though doing so causes psychological harm, physical harm, or both. The term is used to refer to chemical addictions, such as addictions to heroin, marijuana or cocaine. But you can also use it to refer to behavioral addictions.

If someone finds that they can’t stop taking a drug or chemical, they’re addicted to a substance.

But a person who can’t stop engaging in activities, such as eating, working, exercising or gambling can be said to have a behavioral addiction.

In either case, the common denominator is that the problem substance or activity disrupts the individual’s ability to lead a normal, healthy life.

It’s also possible to become addicted to medications that doctors consider to be safe if used as directed. For instance, in the U.S., 115 people die per day on average from opioid overdoses. Addiction to substances such as tobacco, narcotics and prescription opioids costs the U.S. $740-billion per year.

However, the notion that addiction is a moral failing is outdated. While most people start down the path to addiction by voluntarily trying a potentially addictive substance, there are complex neurological changes that occur with repeated use. Addiction can take over, quite literally.

Addiction is a chronic disease. There are no quick fixes, but addiction recovery is certainly possible.

Rehabilitation centers provide an opportunity for an individual to detox. While there, patients can also learn about the nature of addiction so they stand a better chance of coping going forward. However, the best way to facilitate addiction recovery is by committing to long-term addiction treatment.

What is Long Term Addiction Treatment?

Your best chance of long-term sobriety comes from a treatment option that reflects the realities of addiction. Because addiction is a chronic condition, you won’t overcome simply by going through detox. Granted, detox can certainly be an enlightening experience since you’ll become familiar with withdrawal symptoms and will be forced to cope with them. Still, long-term treatment facilities offer you a more comprehensive tool set.

Thus equipped, you’ll be better prepared to deal with temptation moving forward. After all, being willing to go through detox is only half the battle. What you do when you get home is arguably more important.

Addiction is a condition that benefits most from focused, individualized and evidence-based treatment. Most long-term programs, therefore, last between 120 and 180 days. These programs are designed to help you maintain sobriety beyond the detox phase, and they can help prepare you to maintain sobriety once you return home.

The Need Is Real

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 8 percent of the U.S. population was in need of drug or alcohol addiction treatment in 2013. Of those 22.7-million people, only .9 percent actually sought treatment. That’s only 2.5-million. 20.2 million people, therefore, did not receive the treatment they needed.

Of course, that data was from 2013. Since then, the opioid crisis has taken root. Around 10 percent of people who abuse opioids will become addicted.

What’s more, many people who seek treatment choose short-term treatment options that involve little more than detox. While these programs may offer some counseling, they don’t work well for the majority of patients. Research suggests that in order for an individual to get a handle on addiction, they should receive at least three months of intensive treatment. This need not all be inpatient treatment, of course. But it does consist of weekly support meetings and intensive counseling.

If addiction recovery is the goal, detox is not enough.

Benefits of Long Term Addiction Treatment

The primary reason that long-term treatment is the best option is simple: it’s far more comprehensive. This treatment option is indicated for individuals who have exhibited recovery challenges in the past, such as multiple relapses. But it’s also a stellar option for anyone seeking addiction recovery treatment for the first time.

Long term treatment is broken down into stages. The overall structure is something like this:

  • Detox
  • Rehabilitation therapy
  • Aftercare support

Most people will spend some time as an inpatient, meaning that they’ll live at the facility full time. This is typically during the detox phase and some portion of the rehabilitation phase. Your individual needs and unique issues will determine how much time you should spend as an inpatient. Additionally, some facilities offer only one type or the other, while others offer both.

In general:

  • Outpatient facilities tend to offer short-term substance abuse treatment
  • Inpatient facilities offer more comprehensive programs

Inpatient, or residential treatment centers are able to focus more on the individual, putting more emphasis on individual needs. Attending a long-term center for addiction recovery typically involves several days of monitored detox. During this process, the medical staff will monitor you for withdrawal symptoms and will offer you counseling to help you cope. You may also be given certain medications that can make the process easier.

Note: any preexisting conditions, such as concurrent mental illnesses or nutritional deficiencies, can impact the duration of the detox process.

After the detox phase, you can expect 90 to 120 days of substance abuse therapy, followed by an aftercare planning phase.

Long-term facilities may offer adult clients the opportunity to work within the community. For instance, you may have the opportunity to help in the kitchen, or you may have a task list to complete each day. This may seem at first glance like menial labor, but many recovering addicts find that being responsible for a task is very helpful. After all, a job demands attention, and intense focus can take the bite out of withdrawal symptoms.

When not working, you will also have access to various outdoor activities and may even participate in out-of-town trips. In addition, extended-stay facilities may offer access to special luxury amenities, such as:

  • Massage and Tai Chi
  • Nutritional coaching
  • Guided meditation or hypnotherapy
  • Spa treatments
  • Private rooms
  • Turndown service
  • Anger management therapy
  • Gender-specific activities or treatments
  • Psychodrama treatments
  • Trauma workshops
  • Art or music therapy
  • Equine therapy

It’s Not All Fun and Games

While there is an emphasis on making the experience as tolerable as possible, the bottom line is that rehab is work. Therapy may not be many people’s idea of fun, but if your goal is long-term addiction recovery, you should embrace the process. If you ask any addict who has successfully reclaimed their life, they’re likely to credit their recovery to the therapeutic process.

Many patients at first resist this intensive therapy, because:

  • They are reluctant to address deeply buried emotional issues
  • They are in denial about the severity of their substance abuse
  • They have low self-esteem and are afraid of what they’ll see in themselves should they explore

The type of therapy you’ll be offered depends on your program, but we can give you an idea of what to expect. Note that you may see therapies on offer for specific demographic groups. For instance, you may find programs specifically for pregnant women, adolescents or victims of domestic violence.

Therapy Types

Long-term addiction treatment facilities typically offer multiple therapy modalities. You’ll probably find:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Multidimensional Family Therapy

Contingency Management

Motivational Interviewing

Let’s take a look at these one at a time, so you’ll know what to expect.


CBT works by teaching you how to challenge repetitive, intrusive or habitual thoughts. These are thought patterns that trigger you emotionally and drive you to take actions that may not be in your best interest. Much of the work in CBT centers around learning to identify cognitive distortions. These are thought patterns that we all engage in from time to time. However, thought distortions become problematic when they consistently lead to self-destructive behavior.

For instance, an alcoholic may slip up at work and have half a shot of whiskey. At the time, they may tell themselves, I won’t let that happen again. But when they get home, at the end of a long, stressful day, they might think, Well, I already slipped up. I might as well have a beer. Just one beer.

In this case, the individual is engaging in the cognitive distortion known as all or nothing thinking. They’re seeing the situation in black or white. A healthier response may be to think, Well, yes, I slipped up. But I have the power to make it stop there.

The patient learns, through CBT, to forgive and move on. As the patient progresses through CBT, they will find that cognitive distortions remain part of their thinking. What changes is that they gain the ability to recognize them. When you can recognize your cognitive distortions as they occur, they’re less likely to dictate your behavior.

What’s more, mastering these cognitive distortions can lead to great improvements in self-esteem. Higher self-esteem can make it easier to avoid problem substances or activities.

CBT is one of the most powerful tools in the recovering addicts toolbox. A quality long-term addiction recovery facility will teach you all you need to know.

Multidimensional Family Therapy

MDFT is a powerful therapy modality with over 30 years of research supporting it. The objective of MDFT therapy is to eliminate:

  • Substance abuse
  • Criminal activities related to substance abuse
  • Delinquency

It also aims to:

  • Improve mental health
  • Improve school or work performance
  • Improve home life and/or family functioning

MDFT can improve coping, problem solving and decision-making skills through its focus on improving family functioning. Many addicts struggle with sobriety once they leave a short-term treatment facility. Sometimes, this is due to family members who encourage them to use their drug of choice. MDFT can help the patient work through these dysfunctional family relationships and can give them the courage to make the changes they need to make in order to stay clean.

Contingency Management

Contingency Management involves providing patients with concrete rewards for maintaining sobriety and for engaging in other positive, sobriety-supporting behaviors. For instance, some programs provide movie tickets, food items, gift certificates or vouchers in exchange for drug-free urine samples.

Contingency Management takes advantage of the fact that the brain exhibits plasticity. That is to say, the brain can change over time. By swapping destructive behaviors for new, healthier behaviors, the brain can come to associate those activities with pleasure. This can be a stellar way to prepare the individual for life outside of treatment since it, at least to some degree, rewires the brain.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing is a nonjudgmental therapeutic approach that helps patients uncover the source of subconscious resistance to sobriety. Once these blocks are identified, the therapist works with the patient to resolve them. This type of therapy helps the patient be more open to change, and it can help them more clearly see how the side effects of addiction affect them.

The Ultimate Goal

The ultimate goal of any extended-stay rehab facility is to help the patient function in their everyday enlivenment. As mentioned, addiction is a chronic condition. Therefore, it may be helpful to think of addiction recovery as a long term endeavor, whether you’re doing the hard work at home or at a facility. The work you’ll do in therapy and support programs will help you regain:

  • Confidence
  • Self-respect
  • A sense of responsibility

Group | Addiction Recovery | The HillsThese three components of a healthy ego are essential for addiction recovery. In a long-term rehab facility, you’ll work with highly trained counselors to move through any issues that are holding you back. Steadily, you can create a life in which you’re no longer dependent.

The Hills is located in Los Angeles, California. Our residential treatment facility is staffed by people who know just how difficult the road to recovery can be. We’ll make sure that you get the most out of every single minute of your rehabilitation in our facility. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you on your own journey to long-term sobriety. 

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