How Long is Alcohol Rehab?

How Long is Alcohol Rehab?

One Week Rehab

More and more people are asking the question: How long is alcohol rehab?  This isn’t surprising.  A person who has abused alcohol for many years and is now ready to live a sober life may have only limited resources in terms of money and insurance coverage.  The idea of spending weeks or months in a rehab facility may seem to be an absolute impossibility.  For parents of minor children, the prospect of months in rehab begs the question of who will care for the children in the meantime.  Insurance programs which provide coverage for alcohol detox and rehab generally impose a limit of a number of days.  The same can be true of family and friends.  They want to know how long you’re going to be in detox and/or rehab. They want a time limit.

So how long is alcohol rehab?  Is a one week rehab possible?  It is important here to distinguish between detox and rehab.  Detox is the time needed to remove any remaining alcohol from the body.  This may be accomplished in a week or less.  Rehab, on the other hand, is the process of learning how to manage life without the use of alcohol and how to handle cravings and triggers to avoid relapse.  This is not the work of a few days but of several weeks or months.  Too often, people think of detox and rehab as a single process.

How Long Does It Take to Detox from Alcohol?

The sustained abuse of alcohol over a period of years has a strong impact on the human body.  In fact, alcohol affects all body systems, including the digestive system, the cardiovascular system, the central nervous system and the brain itself.  When a person detoxes from alcohol, therefore, it is a serious process which should generally be done under medical supervision.  One of the most serious symptoms of alcohol detox is called “delirium tremens”.  Delirium tremens involves some or all of the following symptoms:  hallucinations, strong and severe tremors throughout the body, and sudden and severe nervous system changes1.  The individual may also suffer from dehydration and other problems.  It is worth repeating, therefore, that detox from severe alcohol abuse should be done only under medical supervision.

How long does it take to detox from alcohol?  Detox takes from 5 to 7 days.  Aside from delirium tremens, the person in detox may also suffer high blood pressure, body temperature dysregulation, excessive sweating and gastrointestinal problems.  Keep in mind, however, that this is only the first step in the process of recovery from severe alcohol abuse.  Now that all traces of alcohol have been removed from the body, you can begin the process of rehab.  The abuse of alcohol may be seen as a coping mechanism that ends up being more of a problem than a solution.  In other words, the person likely started drinking as a means of coping with the challenges of life.  In rehab, the person learns the skills necessary to manage their life without the use of alcohol.

How Long is Alcohol Rehab?

Once the recovering alcoholic completes the detox process, further symptoms of withdrawal often occur.  These include anxiety, fatigue, depression, nightmares, disturbed sleep patterns, and an overall sense of unease.  Beyond these common symptoms of recovery from sustained and/or severe alcohol abuse is the challenge of learning the skills necessary to live a sober life2.

As noted above, the abuse of alcohol is often an attempt to cope with problems and challenges.  The individual may have used alcohol in order to fit in with friends or colleagues; to escape from mental or emotional pain or simply as a way to seek pleasure.  In more severe cases, the individual may also suffer from a mental issue as well, such as social anxiety or depression.  In such cases, aside from the need to learn the skills necessary for managing life without the use of alcohol, the recovering alcoholic will also need treatment for their mental condition.

So how long is alcohol rehab typically?  Is a one week rehab from alcohol abuse sufficient?  The length of rehab varies greatly, depending upon the severity of the alcohol abuse and the presence of underlying mental health conditions.  In general, however, inpatient programs last for about 4 weeks or as long as 90 days. Outpatient programs last for about 10 weeks or as long as a year3.  During this period, the recovering alcoholic will learn how to live life without using alcohol as a coping mechanism.  They learn practical practical matters such as how to develop social connections to replace the time spent in drinking establishments, how to repair relationships with family and friends that were damaged by alcoholic behavior, and how to avoid situations that may lead to being triggered and relapsing.

Who Decides?

The duration of rehab is not something that should be determined by arbitrary insurance company guidelines.  Only a trained counselor or therapist can determine when a person is ready to continue their recovery without the support of professional help.  This determination is made by the counselor or therapist on the basis of the severity of the abuse of alcohol, the treatment needed for co-occurring mental health issues, and their assessment of the person’s readiness to continue recovery without professional help.

Staying Sober

Beyond the period of what might be described as “formal rehab” lies the ongoing process of remaining sober.  It is important that the recovering alcoholic participate in continued support of some kind, such as a self-help group like AA or SMART Recovery.  Participation in such self-help groups provides the recovering alcoholic with ready support in times of challenge or temptation and also provides an environment in which the person is held to a degree of honesty about their behavior.

It is common knowledge that in many self-help programs there is a belief that recovery is an ongoing, lifelong process.  Rather than saying that they used to be an alcoholic, members are encouraged to say that they are a recovering alcoholic.  This underlines the fact that people often return to prior behaviors, especially in times of stress or suffering.  How long is alcohol rehab? It can be summarized in this way: detox lasts a few days, rehab lasts several weeks, but recovery lasts a lifetime.


  1. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000766.htm
  2. https://drugabuse.com/what-3-day-5-day-and-7-day-detox-programs-are-like/
  3. http://addictionblog.org/rehab/rehab-programs/how-long-do-alcohol-rehab-programs-last/

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