Rehabilitation centers are a source of second chances that do more than save lives careening out of control due to drugs and alcohol. They can push people’s lives into a positive new trajectory where they aren’t just recovered, but thriving after addiction. This is the ultimate goal of rehabs and their patients, but they know it’s not something you can put a timestamp on. Those who struggle with substance abuse and their loved ones, however, can be eager to know how long it takes to break an addiction and when they’ll be able to resume their lives as normal.

The hard truth is that there’s no set time frame for how long it takes to overcome addiction. Learn the truth from myths around addiction recovery timelines and the various factors that can affect how long it takes. 

How long does it take to break an addiction?

There are so many factors that play a role in the severity of addiction such as the type of drug, how long the substance abuse has occurred, or whether or not a person has co-occurring disorders. As such it’s virtually impossible to estimate the precise amount of time it will take to break an addiction. However, a general addiction recovery timeline can provide some guidance: 

  • The first few days of addiction treatment will likely involve detox, allowing the body to safely pass through the remainder of the drugs in its system. During this time there may be uncomfortable side effects that require medical intervention. It’s after this stage that the real work begins.
  • The proceeding period of early abstinence is where the physical and psychological cravings may be at their most intense. They may also be accompanied by lingering withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Typically after a few months, the worst is over and the person enters the maintenance stage where the focus is on relapse prevention. At this point, they’ve received counseling or therapy to identify their triggers and learn healthy coping mechanisms and may have received medication like Suboxone to help manage cravings.

Generally, this occurs around the 90-day mark of addiction treatment. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that 90 days is the minimum length needed for substance abuse treatment to be effective. This allows time for the detox, to establish positive new habits, and pass the stage where cravings are most intense. However, it’s not a guarantee. NIDA also acknowledges that the longer the treatment period, the better the likelihood of a good outcome. 

Can addiction be fully cured?

Addiction is a chronic disease like diabetes, cancer, or arthritis. Part of the definition of chronic diseases is that they’re long-term conditions that can be controlled but never fully cured. Long-term drug use physically changes the brain, some of which cannot be fully reversed even after years of abstinence. As such, addiction isn’t a disease one ever completely recovers from in the eyes of most medical professionals. 

How long does it take to get addicted to something?

Some drugs are more addictive than others where a single use can permanently rewire your brain. To better understand, take a look at how addiction happens:

When the body is repeatedly flooded with chemicals in amounts it’s never experienced naturally, it adapts to accommodate for the presence of those chemicals and eventually requires them in order to function, leading to physical dependence. Additionally, if the body is consistently getting a chemical from an external source, it will stop making that chemical on its own which is why withdrawal effects occur. These factors create the building blocks for substance use disorder. 

Heroin, cocaine, and nicotine are some of the most addictive drugs in existence. They produce powerful effects that can easily overpower your brain’s natural neurochemical balance even when only used once. 

However, there are a number of other factors that affect how long it takes to become addicted to a substance aside from the type of drug. These include:

  • Duration of drug use
  • Quantity of consumption per use
  • Use of other drugs at the same time
  • Age 
  • Metabolism
  • Mental illness
  • Genetics (family history of substance abuse)

Breaking addiction the right way

It’s important to have realistic expectations about addiction recovery. While it may not be something that ever goes away, with proper treatment and care it can be a manageable condition. It is never recommended to try and overcome addiction by quitting cold turkey which can trigger a severe withdrawal response and be dangerous. Instead, individuals struggling with substance abuse should seek professional drug and alcohol addiction treatment from experienced experts. Find an addiction treatment facility near you, today.