New Study: The More Time Spent in Treatment, the Better the Chances for Long-Term Recovery

Older woman talking in group therapy setting

The more time you spend in treatment, the more likely you are to remain sober, regardless of your substance of choice.

According to a study published in January’s edition of Open Journal of Psychiatry, those who completed the standard, 30-day residential treatment program had just over a 50 percent success rate. However, those who stayed more than 30 days experienced a success rate of 84 percent, a nearly unheard of number.1

This is significant because most insurance plans only will pay for 30 days. Lead author Dr. Akikur Mohammad and colleagues said that means it is critical that people transition seamlessly from residential treatment to sober living environments or extensive outpatient care upon discharge.

“The goal of an aftercare plan is to seamlessly transition a patient into an independent substance free lifestyle,” he wrote. “Aftercare is typically successful when a patient fully participates in the plan-facilitation process. Completing a drug/alcohol treatment program is a feat, but the battle is still being fought which is why aftercare is important in maintaining sobriety.”

Mohammad followed 72 patients with an average age of 30 years. Addictions ranged from alcohol abuse to opioids, amphetamines and benzodiazepines. Categorized by addiction, sobriety rates at one year were 100 percent for amphetamine dependency, 69.2 percent for benzodiazepine dependency, 64.3 percent for opioid dependency and 55.2 percent for alcohol addiction.

In his paper, Mohammad quotes a plethora of previous research that shows one-year abstinence rates for outpatient treatment, residential treatment and sober living environments of 16.8 percent, 11.7 percent and 23.8 percent, respectively.

Many Find Ways to Stay Beyond 30 Days in Rehab

In this post on the recovery community website Heroes in Recovery, Lisa W. describes how it took 45 days in rehab to get her on the right track.

“They took me into detox where I had major DTs and spent seven lonely, frightened and extremely sick days there,” she recalled. “I went on to stay over 45 days in rehab, and I did everything they told me to do. I didn’t care what it was. I knew what I had been doing was not working. I was reborn there.”2

The piece, written in 2014, was on the anniversary of four months of her sobriety. “I try not to keep track,” she says. “It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality.”

Treatment failed her four times prior. What’s difference this time? “I have a huge support system including my boyfriend who is also four months sober. I attend an IOP program, I have a therapist and I do online volunteer work that keeps me active in a recovery program for more than two hours each day. I have made many friends, something I never did before, and I’m honest with myself and others. I’m learning everything again. I’m a child learning to walk at the age of 43.”

Another way to enhance your sobriety post-treatment is to seek a counselor or therapist to help you in early recovery.

Tired of Being Disgusted with Himself, Don B. Spent Two Months in Treatment, Remains Sober

Also consider the story of Don B., who today has more than four years of continuous sobriety but at one time had become completely disgusted with himself and his alcoholism.3

“First, he went to a detox, then to two months of treatment and later lived nine months in a sober living facility,” Heroes in Recovery reports of Don B.’s intensive therapy and follow-up. “During this time his parents got sick at age and needed help at home. He drove every day multiple times back and forth between the sober living and his parent’s home to help them out in daily needs.”

This no doubt gave Don added purpose and something to worry about that’s “bigger than himself,” as they say.

In the model Mohammad studied, follow-up was intense and lasted as long as a year. “During this time patients are contacted by phone and asked questions about substance use, treatment efficacy and adherence to the aftercare plan. Responses to phone calls are recorded in patient records.”

1. Mohammad, A. et al. (2017, January). Addiction Treatment Aftercare Outcome Study. Open Journal of Psychiatry. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from
2. Lisa W. (2014, May 15). My Life Was Insane. Heroes in Recovery. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from
3. Don B. (2016, Jan. 30). I’m an Alcoholic. Heroes in Recovery. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from

Written by David Heitz

Free Assessment / Confidential Call: 877-345-3299
Send us an Email