How long does it take to break an addiction?

break an addiction

Anyone who wonders how long does it take to break an addiction may have a head start on doing it. Awareness of a substance abuse problem can improve your chances of handling it. In recovery, your journey starts with your decision to get treatment. Breaking an addiction takes time, but it can make your life better in so many ways. Other people ask about addiction too, and some facts can help you understand it better.

1. What does addiction mean?

You may like to think that you control your life and can do whatever you like. But, unfortunately, addiction proves that you cannot. Instead, it controls you with incredible strength and power. As a force that can make you use drugs despite bad outcomes, it changes how your brain works. For example, your reaction to stress and self-control can make you act in a way you do not like.

2. Why can I not stop when I want to?

When you start using drugs, you may get some benefits that you think help you. For example, they may make you feel self-confident and not depressed. You may think you do better in school, at work or in sports. The problem with stopping comes when drugs take over your life. It can happen so quickly that you have trouble believing it. As time goes on, the boost you enjoy becomes less and less. Eventually, you need drugs just to feel normal. An inability to use self-control to stop shows the likelihood of addiction.

3. Can my addiction go away if I do nothing to stop it?

While drugs may seem like a wonderful friend when you first meet, they can turn on you when you least expect it. You may hope that addiction goes away when you get tired of it, but it does not work that way. When you ask how long does it take to break an addiction, you need to know that it can take a long time. It needs you to make a commitment for however long it takes. It only gets worse if you do nothing. Meanwhile, it can wreck your health, relationships, job and financial future.

21 days

4. Can I break my drug habit in 21 days?

Popular myths about how long it takes to break a habit do not apply to addiction. While you may not like to think about it, drugs can change how your brain works. As the most complicated organ in your body, it regulates your body functions. Your thoughts, emotions and behavior come from your brain.

Whether you drive a car, run a marathon, create a delicious meal or paint your pet’s portrait, your brain controls everything you do. It has amazing power, unless and until you use drugs. That changes everything. When you realize that drugs can change areas in your brain that keep you alive, you may expect it to take time to recover.

5. Why does addiction treatment take a long time?

Breaking away from drug dependence creates a complex situation. A lot of things can affect how long your recovery may take. For example, how long your addiction has lasted can affect the amount of time. Another influence comes from how drugs affect your body’s chemistry. Fixing the changes to the wiring in your brain may require the most time of all.

Experts at the National Institute on Drug Abuse say that treatment must last for at least 90 days to produce good results.

6. Why do experts call drug addiction a chronic disease?

One condition that makes a disease chronic requires it to last a year or more. In addition, it needs medical attention or limits daily living activities. Some chronic diseases that may sound familiar include heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Drug addiction qualifies because it requires ongoing treatment as other chronic health conditions do.

People who have those diseases act responsibly and take care of themselves usually. However, drug addiction requires the same concerted effort to have good health. So when you wonder how long does it take to break an addiction, you can find that it varies.

7. What phases does drug addiction have?

A report by the Surgeon General separates drug addiction into categories. The cycle moves through one phase into another.

In the first stage, preoccupation and anticipation occur. That usually includes constant cravings and a powerful need to use a favorite drug. Feeling irritable, tired, depressed or unable to concentrate can show early signs of addiction.

In the next phase, binging and intoxication take the place of cravings for a particular drug. The amount needed has to increase to produce the same effect. Signs of addiction reaching this stage include missing work or school and keeping secret any plans for getting drugs.

The phase that usually comes next produces withdrawal and adverse effects. The experience can cause shakes and sweats, nausea, anxiety, depression and many more unpleasant feelings.

8. Does addiction recovery go through phases too?

Yes, it does. You may take the same path to recovery that experts know happens to most people. A pattern that almost everyone goes through can let you know where you stand in the process. It starts when you begin treatment, and the next step involves learning to stop using drugs.

After about 90 days of abstaining, you enter the maintenance phase which may last for years. Finally, you reach the end phase of advanced addiction recovery when you have a record of five years of not using drugs. None of the phases make it easy for you. They require you to work hard to break a drug habit. A professional drug treatment program can help you succeed.

Soon after you start a treatment program, you no longer wonder how long does it take to break an addiction. By that time, you focus on getting better.


9. What goes on in addiction treatment?

Your path to recovery takes you to a treatment center where doctors and therapists assess your condition. Then, they can develop a custom treatment plan that suits your specific needs with the information they learn.

Before starting rehabilitation, you need to get rid of any drugs that remain in your body. Under careful care, you go through a detox process. After the assessment and detox, you begin therapy to work on the issues that feed your addiction. Finding and healing the wounds that made you need addiction treatment becomes the primary goal of rehabilitation. When your treatment ends, you enter an aftercare program that helps you remember what you learned during your care period.

10. What does therapy mean?

In an addiction treatment setting, therapy involves participating in a group with people in the same situation you face. You may find that you have a lot in common with them. When you see others who feel depressed or isolated, you can benefit from their experiences. Everyone in group therapy supports each other through the journey. In some cases, support means challenging what someone says. The process relies on trust and honesty, and it may make you uncomfortable at times.

11. What do people talk about in group therapy?

Trained counselors lead discussions on topics that matter to everyone. Therapists call the issues that made you want to use drugs “triggers.” So you can imagine that everyone in group therapy has some of them. For example, letting go of old grudges presents a challenge that many people do not like. However, in the supportive atmosphere of group therapy, everyone feels safe to express their feelings openly.

Discussions may center on negative thinking and its impact on your life. Some group members may have experienced abuse, injury or loss and can benefit from talking about it. Group therapy gives you a chance to reveal yourself through your interests, hopes and defects. The process gives you the balance to help you live a peaceful and rewarding, drug-free life.

Finding Help that Works

Our approach to rehabilitation at Long Island Treatment Center lets us provide outpatient treatment that creates a path to recovery. We honor a commitment to believe that everyone can recover from drug addiction and become productive in society. Our staff of caring and compassionate professionals know that making people feel included and loved can create a positive difference. Thus, our group and family therapy programs focus on issues that concern you. We can develop a treatment plan that breaks your addiction. Call us today to learn how we can lead you on a path to sobriety.


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Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Long Island Treatment Center

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