Studies Show 28 Days Isn’t Long Enough to Treat Addiction


Recent studies have now shown that it takes on average 66 days to create a new habit that will stick, so why do so many treatment facilities expect that people can handle an addiction in 28 days? It is a rather unrealistic expectation that someone will be able to recover from a drug or alcohol addiction in such a short amount of time. By the time people get to the point that they need residential treatment their addiction has become a rather severe problem that will require more than a “quick fix” approach. It is also important to realize that everyone needs a different length of time in treatment to address their individual underlying issues so setting an arbitrary fixed amount of days on this process is truly counterproductive.

According to a 20-year study conducted by the National Drug Abuse Reporting Program and Follow-up Outcomes (DARP) people who stayed in treatment, longer had reduced recidivism rates and greater success. Studies have also shown that it is also not just the length of time that someone remains abstinent that is important but also the quality of treatment that one receives as well. This can be made evident by the rates of people who relapse upon release from long periods of incarceration.

Most treatment programs follow the 28-day model not because it is what is most beneficial for the client but rather because that is what most insurance will cover. The reason this is the most amount of time many insurance companies will cover residential treatment is due to convenience in billing cycles and not the effectiveness of treatment.

It is no secret that insurance companies will do whatever they can to pay the least amount of money for everything. While health insurance is a great thing to have, sadly their client’s best interest is usually not their top priority. If more insurance companies would be willing to cover longer stays in treatment then more rehabilitation centers would offer longer programs. Not only would this help save more lives but it would also be more cost-effective. Over time the reduced recidivism rates would actually help save insurance companies money because there would be fewer people revolving in and out of treatment.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) “every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs yields a return of between $4 and $7 in reduced drug-related crime, criminal justice costs, and theft. When savings related to health care are included, total savings can exceed costs by a ratio of 12 to 1.” If more people had access to quality treatment then society as a whole would benefit from the reduced recidivism rates.

With the high rates of addiction that are currently occurring in the United States, it is past time that insurance companies start making changes in the structure of their substance abuse and mental health benefits. Many people may argue that it’s not the insurance companies fault that their clients may be struggling with an addiction so it shouldn’t be up to them to fix the problem. While there is truth in that argument it does not negate the fact that they have an obligation to help their clients receive the best possible health care out there. When it comes to addiction treatment there is no denying that longer programs are the most effective.




After overcoming her own addiction in 2012 Julie went on to become certified as an addiction counselor in order to help others achieve a life of recovery. She worked in the addiction field for 8 years and now uses both her personal and professional experiences with addiction as an influence for her writing.