How Long Does it Take to Recover?

The decision to enter into a recovery program for substance abuse is a positive one, but for many people, there are still several uncertainties surrounding it. Chief among them is the question about how long the recovery process will last. It can be daunting if the road to sobriety seems long, with no clear end in sight. While no one can give you a definitive answer to that question, it’s important to focus on the health and wellness aspect of recovery. Strengthening yourself physically and mentally can help you during this transition time.


The Road to Recovery and Sobriety

When it comes to the question of recovery time, there are several factors at play, so the answer will depend on each individual. Were you addicted to alcohol or drugs; if it was the latter, what kind of drugs? How long have you been dealing with the addiction, and how frequently were you using? Do you have co-occurring mental health issues or physical ailments that would affect the recovery process? All of these issues and more can influence the length of recovery.


The first step in your health and wellness journey towards sobriety is detoxing your body. Again, detoxification will depend on your particular circumstances, but it can generally last around a week or so. Detoxification refers to the process of eliminating all traces of a particular substance from the body. First off, substances have what is called a half-life, which is the estimated amount of time it takes for a drug in your system to be reduced by 50%. That time frame varies—for instance, the half-life for heroin is one to three days, but for PCP it’s seven to 14 days. It can also be influenced by things such as your age and weight.


As you continue to abstain from using your addictive substance during detox, and it begins to dissipate from your system, you may start to experience withdrawal symptoms. These can come on fairly quickly or you may not experience them in any significant way—again, that depends on how much of the substance you have been using and how long you’ve had a use disorder, among other things. These symptoms can be physical or mental and can include depression, chills, anxiety, tremors, and seizures, among others. 


That withdrawal can happen because your brain has become hooked on using the substance. Generally, the longer you’ve been abusing a substance, the more you are hooked and the longer it will take you to work through withdrawal. You can become addicted to a substance because when you take it, it triggers a rush of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that is associated with pleasurable feelings, and when the brain gets that surge of dopamine from a substance, you get a high. If you continue using, the brain will get accustomed to that powerful influx of dopamine, and you’ll get the craving to continue using so you can keep getting that euphoric high. Unfortunately, as substance abuse continues, you need more of the drugs or alcohol to replicate that original high, so you are at risk of using larger amounts of the substance more often, which can lead to addiction.


Another part of recovery is getting the brain’s dopamine levels back to where they were before you started taking drugs or drinking. This can take a while, especially if prolonged use has started to make changes to the brain. This process can take around three months or so, but it can be shorter or longer, depending on your specific situation. In the most extreme cases, dopamine levels may be permanently altered and unable to be restored.


In addition to the physical aspect of recovery, there can be mental issues at play as well. Health and wellness refer to your psychological health, too, and caring for any co-occurring issues will also be essential to one day living in sobriety. There are different psychotherapy modalities that can be introduced during a rehabilitation treatment program and then carried on into recovery for as long as necessary. Some of the more common modalities include cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), interpersonal and group therapy, relapse prevention, emotional freedom technique, and others. Again, this is an ongoing process that will last as long as necessary to ensure the best chance of a successful recovery. 


The foundation for a successful recovery is to choose a program that excels at offering individualized treatment. Casa Palmera has built its reputation on a whole-person philosophy of care, where detoxification is overseen by exceptionally qualified staff members and the inpatient and outpatient recovery programs offer valuable opportunities to gain the tools you need for sobriety. Our world-class facility in Del Mar, California, is the ideal place to get started in recovery, no matter how long the process may take. To learn more about how we can help you during your individual recovery process, contact Casa Palmera today.