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3 min read

How Long Does It Take to Break an Addiction?

Man hugging loved on after getting help with an addiction

How long does it take to break an addiction? It’s a million-dollar question, right? In fact, it’s one of our most frequently asked questions, along with: 

  • Does an addiction ever go away?
  • Can you overcome an addiction on your own? 
  • Is an addiction a disorder? 
  • Can you cure an addiction? 
  • How long do drugs stay in your body?

Unfortunately, breaking an addiction is a complicated process, so there are no simple answers to these questions. 

But more importantly, determining “how long does it take to get over an addiction” is an individualized question. Overcoming an addiction is a personal journey, and no two people will walk the same path. 

What is an Addiction?

How is an addiction different from a habit? While the answer might seem obvious - it’s the act of being addicted - what does that definition mean? What sets an addiction apart from a habit, a tendency, or any other sort of repetitive, impulsive behavior?

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines an addiction as “a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences.”

What does this chronic medical disease look like in everyday life? It shows up as recurrent and frequent behaviors that an individual feels they must engage in, no matter the negative consequences. 

How is the brain involved in these repetitive behaviors, particularly when drug use is part of the picture? 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains: “Drugs interfere with the way neurons send, receive, and process signals via neurotransmitters … Drugs can alter important brain areas that are necessary for life-sustaining functions and can drive the compulsive drug use that marks addiction … Our brains are wired to increase the odds that we will repeat pleasurable activities … Just as drugs produce intense euphoria, they also produce much larger surges of dopamine, powerfully reinforcing the connection between consumption of the drug, the resulting pleasure, and all the external cues linked to the experience.”

Addiction affects the brain. It changes your impulse control and alters your judgment. This means that breaking an addiction is more than just a physical, mental, and emotional challenge. Rather, there are biological and physiological components to overcoming an addiction as well. 

Types of Addiction

There are hundreds of different kinds of addictions, and not every addiction involves drugs. 

Each type of addiction can be put into a category. For example, a person might be battling a behavioral addiction, or in other words, an addiction to a particular behavior. Common behavioral addictions include a:

  • Shopping addiction 
  • Gambling addiction
  • Video game addiction
  • Social media addiction 
  • Sex addiction or pornography addiction
  • Food addiction or eating disorder 

When trying to determine how long it takes to break an addiction, the type of addiction should be taken into consideration. 

Can You Overcome Addiction?

This is a question with a definite, clear-cut answer … yes, 100%! You can overcome addiction! 

While there is no “cure” to overcome any one kind of addiction, every type of addiction is treatable.

So now, let’s tackle the question, “How long does it take to break an addiction?”

Have you heard of the 21/90 rule? It’s the idea that you can form a habit in 21 days, and within 90 days that habit is a permanent lifestyle. With this age-old notion, there is an assumption that if a habit can be formulated in 21 days, then it can be broken in 21 days, too. Well, throw that myth out the window.

Research shows that changing a behavior pattern takes time, a lot of time, ranging from months to years. And truth be told, many of our patients feel like overcoming an addiction is the challenge of a lifetime. 

Don’t let this discourage you, though. Just because breaking an addiction is a complex and long-term process, that does not mean it’s an impossible process. 

How Long Does It Take to Break an Addiction?

When breaking a drug addiction, it is natural for people to correlate the length of an inpatient rehabilitation stay with the time it takes to break a drug addiction, but that is not the case.

For example, every inpatient rehabilitation stay for a drug addiction will start with a detox. That initial detox period can last days to weeks, depending on the severity of the addiction. 

Becoming physically stable during the detox stage is only one step toward breaking a drug addiction, though. Patients might stay for 30, 60, or 90 days (and longer) to fully complete a rehabilitation program. 

Then, upon leaving an inpatient rehabilitation program, most patients continue to receive treatment for weeks or months following their stay. As you can see, the amount of time needed for one patient to overcome a drug addiction is different from the next patient. 

Furthermore, there is no one-size-fits-all roadmap that outlines a specific, set-in-stone timeline required to break an addiction of any kind. 

Simply put, there are too many variables, too many pieces to the puzzle, and too many moving parts. Breaking an addiction is an extended process. Rewiring the brain is not an overnight occurrence. It takes time to reset the brain and develop new behaviors.

While the road to recovery might seem as easy as completing a 30-day program, many individuals find overcoming an addiction to be a lengthy process. Perhaps, even a lifelong process. 

Addiction Therapy with the Williamsburg Therapy Group 

How long does it take to break an addiction?

It’s a very important question with a complicated answer. After all, breaking an addiction is a complicated undertaking.

Here at the Williamsburg Therapy Group, we have doctorate-level professionals to support you along the journey.

Whether you want addiction therapy or our outpatient rehab program, our team is ready to help you get over your addiction. 

If you have further questions, feel free to send us a message. We look forward to being a part of your success story. 

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