Short-term Rehab generally refers to outpatient alcohol or drug rehabilitation lasting 28 days or even less.
On the other hand, Long-term Rehab usually refers to inpatient rehab programs lasting 60 days, 90 days, and even more.
Short-term rehab programs vary widely in their methods but are often based on a modified 12-step approach — the method employed by Alcoholics Anonymous. However there are many other approaches used in short-term rehab programs.


Short-term rehab staff members are usually certified substance abuse counselors, and medical professionals trained in drug and alcohol addiction.

Most short-term treatment programs focus on:

  • Intensive but relatively brief treatment compared to long-term programs
  • Stabilization of minor medical conditions
    • Serious medical conditions can rule out standard rehab programs
  • Abstinence from all substances of abuse is ‘the’ major subject
    • Some short-term programs may prescribe pharmaceutical assistance during treatment, such as opiate agonists like Naltrexone for opiate addiction.
      Such drugs are not substances of abuse. But methadone, offered by some other programs, is highly addictive and widely abused.
  • Talk and group therapies
    • Counseling, cognitive therapy, psychotherapy and many other modalities are used to achieve understanding of one’s addiction.
      But traditional 12-step programs emphasize the “higher-power” religious approach which is unacceptable to many seeking treatment.
  • Classes and seminars to help achieve:
    • Lifestyle changes
    • Parenting instruction
    • Family counseling
    • School and job training
    • Legal and employment services
  • After-treatment referrals to needed medical, psychological, and social services
  • Continuing follow-up with any other needed outpatient care.



Originally designed for treating alcohol abuse, many short-term programs were expanded in the 1980s to treat drug abuse, and some have shown success in achieving long term sobriety.

However, some problems with short-term care should be carefully considered:

  • Many short-term programs based on traditional 12-step therapy, as well as some others, preach the “disease theory” of addiction that says addiction is a life-long, incurable disease. Because modern research and the experience of tens of thousands of individuals strongly contradicts this view, it make sense to embrace a program which can help you believe in yourself and your ability to regain permanent sobriety.
  • Since it takes at least a week to fully “arrive” and become accustomed to a rehab facility, and nearly a week preparing to return home, the really productive treatment time for most people is reduced to around two weeks — insufficient for most people to achieve their goal of life-long sobriety. This is the main reason long-term rehab programs offer better chances of permanent recovery
  • Short-term care has become more expensive for patients in recent years, because health care coverage for substance abuse treatment has been reduced to averages of 7-14 days — not even close to what’s required for full recovery



Whatever type of rehab program you choose, keep in mind that a deep and abiding personal commitment to achieving life-long sobriety is the number one factor in your success. The goal for any program is a life free from alcohol or drugs, and only you can make that happen.

NOTE: Drug rehab always comes after drug detox. Choose the right kind of drug detox program to help make sure that you, or the person you are helping, has the most successful drug rehab.