Which is Better: 28 Days or 90 Days?

Discovering Which Drug Rehab Treatment Plan is Best for You

So you have taken the first strides on the road to recovery–you have

  • made the decision to stop your addiction,
  • chosen to get professional help, and
  • are now seeking treatment options.

Rehabs generally offer both longterm (90+ days) and shortterm treatment options (28 days)—but which is best for you? 

Answering this question correctly is important because the successfulness of your recovery hinges on choosing the best treatment plan for you. Below is a brief outline of the cost and benefits of long-term and short-term treatment programs.

About the Short-Term Program: 28 Days 

Advantages of a Shorter Program 

  • Cost. The main benefit of a short-term treatment is its low cost. The 30-day treatment plan has been the norm because it is the length of time that insurance covers. For those who do not have the resources to attend a longer treatment plan, the 28-30 day program is highly recommended. John Southworth, an interventionist at the Betty Ford Center, sums succinctly, “Something is always better than nothing.”
  • Time. It’s easier to give up job and family for 30 days than for 90 days.
  • Always keep in mind that the length of treatment depends on the individual and his or her personal background. For some people, a 30-day treatment plan may be enough.

Disadvantages of a Shorter Program

  • “It’s not enough time.” Many argue that a 30-day program does not provide enough time to learn, practice, implement and ultimately change a lifestyle. Typically, the first week is spent in detox and physical and emotional recovery. Actual listening and learning may not begin until week two or three. Patients can be distracted during the last week, focusing more on leaving than learning. This leaves little time to learn and practice the skills needed to face the temptations and emotions outside the safety of a rehab center.

About the Long-Term Program: 60-90 days up to a year

Advantages of a Longer Program

  • Research shows that the longer the rehab program lasts, the lower the risk of relapse

    • A study sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse NIDA, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 1999 found that 35% of those in treatment for less than 90 days reported drug use the following year. In contrast, 17% of people who were in treatment for 90 days or over reported relapse the following year.
    • The Psychology of Addictive Behaviors published a study by Drug Abuse Treatment Outcome Studies (DATOS), which stated that individuals in long-term residential programs had “significantly better outcomes” than those with shorter lengths of stay.
    • Another study by DATOS found that 50% reduction of illegal activity and 10% increases in full-time employment were related to treatment stays of 6 months or longer.
    • “Treatment is dose-related. More is often better, depending on what you do with the time.” –Dr. Harry Haroutunian, director of the licensed professional program at the Betty Ford Center.
  • “The best friend a patient has in treatment is time.” This old saying is true: in a long-term setting, you will have more time to learn new behaviors and develop the skills needed to prevent relapse. A longer treatment also allows the counselors time to identify and treat potentially new issues that have been buried for awhile. It requires time to achieve any goal, and recovery from addiction is no different.
  • Although the treatment option is highly individualized, a longer treatment plan is especially recommended for certain individuals. You should seriously consider a longer treatment if you fall into any of the following categories:

    • You have used drugs by injections
    • You have a long history of addiction
    • You already have a history of treatment and relapse
    • You have a severe drug or alcohol problem

Disadvantages of a Longer Program

  • Cost: There is no denying it: longer treatment programs are expensive, ranging anywhere from $25,000-$55,000.
  • Time: Ninety days of treatment also means 90 days away from your job, your home and your family but you also have to consider 90 days in relation to your quality and length of life.
  • Commitment: A longer treatment may produce better results, but only if you are committed. One report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) showed that clients were more than twice as likely to drop out of long-term treatment than shorter rehab programs.

At a Glance: 28 Days vs 90 Days

  Short-Term Treatment Programs (28 Days) Long-Term Treatment Programs (90 or + Days)
Effectiveness Higher relapse rate Lower relapse rate
Recommendations For some, a shorter treatment program may be enough.

A longer treatment is recommended for everyone, but especially for those

  • who used drugs by injections
  • who have a long history of addictions
  • with a history of treatment and relapse
  • with severe drug or alcohol addictions
Time It’s easier to take time off work for a shorter program.

It may be difficult to leave and family for an extended time. Longer time helps to formulate new character and options


Plan to spend between $10,000 and $25,000. Some insurance companies will help with a 28 day program. Can I Afford Rehab?

Plan to spend between $25,000 and $55,000. 


There is no “magic number” that guarantees a successful long-term recovery. As the research shows, relapse can occur even to those in long-term treatment, but the potential for long-lasting recovery is much stronger the longer you can invest in rehab. In addition, the effectiveness of a program often depends more on the quality of a program’s treatment and your personal background and commitment than on its length.

So, make sure you consider all the factors when choosing your rehab program.