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How Long Does it Take to Break an Addiction?

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Breaking an addiction can be a difficult process, but it is definitely possible. There are many resources available to help break unhealthy habits and overcome addiction, and it takes time and effort to get through the detox phase and reach the long-term goal of recovery.

What is the Difference Between a Habit and an Addiction? 

A habit is a behavior that you have repeated enough times to become automatic. It's something you do without thinking. Habits are formed through repetition - if you do something enough times, it will become a part of your routine. 

An addiction is a chronic disease characterized by cravings for substances or activities that interfere with normal life functioning. Addictions can be harmful both physically and mentally, and can even lead to death.

Addiction happens when your brain becomes dependent on a substance or activity in order to function normally. This means that even if you stop using the substance or engaging in the activity, your brain will still feel like it needs it - leading to intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

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Ultimately, habits are much easier to break than addictions. However, addictions require significant emotional or physical dependency in order to continue using them. If you stop using an addictive substance or behavior abruptly, you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms (such as cravings).


Common Types of Addictions

There are a number of different substances that are regularly abused, but some of the most common addictions include:

  • Alcohol addiction
  • Opioid addiction (heroin, fentanyl, pain relievers)
  • Cocaine addiction
  • Benzodiazepine (benzos) addiction (Xanax, Valium)

Why Is It So Hard to Break an Addiction?

Quitting an addiction can be incredibly difficult, and it often takes a lot of courage and determination to make the decision to quit. An addiction is a disease of the brain, and quitting isn’t as simple as having a lot of will-power. 

The Brain: Quitting an addiction is so difficult because addiction alters the brain’s chemical structure. Addiction is a brain disease, meaning that it is caused by abnormalities in the way the brain functions.

Tolerance: Tolerance is the body's adaptation to recurring use of a drug. It occurs when the body becomes tolerant to the effects of drugs and requires increased doses in order to experience the same effect as before. This can lead to adverse health consequences, such as an increase in addiction levels or dependence on drugs, making it harder to quit.

Withdrawal: Withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable which also make it difficult to quit. It can be so easy to return to the substance just to ease the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

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What Factors Affect How Long it Takes to Recover From an Addiction?

The Type of Substance: Different types of drugs can be harder to quit than others, and can vary in terms of how extreme the withdrawal symptoms are.

Frequency of Use: The more often you use a substance, the harder it will be to break the addiction. It can take longer to recover, since you may have to go through a period where you taper off the drug to avoid extreme withdrawal.

How Long You’ve Used the Substance: Quitting a substance can also be affected by how long you’ve been using it, and how high your tolerance is.


How to Successfully Break an Addiction

Addiction is a complex mix of biological and environmental factors. It's not simply a matter of willpower or self-control.

1. Plan for triggers: Triggers to drink or use drugs can present themselves at any time. It’s important to be well-equipped and have effective coping mechanisms that you can pull out when you need them.

2. Stay busy: A big reason why people return to their substance of choice is boredom. Take this time to explore new hobbies and interests, and spending time with those you care about.

3. Practice self-care: Taking care of yourself is essential for your recovery. Ask yourself what you need to feel good mentally and physically.

healthy man drinking water

4. Get professional support:
In most cases, addiction cannot be overcome on your own. Seek professional treatment and guidance to treat both the addiction itself and the root causes of the addiction.

5. Stay recovery-focused: Don’t get so distracted with other things (work, relationships, etc.) that you forget the importance of your recovery.

Ultimately, breaking an addiction requires a combination of patience, strength, and understanding - qualities that are all unique to each individual addict. It will take time and effort for them to slowly but surely regain control over their life again. 


Types of Addiction Treatment

There are a variety of treatments available for addiction, and the best choice depends on the individual's specific needs. However, some of the most common types of addiction treatment include the following.


When a person is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they will first need to undergo a detoxification process to get the substance completely out of their body. Detox needs to take place in a medically supervised facility, since there can be a lot of complications during detox, some of which can be fatal.

How Long Does Detox Take?

Detoxing from drugs or alcohol can be a difficult process, but it is possible. The length of time it will take to detox depends on the level of drinking or drug use and the individual's physical health.

Generally, however, most people find that their withdrawal symptoms subside within two weeks after beginning detoxification. Some people may experience more intense discomfort during the detox phase, but this will diminish over time.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is a type of treatment where patients can go to receive intensive care and support for their addiction.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient addiction treatment does not require patients to live at the treatment facility. Rather, they can attend individual and group sessions on a more casual basis. Outpatient treatment is usually recommended for those who have already completed inpatient treatment and are looking to ease out of the treatment process, or for those who are not experiencing a full-fledged addiction.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Intensive outpatient programs are also popular among those seeking short-term treatments for alcohol or substance use. These programs operate on an outpatient basis, but are more structured than an outpatient program while being more flexible than an inpatient program. They allow you to receive individualized care while still maintaining your day job and living relatively normal lives outside of rehab.

If you are seeking treatment for an alcohol or substance use disorder and/or mental health condition and are in need of more structure than an outpatient program, but don't want to commit to an inpatient program, then an intensive outpatient program may be a good option for you. 

Contact our addiction recovery specialists to learn more about the intensive outpatient program or our outpatient programs that we offer at Aquila Recovery of Virginia.