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How Long Does it Take to Break an Addiction?

Breaking an addiction is a complex process that depends on multiple factors, including the type of substance or behavior involved, the length and intensity of the addiction, the individual’s mental and physical health, and the support systems in place.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to how long it takes to break a substance abuse or drug addiction, understanding the stages of recovery and the factors that influence it can be the first step toward long-term recovery.

What is an Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive substance use or engaging in behavior despite harmful consequences. Addiction often alters brain chemistry and function, making it a powerful and persistent condition and one can be addicted to anything, from substances such as drugs and alcohol, to behaviors such as gambling, eating or shopping.

Cycle of Addiction

The cycle of addiction includes several stages, each contributing to the next, creating a pattern of compulsive behavior that can be hard to break.

Initial Use

The cycle of addiction begins with initial exposure to a substance or behavior, which may lead to experimentation. This initial use is often influenced by multiple factors such as curiosity, peer pressure, or as a coping mechanism.

Positive Reinforcement

Following initial use, individuals may experience pleasurable effects from the substance or behavior. This positive reinforcement leads them to seek out the substance or behavior again and again.

Regular Use

As the behavior continues more frequently, one may experience increased tolerance, requiring larger doses of the substance or engaging in the behavior more frequently to achieve the same effect.

Negative Consequences

Over time, the negative consequences of addiction begin to emerge, including physical health problems, mental health disorders, strained relationships, or difficulty completing day-to-day tasks or fulfilling responsibilities.

Attempts to Cut Down or Control Use

Individuals may recognize the need to cut down or control their substance use or addictive behavior after experiencing negative consequences but find it difficult to resist cravings or maintain sobriety.


Despite efforts to control or stop the addictive behavior, it’s common for stress, triggers, social pressure, or underlying mental health issues to cause a relapse.

Cycle Continuation

Relapse is often associated with overwhelming sensations of guilt and shame, leaving the individual to return to regular use of the substance or behavior, thus continuing the cycle of addiction.[1]

How Do You Break the Addiction Cycle?

Breaking the cycle of addiction requires a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses the physical, psychological, and social aspects of one’s condition. The first steps to breaking the cycle of addiction include:

  • Recognition and Acceptance: The first step in overcoming addiction includes recognizing that there is a problem and accepting the need for change. This stage can be immediate for some, while taking years for others.
  • Detox: For drug and alcohol addiction, detox is often necessary to cleanse the body of the addictive substance. The duration of detox varies depending on the substance and the individual but can last anywhere from days to weeks and often requires medical supervision.
  • Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation can be inpatient or outpatient and last anywhere from 30 to 90 days while addressing the psychological aspects of addiction through evidence-based practices, therapy, counseling, and support groups. Research has found that treatment programs lasting at least 90 days have the best recovery outcomes.[2]
  • Aftercare: The final step in addiction recovery involves maintaining sobriety and making lifestyle changes to prevent relapse. This lifelong process includes learning how to identify triggers, practicing coping mechanisms, attending ongoing therapy and engaging in support groups for long-term success.

Types of Addiction Therapy

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Helps identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with addiction.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Focuses on emotion regulation and building healthy coping skills for long-term recovery.
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI): Enhances motivation to change and reinforces one’s commitment to recovery.
  • 12-Step Programs: Programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), provide peer support and a structured approach to recovery.

Maintenance and Relapse Prevention

Recovering from addiction is a lifelong journey that requires ongoing support and dedication to prevent relapse. Common methods of addiction maintenance include:

  • Ongoing Therapy: Continued individual or group therapy helps address challenges and triggers associated with addiction or substance use disorders.
  • Support Groups: Participation in support groups provides community and accountability for those in recovery.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Regular exercise, healthy diet, and stress management techniques support overall well-being and help alleviate addictive behaviors.

What Happens if I Relapse?

Relapse should be seen as part of the recovery process rather than a failure. It can provide valuable insights into triggers and weaknesses, helping individuals to adjust their strategies and strengthen their commitment to sobriety. Understanding that relapse may happen helps reduce the stigma and encourages individuals to seek help promptly if it occurs.

Addiction Treatment at Mandala Healing Center

Breaking an addiction is a highly sensitive process that is different for everyone. At Mandala Healing Center, our team of addiction specialists is dedicated to providing individualized treatment options that focus on the unique needs of each patient. Our treatment facility was designed to help individuals break the cycle of addiction so they can start the journey to lifelong sobriety.

Our recovery programs include:

Ultimately, the path to breaking an addiction is a marathon, not a sprint. We believe that with the right support and treatment plan, individuals can overcome addiction once and for all. If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, we’re here to help. Contact our team today to learn more about your options.


  1. National Institutes of Health (NIH): The neurobiology of substance use, misuse, and addiction
  2. National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA): Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)