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How Long Does It Take To Break An Addiction?

Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, gambling, or any other addictive behavior, the road to recovery can be long and difficult.

April 5, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process.
  • Withdrawal occurs in the first few days to weeks of stopping drugs or alcohol.
  • Some people can experience withdrawal that can last for months.
  • You can take steps to help yourself recover from addiction faster.

Addiction is a complex disorder that can take hold of an individual’s life, leaving them feeling trapped and helpless. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, gambling, or any other addictive behavior, the road to recovery can be long and difficult.

Addiction is not a choice. It’s a disease that alters the brain’s response to pleasure and reward, making it difficult to quit the addictive substance or behavior. It takes time and effort to rewire the brain and learn healthier coping mechanisms.

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The length of time it takes to break an addiction depends on several factors, including the severity of the addiction, the substance or behavior involved, the individual’s willingness to change, and the availability of support.

The severity of the addiction is a major factor in determining how long it will take to break it.

A mild addiction may only take a few weeks or months to overcome, while a severe addiction can take years. The substance or behavior involved also plays a role. Some addictions, such as nicotine or caffeine, are easier to quit than others, such as opioids or alcohol.

The individual’s willingness to change is crucial. If the person is not ready to quit, no amount of treatment or support can force them to do so. However, if they are motivated and committed to recovery, they are more likely to succeed.

The availability of support is also important. Those who have access to a supportive network of family, friends, and healthcare professionals are more likely to succeed in overcoming their addiction. Treatment options, such as therapy and medication, can also play a role in recovery.

Research has shown that it takes an average of 90 days to break a habit.

This timeframe is based on the idea that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, and an additional 69 days to solidify that habit.

However, breaking an addiction is more complex than simply forming a new habit. It involves rewiring the brain and learning new coping mechanisms. Some people may require longer than 90 days to achieve lasting recovery.

Recovery is a lifelong process. Once the addiction has been broken, it’s crucial to continue to work on maintaining sobriety or avoiding the addictive behavior. This may involve ongoing therapy, support groups, and other forms of treatment.

Does addiction ever go away?

Addiction is a chronic disease, which means that it never truly goes away. Even after an individual has broken their addiction and achieved sobriety or abstinence, there is always a risk of relapse.

Relapse can occur even after years of recovery, often triggered by stress, life changes, or exposure to the addictive substance or behavior. It’s important for individuals in recovery to remain vigilant and continue to work on their sobriety, even after years of being clean.

However, with time and effort, the risk of relapse can be minimized. The longer an individual remains sober or abstinent, the more likely they are to maintain their recovery. Building a strong support network and learning healthy coping mechanisms are crucial for long-term success in overcoming addiction.

How do you stop being addicted to something?

Breaking an addiction is a complex process that involves both physical and psychological factors. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how to stop being addicted to something, there are some strategies that can be helpful.

One of the first steps in overcoming addiction is acknowledging that there is a problem and seeking help. This may involve talking to a healthcare professional, joining a support group, or enrolling in an addiction treatment program.

Another important strategy is to develop new coping mechanisms.

Many people turn to addictive substances or behaviors as a way of coping with stress, anxiety, or other emotions. Finding healthy ways to manage these feelings, such as through exercise, meditation, or therapy, can be helpful in breaking the cycle of addiction.

It’s also important to identify triggers and avoid them whenever possible. Triggers can be anything that causes cravings for the addictive substance or behavior. This may include social situations, certain people, or specific emotions.

Finally, it’s important to stay committed to recovery even when faced with setbacks. Relapse is common in addiction recovery, but it doesn’t mean failure. It’s important to seek help and support if relapse does occur and continue working towards long-term recovery goals.

What happens when you stop taking a drug?

When an individual stops taking a drug, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can vary depending on the type of drug and the severity of the addiction. Withdrawal symptoms can include physical symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, tremors, and seizures, as well as psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

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The length and severity of withdrawal symptoms also depend on several factors including the type of drug used, the duration of use, and the individual's overall health. In some cases, withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks or even months after stopping the drug.

Quitting a drug "cold turkey" without medical supervision can be dangerous.

Abruptly stopping certain drugs like benzodiazepines or alcohol can lead to life-threatening complications. It is essential for individuals who want to quit using drugs to seek professional help from a healthcare provider or addiction specialist.

In some cases, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may be used to ease withdrawal symptoms and increase the chances of successful recovery. MAT involves using medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance abuse disorders.

Ultimately, stopping drug use is an important step towards breaking an addiction. However, it's crucial to do so safely with proper medical supervision and support to increase the chances of long-term success in recovery.

How long do withdrawal symptoms last?

The duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary greatly depending on the substance and the individual. Generally, acute withdrawal symptoms last for a few days to a week, but they can persist for several weeks in some cases.

Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) can last for months or even years after the initial detox period. PAWS can include mood swings, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and cognitive impairment.

Everyone's experience with withdrawal is different. Some individuals may have mild symptoms that last only a few days, while others may experience severe symptoms that last for weeks or months. Seeking medical supervision and support during this time is crucial to ensure safety and increase the chances of successful recovery.

Can withdrawal symptoms last for months?

Withdrawal symptoms can last for a few days to several weeks, depending on the substance and the individual. However, in some cases, withdrawal symptoms can persist for months or even years after the initial detox period. This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS can be characterized by a range of physical and psychological symptoms that can make recovery challenging.

The exact cause of PAWS is not fully understood, but it's believed to be related to changes in brain chemistry that occur during addiction. During addiction, the brain becomes accustomed to the presence of drugs or alcohol and adjusts its chemical balance accordingly.

When drug use is suddenly stopped, the brain may struggle to readjust to normal functioning, leading to prolonged withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of PAWS can include anxiety, depression, irritability, fatigue, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms can fluctuate in severity over time and may be triggered by stress or other environmental factors.

Managing PAWS typically involves ongoing treatment and support. This may include therapy, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), support groups or 12-step programs.

It's important for individuals in recovery to understand that PAWS is a normal part of the recovery process and that with proper management and support, it is possible to overcome these challenges and achieve lasting sobriety.

Why do some addicts never recover?

Addiction is a chronic disease that can be difficult to overcome. While many individuals are able to achieve lasting recovery, some may struggle with addiction for years or even decades without ever fully recovering.

There are several reasons why some addicts never recover. One of the main factors is a lack of access to treatment and support. Addiction treatment can be expensive and difficult to access, particularly for individuals who live in rural areas or who do not have health insurance.

Another reason why some addicts never recover is due to underlying mental health conditions. Many people who struggle with addiction also have co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.

These conditions can make it more challenging to achieve lasting recovery without proper treatment and support.

Additionally, some individuals may simply not be ready or willing to change their behavior. Addiction is a complex disease that often involves underlying psychological and emotional issues.

It takes time and effort to address these issues and learn new coping mechanisms, and not everyone is willing or able to put in the work required for recovery.

Finally, addiction can be a lifelong struggle for some individuals due to genetic factors or other biological influences. Some people may simply be more predisposed to addiction than others, making it more difficult for them to achieve lasting sobriety.

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer as to why some addicts never recover, it's important for individuals struggling with addiction to understand that recovery is possible with the right treatment and support.

By seeking help from healthcare professionals, joining support groups, and committing to ongoing therapy and self-care practices, it's possible for anyone struggling with addiction to achieve lasting recovery.


In conclusion, the length of time it takes to break an addiction varies depending on several factors, including the severity of the addiction, the substance or behavior involved, the individual’s willingness to change, and the availability of support.

While it may take an average of 90 days to break a habit, breaking an addiction is a complex process that requires ongoing effort and commitment to maintain sobriety or avoid the addictive behavior.

Dr. Elizabeth Drew
Medical Director

Medical Director Dr. Elizabeth Drew graduated from Hahnemann University School of Medicine and completed her family practice residency at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown PA. In 2005, she opened her family medicine office in Doylestown, and in 2008 she treated her first patient for opiate addiction.

Since then Dr. Drew has attained her board certification in Addiction Medicine, treated more than a thousand patients for addiction to opiates and alcohol, participated in programs to educate the community, traveled to Washington DC to educate our legislators, and served as Medical Director at some of the best addiction treatment programs in Pennsylvania.

She understands that addiction is a chronic disease that no one would choose to have, and her treatment philosophy is based on respect, compassion, and empowerment. She is excited to be the Medical Director of MPower Wellness and work to provide superior addiction treatment in Chester County.

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