Breaking an addiction is no easy feat. It requires a great deal of dedication and commitment to make lasting changes. According to psychologists, it may take up to 21 days of conscious effort to create a new habit, but it takes much longer to break an existing habit. Research shows that it takes about 66 days to change patterns of repetitive behavior.
A landmark study by researchers at University College London found that the time people needed to change their behavioral patterns ranged from 18 to 254 days, with most people taking at least two months. The amount of time it takes to break an addiction varies depending on the type of addiction and the individual's circumstances. Generally, the process begins with detoxification, which is the process of removing the substance from the body. Detox programs typically last seven days, but cravings can take weeks or even months to subside.
When selecting a program, it's important to focus on what will give you the best chance of long-term success. Most addicted people need at least three months of treatment to stay sober and start an ongoing recovery plan. Research shows that better results occur with longer treatment durations. Longer treatment programs may seem daunting at first, but they may end up giving you the best results.
People who have substance use disorder often find that overcoming it is more difficult than they expected. They may think that addiction is a myth and they can quit smoking anytime they want or that they are an exception to the rule. This can also happen with behavioral addictions that involve activities such as eating, having sex, gambling, shopping, and exercising. The average cocaine addiction lasts four years, the average marijuana addiction lasts six years, and the average alcohol addiction resolves in 15 years.
Heroin addictions tend to last as long as alcoholism, but prescription opioid problems, on average, last five years. In these large samples from the general population, only a quarter of people who recover have ever sought help to do so (including through 12-stage programs). This makes addictions the psychiatric disorder with the greatest chance of recovery.