How Long Should You Stay in Sober Living?

Not having a living environment that is stable and free of alcohol and drugs may be a significant impediment to staying abstinent.1

A sober living house, which is a living environment that is free of alcohol and drugs and is for persons trying to not use these substances, may be beneficial.1

Sober Living Houses

Though a sober living house does not provide treatment, it may require residents to go to a 12-step self-help group or may strongly encourage them to do so.1

Residents must adhere to house rules (for instance, staying abstinent); if a person does so, the person is able to continue living there however long the person desires.1

Persons living in these houses pay for the costs.1

A sober living facility might provide programs that support education and/or employment for persons living there.2

A study found a pattern of individuals decreasing or ceasing substance use between the baseline interview of individuals living in sober living houses and the follow up that occurred at 6 months and these improvements remaining at one year and 18 months; the average amount of time that individuals stayed at houses belonging to one group was 166 days, and the average amount of time that individuals stayed at houses belonging to another group was 254 days.1

How Long Should a Person Live in a Sober Living House?

One study found there were not any significant connections between how long participants stayed in sober living houses and, at their follow ups occurring at 18 months, their Addiction Severity Index Lite (ASI) alcohol severity, their ASI drug severity, if they used drug(s) or alcohol at all over the last 6 months, or how many days they used any substance(s) during their month of most use over the last 6 months.3 This finding makes it seem like how long a person lives in a sober living house does not really make a difference on their future substance use.

However, another study found, at the follow ups occurring at 6 months, one year, 18 months, and two years, a smaller proportion of persons who had resided in an Oxford House (which is a kind of recovery home) 6 months or longer had used any substances in the last 6 months compared to persons who had a shorter duration of residing in one; these differences are much more dramatic among persons 36 years old or younger than among persons 37 or older.4

Based on these conflicting findings, recommendations for how long a person should live in a sober living house cannot be provided.


  1. Polcin, D. L., Korcha, R., Bond, J. & Galloway, G. (2010). What did we learn from our study on sober living houses and where do we go from here?Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 42(4), 425–433.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Treatment options.
  3. Polcin, D. L., Korcha, R. A., Bond, J. & Galloway, G. (2010). Sober living houses for alcohol and drug dependence: 18-month outcomesJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 38(4), 356–365.
  4. Jason, L. A., Olson, B. D., Ferrari, J. R., Majer, J. M., Alvarez, J. & Stout, J. (2007). An examination of main and interactive effects of substance abuse recovery housing on multiple indicators of adjustmentAddiction (Abingdon, England), 102(7), 1114–1121.

About The Contributor

Sophie Stein, MSN
Sophie Stein, MSN

Clinical Editor

Sophie Stein received her master’s of science in nursing from Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. She previously worked as an advanced practice registered nurse at an outpatient psychiatric practice providing mental health care for children,... Read More

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