client at inpatient addiction program

What is Inpatient Treatment?

Inpatient treatment, also known as residential treatment, is a situation where patients voluntarily enter a secure, safe facility for their treatment. Intensive drug and alcohol treatment programs are the focus of daily activities.  

Patients who need detoxification services because of medical concerns during withdrawal benefit from residential treatment because detox services can be included as part of the residential treatment. After detox, patients undergo an intensive daily drug and alcohol education to learn about the disease of addiction in an all-encompassing environment.

Residential Treatment Offers a Structured Environment

Residential programs are structured environments. Patients are removed from stressful situations that promote or trigger the urge to use. Since negative influences are removed from the patient’s environment, participants have the opportunity to begin learning life skills that had been hampered due to addiction. Patients who have previously been unable to overcome addiction in outpatient programs successfully find the intense level of care in a residential program to be optimal.

The level of care necessary for an addict should be determined by an in-person consultation with a qualified medical or counseling professional. Experience shows that patients that have attempted outpatient treatment without success do require inpatient care. On the other hand, some patients who have never had treatment do not require the high level of treatment provided by residential care. It depends on the severity of the addiction and the recommendations made following the assessment.

Occasionally, patients worry about voluntarily beginning a residential drug or alcohol treatment program because of the intensity, but inpatient programs are very emotionally supportive. Residential programs focus on healing the whole body and mind. Many residential centers encourage family participation, even including evening family education programs and weekend programs.

Therapeutic Communities

Patients also benefit from having a “therapeutic community” in residential care. In addition to the family, there is a community of patients who offer support to one another through encouragement to stay on task. Treatment remains highly structured, and staff members may use confrontation techniques (challenging distorted thinking, bringing attention to poor decision-making).     

Residents and staff work together towards the goal of relearning problem-solving skills and new ways to deal with their environment. TCs, offer individualized care that can be modified for various groups. It is this companionship gained through empathy and similar experiences that often helps patients overcome addiction while completing treatment.

Inpatient Alcohol Rehabilitation

Because alcohol use disorder rehab is predominantly the same as drug abuse programs, and alcoholism is a common co-occurring disorder with drug use, I’ll begin there. One of the most common ways to treat Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is through inpatient alcohol rehab.  

This involves checking into a treatment facility and staying for the duration of your treatment. The patient has access to specialists and medical professionals 24-hours a day, which is comforting to the patient to know that help is always available. Also, inpatient programs have a set schedule that is typically composed of breakfast in the morning, followed by therapies, counseling sessions, and activities the rest of the day.  

Anyone with AUD can look to a residential facility for help. However, several factors play a role in a treatment recommendation. They are:

  • Age — People over the age of 60 tend to have a more difficult time during the detox phase. Severe withdrawal symptoms can lead to complications that can be life-threatening. Inpatient treatment can offer the level of medical care that seniors need to overcome a drinking problem.
  • Mental Health — A person suffering from alcoholism and a comorbid (co-occurring) mental health issue will require a personalized treatment plan. Inpatient rehabs have specialists that can treat both conditions separately. Counseling sessions teach the patient how to cope in different situations to prevent being influenced by various triggers.
  • Polysubstance Use — Mixing alcohol with drugs can have life-threatening consequences. A person who wants to stop substance and alcohol abuse should seek professional medical assistance. Residential specialists in polysubstance abuse can closely monitor health conditions and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Assistance is provided to ease the patient through every step of the recovery process.
  • Medical History — Inpatient treatment is highly recommended for individuals with a medical history of heart, breathing, or liver problems. If part of the recovery process interferes with a medical condition, treatment specialists are able to make the necessary adjustments. A person’s health can impact which medications can be used in the treatment plan.

Two Types of Programs

There are two types of inpatient alcohol rehab programs:

  • Inpatient Residential Rehab — This is the most intensive type of treatment. Facilities typically offer 30-,60-, and 90-day programs. The patient is required to stay on the premises during treatment. This has proven to be the most successful method for helping those with severe alcoholism. The first week in a residential facility will generally include detox, the first step in the recovery process. Detox eliminates the alcohol from the body entirely, so the patient is no longer under the influence of its effects. After detox, there is a structured daily schedule of therapy and counseling.
  • Partial Care— A partial care program is like a blend of inpatient and outpatient treatment. It can be as intensive as a residential setting, but partial care works best for people who live close to the treatment center and have a stable home environment. This program allows the patient to go home each night. The frequency of treatment in partial care varies, but many programs run every day and last six to eight hours. Although patients are allowed to go home every day, they are still closely monitored for symptoms of withdrawal and signs of relapse.

How Long Does Inpatient Treatment Last?

Treatment may take longer for individuals who have had AUD for many years. Alcoholism affects the working of the mind and body. Once the drinking stops, it takes time for your body to return to a natural state. 

The shortest time in many treatment facilities is 30 days. Some people may need to stay for several months. Others may complete the detox on-site and switch to outpatient treatment afterward.

Inpatient Treatment for Drug Addiction

Inpatient drug rehabilitation refers to both hospital-based treatments as well as residential substance abuse therapy. As in the treatment of AUD, patients live completely removed from their regular lives and temptations. Patients focus completely on getting and staying off drugs. 

Treatment offers medically supervised detox (if necessary) and a combination of individual and group therapies. The length of time in a substance abuse program varies from 30 days to as long as a year. Often there is a “step down” approach where the patient leaves the high intensity of residential treatment and moves to a lower-intensity program such as a sober living house.

Treatment time depends on several factors:

  • The severity of the addiction.
  • The patient’s treatment plan.
  • Outside issues such as work and family.

Treatment programs consider recovery in relation to the patient’s environment. Their psychological condition as well as social skills. Inpatient treatment focuses on teaching patients to take personal responsibility in their lives. They are also required to address negative patterns of behavior and beliefs about themselves and others. Rehab therapy teaches them to replace negative behaviors with functional, constructive patterns of behavior.  

Treatment also includes connecting the patient with life-long relapse prevention assistance, such as support groups in the community. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) research has shown that people who participate in outpatient treatment for relapse prevention as well as attending self-help groups have the lowest relapse rates after inpatient or residential treatment.

Who Needs Inpatient Drug Rehab?

Inpatient drug treatment is most appropriate for people with severe and persistent addiction problems. People who have tried and failed to maintain sobriety after trying other treatment programs.

Similar to people with AUD, people with serious substance abuse problems need hospital supervision through the detoxification process. Medication and other services required to help them through detox are not possible at home or in an outpatient setting.

For patients with a long-standing history of drug addiction, severe comorbid mental health issues, or a history of chronic relapse after treatment, inpatient drug treatment is the preferred program.

About Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment for drug addiction is the same as for alcohol use disorder. Patients participate in the intensive group and individual therapy throughout their treatment. Family counseling and psychiatric sessions are frequently offered. There is also treatment for any other co-occurring medical or mental health conditions. A frequent comorbid condition of drug addiction is alcoholism. 

Education on life skills like nutrition, self-care, and vocational skills are often a part of long-term programs. Relapse prevention and continuing sobriety support are part of most inpatient or residential programs.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient

Outpatient drug and alcohol treatment programs have many similarities to inpatient programs but with differently structured environments. Outpatient programs offer patients more freedom of movement. Participants are permitted to go home after a daily or evening program which provides them the ability to continue work, family, and educational commitments. This allows for more privacy and anonymity. They won’t have to explain a prolonged absence to friends family, or coworkers.

Unlike residential treatment programs, individuals in outpatient treatment are not provided with a safe, secure environment that isolates them from negative outside influences. Patients return to their own homes and must voluntarily abstain from drug or alcohol use. This requires a great deal of commitment.  

Outpatient programs (like residential programs) also provide a support network in the form of official support groups like NA and AA, individual counseling and family counseling so that patients are never on their own during their recovery.

Outpatient programs also focus on family support and involvement just like inpatient programs. One of the benefits of outpatient treatment is that the patient can immediately apply the lessons learned from outpatient programs to their daily experiences.

Which Program is Best? 3 Questions

It is up to the patient and a medical or counseling professional to determine which situation is ideal. You need to be honest about how dedicated you can be in an outpatient program. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you think temptations, outside stress, and lack of social support would be an issue in successful outpatient treatment?
  2. Have you repeatedly tried and been unsuccessful at stopping your drug or alcohol use either by yourself or in an outpatient program?
  3. Are you physically addicted to drugs or alcohol and will need a medical detox before receiving treatment?

Answer these questions honestly when you speak to the specialist about voluntarily entering treatment. Talk about your particular situation to help figure out which parts of inpatient or outpatient treatment would suit you best.

Outpatient and residential drug and alcohol treatment programs have life-saving and life-changing benefits. Finding the right program will help you achieve the long-lasting recovery you desire.

Reach out to our team at (800) 741-3300. You can also contact us here. 

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brian Ostertag

brian-ostertag-150x150Brian Ostertag, BA, MA, LCADC, CCS, is the Clinical Director for North Jersey Recovery Center. Brian is a compassionate leader with a desire to see others exceed, and who believes that people want to work hard at something they find meaningful and believe in. He is a strong addiction services professional with degrees in Psychology Addiction Studies, and Pastoral Counseling.