Alcohol & Health
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Updated on December 10, 2022
6 min read

Inpatient Alcohol Rehab

Ellie Swain
Dr P. E. Pancoast, MD
Written by 
6 Sources Cited
Ellie Swain
Written by 
6 Sources Cited

What is an Inpatient Alcohol Rehab Program?

Inpatient rehab is commonly used to treat an alcohol use disorder (AUD). It involves checking into a rehab center and remaining there for the duration of treatment. People have access to medical staff and other specialists 24-hours a day. 

Inpatient programs also have a set schedule, which usually consists of:

  • Morning breakfast
  • Therapies
  • Counseling sessions
  • Other activities

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What to Expect During Inpatient Rehab

The first phase in inpatient rehab is called detox. This step often makes inpatient rehab a more useful alternative to outpatient rehab.

During detox, the goal is to break someone’s physical dependence on alcohol by denying access to it. 

Detoxification means the removal of ‘toxins’ (poisons) from the system. This consists of alcohol, but also the other chemicals and neurotransmitters that are produced in response to regular intake. 

Losing these extra chemicals causes associated withdrawal. Staff members help manage and treat any symptoms that develop.1 

Without professional help, detox is often challenging and dangerous. Depending on the severity of the AUD, detox without medical help can even be life-threatening.1

Inpatient rehab facilities also offer round-the-clock medical supervision and support to ensure their safety and well-being.

Treatment Types

Once the detox process is complete, you’ll transfer into residential care. Treatment types during this phase of care depend on the person’s needs.

Many people work with a mental health therapist to uncover the root causes of their AUD. This helps them learn how to cope with potential obstacles that may affect long-term recovery.

People can also expect to engage in holistic treatment approaches and recreational activities.

With a well-rounded treatment experience, people typically have a more successful recovery journey.

Treatment approaches may include:

  • Family therapy
  • Relapse prevention
  • Life-skills training
  • Fitness and wellness
  • Yoga
  • Biofeedback
  • Trauma counseling
  • Gender-specific support groups
  • Individual therapy and counseling
  • Outside support group attendance (12-step)
  • Outdoor recreation

Detox is often regarded as the most challenging part of recovery. However, the tools people receive during residential treatment are essential for maintaining sobriety. 

Last Steps

Before finishing inpatient rehab, the clinical team will develop an aftercare plan with the necessary resources for continued treatment, healing, and growth.

After inpatient rehab, people may move to one of the following:

How Long is Inpatient Rehab?

The length of time for inpatient rehab differs by person. The shortest program at many facilities is 30 days. However, some people need more time and stay for several months.

Other centers may allow you to completely detox on-site and then move to an outpatient facility, PHP (partial hospitalization), or other residential treatment center afterward.

People with less severe forms of alcoholism may select a shorter inpatient program to reduce any daily distractions or triggers. After completing treatment, they can continue recovery maintenance. For example, they might attend local support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).4 

Avoiding old habits is a big commitment once people return to their daily routines at home. This is especially true if their home environments are triggering or unsafe.

Treatment may take longer for people who have suffered from alcoholism for years. This is because of the effects alcohol has on the body over time.

Heavy drinking can rewire and restructure how the brain works. Alcoholism also gradually affects other organs, such as your:

Once you stop drinking, it takes time for your body to return to a normal state. Some people have permanent damage that never fully recovers.

Regardless of how long inpatient rehab takes, treatment is an ongoing (some say a lifelong) process. Each day, you must apply the tools and techniques you learn in recovery to your day-to-day situations. And just because you’ve finished rehab, doesn’t mean you won’t face challenges down the road. 

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Differences Between Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab

Alcohol treatment programs typically fall into one of two categories: inpatient or outpatient treatment. While both focus on rehab, each has unique qualities and benefits.

Inpatient rehabs are full-time, intensive residential programs that treat serious addictions. More resources are available to help those with poor home environments, or those who have serious, coexisting medical conditions.

Outpatient rehabs are part-time programs that allow participants to attend work or school during the day. They are for those who have a strong commitment to treatment and good support resources (family, job, and living conditions).

Understanding the differences between these rehabs is essential before choosing a program.

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How to Find the Right Rehab Program 

When researching inpatient rehab options, you’ll discover a wide selection of treatment centers.

Before deciding, consider what’s most important to you during recovery. For example, some inpatient facilities come with basic rooms, the bare essentials, and a couple of amenities. If you’re looking for particular amenities or specific types of therapy, narrow your search to include those options. 

Every rehab has a different approach for measuring success and providing unique paths to get there.

Define your Goals

One of the most important parts of recovery is finding a treatment facility that will help you reach your goals. Before you do that, you need to clearly define your rehab goals.

The first step in doing so is determining whether you need to recover from alcohol, other substances, or both.

With the help of a medical professional the next step is determining if you have any other underlying problems. This could include other mental health or medical issues you need treatment for at the same time you’re in rehab. 

Around 45% of people with AUD have a coexisting psychiatric issue or ‘dual diagnosis.’

Finally, decide what success means to you. Ask yourself about how serious you are about sobriety. Share your thoughts with loved ones if you feel comfortable.

Consult a Treatment Provider

An excellent way to evaluate your treatment options that closely match your goals is to speak with a healthcare provider. 

The numerous available options makes it challenging to decide on treatment without help. Also, treatment providers are familiar with parts of rehab that most people don’t know about.

Treatment providers also know in-depth information about certain rehab and can therefore provide helpful information.

Explore Rehab Options

Whether you found rehab options on your own terms or received recommendations from a provider, investigate your options.

Most general facility information will be available online. However, you may have to call and ask for other, more specific details. 

High-quality treatment facilities will want you to find success in their program. They will be happy to answer any questions to ensure you feel comfortable about treatment.

Questions to Ask

Questions to ask rehab centers or specialists include:

  • Is the program licensed and accredited in the treatment I’m seeking? 
  • How long is the program?
  • What should I expect from treatment? 
  • What types of therapy and activities does the program offer? 
  • What are the program’s success rates within 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years after treatment? 
  • Will I receive help transitioning into ongoing maintenance programs after finishing rehab? Does the center offer ‘aftercare programs?’
  • Does the center accept insurance or offer other options for financial help? 
  • Can I contact loved ones during my stay?
  • What types of medical specialists are on site? 
  • Is 24-hour care available?
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Updated on December 10, 2022
6 sources cited
Updated on December 10, 2022
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. NIDA. "Types of Treatment Programs." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 3 Jun. 2020
  2. Finney, J W et al. “The effectiveness of inpatient and outpatient treatment for alcohol abuse: the need to focus on mediators and moderators of setting effects.” Addiction (Abingdon, England) vol. 91,12 : 1773-96; discussion 1803-20.
  3. Zambon, A et al. “La residenzialità alcologica ospedaliera: caratteristiche dei pazienti e dei percorsi terapeutici/riabilitativi” [Alcohol-addiction inpatient: characteristics of patients and rehabilitation program]. Minerva medica vol. 104,2 : 193-206.
  4. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2006. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 47.) Chapter 4. Services in Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs
  5. Cole, S G et al. “Inpatient vs outpatient treatment of alcohol and drug abusers.” The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse vol. 8,3 : 329-45
  6. McCarty, Dennis et al. “Treatment programs in the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network.” Drug and alcohol dependence vol. 92,1-3 : 200-7

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