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What is Inpatient Treatment?

Inpatient treatment programs offer the most intensive addiction treatment services. Patients live at the treatment facility and receive medical care and therapy. They will also join support groups.

Inpatient treatment centers also provide mental health services for people with dual diagnoses. This is when someone suffers from a substance abuse disorder and a mental health condition.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is available on a long or short-term basis. Short-term inpatient treatment is an intense but brief program based on a modified 12-step approach. 

Residential treatment models may include a three to six-week hospital-based inpatient treatment phase. This is followed by extended outpatient therapy. Aftercare often includes participation in a group program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

Long-term in-patient treatment programs take place at a residential facility. They provide round-the-clock care, generally in non-hospital settings. The best-known residential treatment model is the therapeutic community (TC) model. Most patients spend between 6 and 12 months in these types of facilities.


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What Conditions Do Inpatient Rehab Centers Treat?

Inpatient rehab treats severe drug and alcohol addictions, as well as acute psychiatric disorders. Some patients are dealing with a combination of co-occurring conditions

Admission criteria for inpatient hospitalization due to psychiatric crises are quite strict. The patient must be a danger to themselves or others or be experiencing a psychotic break (i.e., mania, paranoid delusions, or unmanaged schizophrenia).

Inpatient rehab includes a medically-assisted detoxification process. This provides medical supervision while the body goes through withdrawal. Medical professionals monitor their condition and intervene if a problem occurs.

Who are the Ideal Candidates for Inpatient Alcohol Rehab?

Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs are available for those who need them. A person wanting to receive alcohol addiction treatment for drug abuse or alcohol abuse has options. 

Some people who undergo substance abuse treatment respond well to an outpatient alcohol rehab program. However, some patients taking their first small steps toward recovery find that an inpatient alcohol rehab program is necessary. This is because each patient has their own needs and has different requirements for the level of care.

The ideal candidates for inpatient alcohol rehab programs are the following:

  • Seniors who find the detox phase more challenging. The withdrawal symptoms are especially difficult to deal with. They will benefit more in a closely supervised setting provided by inpatient treatment facilities.
  • People with co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). An inpatient treatment center will be able to provide specialized care.
  • Patients with a medical history of liver, breathing, and heart problems.
  • People who underwent alcohol and drug addiction treatment before but experienced a relapse.

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How Long is Inpatient Treatment?

Inpatient treatment timelines vary by person. Many residential treatment programs will require a minimum stay of 30 days. However, many patients will stay in the rehab program for several weeks or months.

Many programs offer 30, 60, or 90-day programs. Treatment often takes longer for people who have been alcoholics for years.

The length of stay is also dependent on any presenting psychiatric complications concurrent with the substance use disorder.

Alcohol affects the way your brain and other organs such as the heart, lungs, and liver function. Medical professionals will keep a patient in the program as long as they need to make sure they can live a healthy, sober life.

Aftercare programs, such as AA, usually follow inpatient treatment. Many people in recovery will stay in these groups for years or a lifetime after treatment. These groups are vital to helping you maintain sobriety.

People with less severe alcohol addiction may do better at an intensive outpatient program. Outpatient care is best for people with a high level of motivation to recover. These programs allow you to return home and manage responsibilities like work, school, or family.

What Happens During Inpatient Treatment?

Alcohol detoxification is a preparatory phase before the commencement of a comprehensive alcohol rehab program. This process can be performed in outpatient or inpatient facilities.

However, some people require constant monitoring. Heavy users are therefore recommended to be in an inpatient facility. There are several steps of inpatient rehabilitation to treat substance use disorders (SUD):

Preparing for Treatment

Treatment begins with a medical evaluation. Immediate issues are addressed before a patient moves forward with care.

A team of medical professionals conducts a comprehensive review of the patient’s medical, psychiatric, and drug histories. This is to understand the needs of the patient fully.

Medical Detox

Detox is usually the first and most vital step in the recovery process. Many patients avoid seeking treatment due to fear of the painful withdrawal process. This is why a medically managed inpatient detox stay is so important. 

An inpatient facility will medically manage the severe and possibly dangerous withdrawal symptoms that come with drug or alcohol cessation. Medically supervised detox protocols may involve the use of certain medications to: 

  • Reduce withdrawal symptoms
  • Stabilize the patient
  • Make withdrawal less uncomfortable

Medications may be given as deemed fit by the medical team. This is to help reduce the effects of alcohol withdrawal. Aside from addressing withdrawal symptoms, medications may also be given to address co-occurring disorders.

Treatment & Therapy

To stabilize the patient, psychological and medical therapies are given to achieve a healthy balance of the body and the mind.

During treatment, patients work alone, one-on-one with therapists, and with groups to address their substance use disorder (SUD). Different therapy types are used based on the patient's specific needs.

Therapy Types

Therapy sessions are usually held several times per day, spanning different topics. These sessions might include: 

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Therapeutic processing groups
  • Experiential therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Skill-building therapy

Patients also meet one-on-one with a therapist to create a treatment plan and step-down plan. The step-down plan determines what comes next in therapy once the patient discharges from the psychiatric inpatient unit.


Aftercare varies from patient to patient. It also sometimes includes relapse prevention planning. Patients might participate in an outpatient program, such as the 12-step program. Participating in support groups and spending time with family members or loved ones to help maintain sobriety is also recommended. 

Statistics & Effectiveness of Treatment

The effectiveness of inpatient programs varies from patient to patient. Clinicians might refer clients with psychiatric comorbidities to inpatient settings where psychiatric treatment is more readily available.

Other factors also play a role in the effectiveness of various treatment arrangements. A person’s age, circumstances in life, gender, and socio-economic status are also relevant.

Patients are more likely to reduce their substance use after inpatient treatment participation compared with outpatient settings.

Data also showed a statistically significant difference in the reduction of use when comparing inpatient, detox, and medication-assisted modalities, but the findings were inconsistent.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment have similarities and differences. Many recovery plans begin with inpatient treatment and transition to outpatient as a patient progresses. Inpatient treatment might only be necessary during the detoxification phase of the recovery process.

The primary benefits of inpatient treatment as compared to outpatient rehab treatment include:

  • Living arrangements of the patient – inpatient treatment is onsite at a rehabilitation facility.
  • Comprehensive – inpatient treatment is round-the-clock and provides immediate, ongoing access to a variety of therapies all in one location.
  • Supervision – inpatients are supervised 24 hours a day

The downside of inpatient treatment is that it is cost-prohibitive to many people. Insurance might cover treatment but not deem inpatient programs necessary.

Inpatient rehab programs are best for people suffering from a severe alcohol use disorder. They also benefit people who have tried to quit and relapsed.

When To Seek Treatment

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a chronic disease. This means that even if a person stops using drugs or alcohol for months, they are not cured. Most patients need long-term or repeated care to remain sober. 

A person should seek treatment if they are ready to: 

Loved ones should encourage someone to seek treatment if:

  • Drug or alcohol abuse has interfered with the quality of life
  • Secondary medical issues have arisen due to drug or alcohol use
  • Drug and alcohol have affected personal relationships or interfered with employment or school
  • They notice other symptoms of addiction 

How Much Does Intensive Inpatient Treatment Cost?

Whether attending an inpatient facility for drug or alcohol rehab, the cost of treatment depends on the program’s location and length. On average, inpatient treatment can range anywhere between $6,000 (30 days) and $60,000 (60- and 90-days).

There are several ways to pay for treatment, including insurance, payment assistance/payment plans, and grants.

How to Choose an Inpatient Alcohol Treatment Center

There are many treatment options for those seeking inpatient care. The best program will depend on your personal needs.

To find an ideal program, speak with an addiction specialist to learn about your options.

Some questions you may want to ask include:

  • How long is the program?
  • What types of therapies and activities are offered?
  • What amenities does the facility provide?
  • Is aftercare provided after the residential program is complete?
  • What types of medical specialists are employed?
  • Does the facility accept insurance or provide financial assistance?
  • What is the program’s success rate for addiction recovery?

Overcoming an alcohol addiction is difficult, but it is possible. If you or a loved one is suffering, reach out today.


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Owens, Pamela, et al. Inpatient Stays Involving Mental and Substance Use Disorders, 2016. 2019., https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31063293/

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.” Drugabuse.Gov, 2018, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Types of Treatment Programs.” Drugabuse.Gov, 2018, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/drug-addiction-treatment-in-united-states/types-treatment-programs.

Mojtabai, Ramin, and Joshua Graff Zivin. “Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Four Treatment Modalities for Substance Disorders: A Propensity Score Analysis.” Health Services Research, vol. 38, no. 1p1, Feb. 2003, pp. 233–259, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360883/, 10.1111/1475-6773.00114.

Helen M. Pettinati, et al, "Inpatient Alcohol Treatment in a Private Healthcare Setting: Which Patients Benefit and at What Cost?" American Journal on Addictions, vol. no.1 3, 1999, 220-233, DOI: 10.1080/105504999305839 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/105504999305839

Schellekens, A.F.A., et al. “Co-Morbid Anxiety Disorders Predict Early Relapse after Inpatient Alcohol Treatment.” European Psychiatry, vol. 30, no. 1, 2015, pp. 128–136., doi:10.1016/j.eurpsy.2013.08.006. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/european-psychiatry/article/comorbid-anxiety-disorders-predict-early-relapse-after-inpatient-alcohol-treatment/16CA68A770813856F05F96BB496EBEE7

Greenfield, Shelly F, et al. “History of Abuse and Drinking Outcomes Following Inpatient Alcohol Treatment: a Prospective Study.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Aug. 2002, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12127193.

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