Alcohol Inpatient Treatment Program
When considering different treatment options for alcohol abuse, you might come across a range of treatment programs to help you on your path to recovery. Which form of alcohol treatment fits your needs the best will depend on a variety of factors, including the duration and frequency of alcohol use and your medical history. Many experts recommend residential alcohol treatment as the form of care that offers a great potential for overcoming alcoholism and maintaining lasting sobriety.1
That being said, residential or inpatient treatment may not be necessary for each individual struggling with alcoholism, otherwise known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), especially if the warning signs and symptoms are detected and addressed early on. Short-term outpatient treatment can be sufficient in such cases, allowing the individual to continue their normal life without significant interruptions to school or work, social and family obligations, and any other responsibilities.2 On the other hand, if you or a loved one has struggled with alcohol abuse for a long time, inpatient treatment may offer you the most benefits.1
What Is Inpatient Alcohol Treatment?
When an individual is ready to enter a treatment program for severe or long-term alcohol abuse or alcoholism, they are often placed in a residential setting where they are provided with 24/7 support and medical supervision. Inpatient alcohol treatment programs offer a wide range of services that aim to provide the patient with skills and resources that help them overcome alcoholism and stay in recovery after leaving treatment.3
Services offered in inpatient treatment for alcohol abuse may include:4
- Medically supported detox and maintenance care, if needed.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
- Other forms of individual therapy.
- Couples and family counseling.
- Holistic treatment, (meditation, yoga, massage therapy).
- Follow-up care.
Types of Residential Alcohol Treatment Programs
Specialized inpatient treatment programs come in two main types: partial hospitalization and inpatient residential treatment. Which treatment option is right for you will depend on the severity and duration of alcohol abuse/alcoholism, your budget, and other personal considerations.5
Partial hospitalization programs for alcohol abuse can be seen as a combination between outpatient and inpatient treatment. The care offered in a partial hospitalization program may be as intensive as full hospitalization, but they give the patient a chance to return home each night. Partial hospitalization tends to work best for individuals who have a stable family environment or live near the treatment facility. Although the duration of these programs varies, partial hospitalization typically provides 20 hours of service a week or more. Despite being able to go home, patients are nevertheless monitored for any withdrawal symptoms and signs of relapse.6
Inpatient Residential Treatment
Inpatient residential treatment programs are one of the most intensive forms of alcohol treatment.3 It requires patients to remain in a residential facility 24/7, typically for 30, 60, or 90 days depending on the chosen program and the unique needs of the patients. Inpatient alcohol treatment usually includes structured daily therapies, continuous medical monitoring, holistic forms of therapy, and all other tools and resources the patient may need to achieve and maintain lasting recovery. For many, inpatient residential treatment for alcoholism can be the form of treatment that is most likely to result in positive outcomes.7
Benefits of Inpatient Alcohol Treatment
Patients who enrol in inpatient treatment for alcohol abuse typically receive a recovery program that is personalized to meet their unique needs.8 The benefits offered by this form of treatment may include the following:
Individuals with alcohol use disorder often experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop drinking. Depending on the severity of AUD, these withdrawal symptoms may start within 6-24 hours after the last drink and last anywhere between a couple of days to a month.9
Inpatient alcohol treatment facilities can safely guide the patient through the detoxification process in a controlled and comfortable environment, often providing medicines (e.g. benzodiazepines) that help ease these symptoms and minimize the risk of complications.10
Improved Success Rate
Inpatient facilities provide the individual with a structured, safe environment that distances them from their potentially unsafe home environment and helps minimize the temptation of relapse. Research shows that individuals who attend and stay in inpatient alcohol treatment have improved psychological, social, and occupational functioning, as well as a lowered risk of relapse.11 Additionally, patients who manage to overcome alcohol use disorder in an inpatient setting may also be at a lower risk for developing another substance use disorder.12
Polysubstance Abuse Treatment
Some individuals struggling with alcohol abuse may also be dependent on other substances such as prescription medications and/or illegal drugs. This is known as polysubstance use.13
Considering that withdrawal from multiple substances tends to be more complex than withdrawal from alcohol alone, supervised medical detoxification is often the most appropriate form of care for individuals with polysubstance use. Many inpatient treatment facilities are equipped to adequately manage polysubstance withdrawal and provide a tailored treatment plan that addresses all of the individual’s needs and helps them achieve long-term recovery.14
One of the primary components of inpatient alcohol treatment is the fellowship that is established between the facility staff and the individuals in recovery. Community support is one of the key aspects of the success achieved in 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.14
An individual placed in a residential treatment setting for alcohol abuse will be surrounded by people who have a deep understanding of the struggles of alcoholism. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, having a social network and an adequate support system is a crucial part of the recovery process.15
In addition to providing patients with a reliable support network, a good inpatient treatment facility for substance abuse may also offer resources that help the individual transition back into normal life through various aftercare plans. These may include employment guidance, sober living homes, counseling, and therapy.
When to Seek Treatment for Alcohol Abuse
Alcoholism or AUD is often diagnosed when an individual’s compulsive drinking habits cause harm and distress in various aspects of their lives.16 In order to assess whether an individual suffers from AUD and determine the right treatment option, healthcare professionals rely on criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The severity of AUD, based on these criteria, can range between mild, moderate, and severe and can be diagnosed if an individual gives affirmative answers to the following questions.17
In the past year, have you:
- Experienced periods when you ended up having more drinks or drinking for longer than you had intended?
- Wanted or tried to cut down on alcohol use or stop drinking altogether more than once, but failed to do so?
- Spent long periods of time drinking alcohol, trying to obtain alcohol, or recover from the effects?
- Experienced a strong desire, urge, or craving to use alcohol?
- Found that your recurrent alcohol use resulted in preventing you from fulfilling major roles at school, work, or home?
- Continued using alcohol despite noticing recurrent or persistent interpersonal or social problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol use?
- Cut back on or given up on activities that you enjoyed or that were important to you because of your alcohol use?
- Used alcohol in situations in which it was physically hazardous to do so, such as driving, unsafe sex, or operating machinery?
- Continued using alcohol despite being aware of recurrent or persistent psychological or physical issues caused by it, such as anxiety, depression, or health problems?
- Found that you had to drink more alcohol than you used to to achieve the desired effect or that your usual number of drinks produced a markedly diminished effect?
- Found that you experienced withdrawal symptoms once the effects of alcohol wear off, such as irritability, sleep disturbances, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, depression, or anxiety?
If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, your alcohol use may be a cause for concern. A qualified health professional can perform a formal assessment of these symptoms to determine the presence of AUD and help you receive appropriate treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
- If you are unsure whether inpatient treatment for alcohol use would be the right fit for yourself or a loved one, speaking to a healthcare professional may be the best path to take. They will consider a variety of factors, such as your medical history, the length and frequency of alcohol use, and your home environment to determine the right treatment plan for your needs.If you or a loved one is coping with a long-lasting, severe, or complex case of alcohol use disorder, an impatient treatment setting may be the best fit. Individuals who have tried quitting alcohol before but relapsed, or those who don’t have a safe home environment or a strong support system may find the most benefits in a residential alcohol treatment setting.1
- Entering inpatient alcohol treatment can be quite intimidating. Becoming familiar with what happens at such programs can help give you peace of mind and prepare you for the experience. Here are some common components of inpatient treatment programs:3
- Intake process: the staff at an inpatient alcohol treatment facility will typically begin by having you go through an intake interview. Getting to know you and your individual needs is an essential part of the rehab process. It enables the healthcare professionals to customize your treatment plan for maximum benefits.
- Medical detox: following the initial assessments, many individuals go through the detox process to remove the alcohol from their body in a safe and controlled manner. The staff will guide you through the withdrawal process, providing evidence-based support and medication management as needed.
- Therapy and counseling: inpatient treatment may include various forms of therapy to help you overcome cravings, avoid relapse, and maintain long-term sobriety. These may include individual therapy, such as CBT, and family and couples counseling.
- Aftercare planning: by the end of the residential alcohol treatment program, the facility staff will have devised an aftercare plan based on your needs. This may include various medical and social support services to help you adjust to normal life and prevent relapse, such as sober living homes, follow-up counseling and therapy, and support groups.
- Individuals who enroll in a residential alcohol treatment facility typically undergo a comprehensive assessment of their substance use history during the screening and intake process. This may include evaluation of substance use patterns, which drug(s) the patient uses, family history of substance abuse, and any specific reasons for alcohol use. 18Additionally, the healthcare staff may discuss and evaluate any co-occurring medical and mental health problems in order to devise a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses each facet of your alcohol abuse.18
- The duration of alcohol treatment in an inpatient setting may vary depending on the specific needs of the individual seeking help. Many treatment facilities offer 30-day residential programs but also offer longer durations for patients who need additional support. Some patients may also complete the detoxification process at the facility and then be placed in an outpatient facility to continue alcohol treatment there.19Patients with less severe forms of alcohol use disorder tend to stay in inpatient treatment programs for shorter periods of time to eliminate daily triggers and distractions. Upon completing rehab, they might continue recovery by attending various support groups such as A.A. and AI-Anon. Individuals who have suffered from alcoholism for years, however, may need longer treatment periods to achieve and maintain sobriety.19
- In order to provide appropriate care to the individual struggling with alcohol abuse, residential treatment programs should offer the following levels of care and amenities:11
- Evidence-based treatment options
- Safe medical detoxification
- Behavioral therapy options
- Relapse prevention plans
- Post-treatment support and care
- Comfortable and safe environment
- Around-the-clock monitoring and care
- Healthy nutrition and physical activity
- Other amenities designed to improve the quality of stay
If you have been thinking about undergoing inpatient treatment for drug abuse or alcoholism or have a loved one who needs support, there are numerous inpatient facilities that offer research-based care in a safe, controlled environment. These specialized facilities can help you on your path to achieving lasting recovery. They can provide you with the support and tools you need to minimize the risk of relapse and maintain a productive, healthy lifestyle.
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2. Princeton University. (2016). Approaches to Alcoholism Treatment.
3. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (1997). A Guide to Substance Abuse Services for Primary Care Clinicians. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 24.) Chapter 5—Specialized Substance Abuse Treatment Programs. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US).
4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.
5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021). What Types of Alcohol Treatment Are Available?.
6. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2019). What are the ASAM Levels of Care?.
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11. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020).Principles of Effective Treatment.
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13. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45.) 4 Physical Detoxification Services for Withdrawal From Specific Substances. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US).
14. Donovan, D. M., Ingalsbe, M. H., Benbow, J., & Daley, D. C. (2013). 12-Step Interventions and Mutual Support Programs for Substance Use Disorders: an Overview. Social Work in Public Health, 28(3-4), 313–332.
15. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Recovery and Recovery Support.
16. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2014). Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.
17. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
18. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2009). Substance Abuse Treatment: Addressing the Specific Needs of Women. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 51.) Chapter 4: Screening and Assessment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US).
19. McKay J. R., Hiller-Sturmhofel S. (2011). Treating Alcoholism as a Chronic Disease: Approaches to Long-Term Continuing Care. Alcohol Res Health. 33(4):356-70.