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

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:

Safe Detox

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

Community support

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.

Unsure where to start? Take Our Substance Abuse Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance abuse. This evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are designed to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result. Please be aware that this evaluation is not a substitute for advice from a medical doctor.