Inpatient Treatment for Substance Abuse

While outpatient treatment may be adequate for some individuals struggling with substance abuse, people who have suffered from severe or long-term addiction might need residential or inpatient treatment instead. This form of care provides 24-hour assistance that reduces distractions and may help these individuals achieve lasting sobriety.1

However, it is important to note that not all inpatient substance abuse treatment programs are the same. In order to provide the appropriate level of care, inpatient treatment should include certain components that help increase the patient’s chances of achieving and maintaining long-term recovery.1

What Should Inpatient Substance Abuse Treatment Provide?

Every patient is unique, which is why inpatient treatment facilities should offer various forms of residential treatment that can meet their specific needs. In general, however, inpatient treatment for substance abuse should include the following aspects:

Evidence-Based Treatment

Research-based treatment is a crucial element of any inpatient program for substance abuse. If a treatment option is backed up by research, it means that its effectiveness has been observed and studied before application and has shown measurable results. For instance, the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that effective treatment usually combines behavioral and medical therapies in addition to social support structures and building strategy assistance. An inpatient treatment program for substance abuse may also be more effective if these treatment aspects are backed up by sound research.2

Medical Detox

When a person enters residential treatment for substance abuse, one of the first steps is to detoxify their system and guide them through the challenging withdrawal process. Withdrawing from an addictive substance can be dangerous, which is why managing the withdrawal symptoms in a safe and controlled manner is a key aspect of a successful residential rehabilitation treatment program.3 

Withdrawal from any substance is likely to involve some discomfort, but certain substances such as opiates, benzodiazepines, and alcohol may produce potentially life-threatening symptoms.3 This is why it is essential for individuals addicted to these substances to refrain from attempting to detox on their own. Instead, the withdrawal should be managed under the supervision of a qualified professional who can provide the patient with adequate medications, such as methadone, that can help prevent the worst withdrawal symptoms.

Medically-Supported Maintenance

Some individuals may be more likely to maintain abstinence from a substance with the help of medication until they are able to manage their recovery on their own.4 Maintenance medications may help reduce cravings and provide the individual with the tools and resources that can help them avoid situations and behaviors that may trigger relapse. However, as these medications often have their own unique risks, they should be administered by a professional in a controlled residential setting where the use of medications can be adequately supervised.

Comprehensive Therapy Options

Therapy is another important component of inpatient substance abuse treatment. Social and psychological forms of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help the patient understand the contributing factors to their substance abuse and manage them appropriately.5 Therapy may be particularly helpful for individuals with co-occurring mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression.6 Some forms of therapy in inpatient treatment may include:7

in patient substance abuse treatment

Considerations After Inpatient/Residential Treatment

Post-treatment strategies are another practical component of inpatient substance abuse treatment. Teaching an individual how to practice and use the skills and resources they acquired during inpatient treatment for drug or alcohol abuse can help set them up for success. Strategies such as follow-up interviews and encouraging the patient to join mutual recovery groups or fellowships (e.g. 12-step programs) can help the patient maintain long-term recovery after treatment.11 

Overall, residential or inpatient treatment should provide individuals suffering from substance abuse with medically-assisted detox and maintenance, research-based treatment, and therapy options, as well as increase the likelihood of long-term recovery through effective post-treatment strategies. However, it is important to keep in mind that each person has unique treatment needs and the chosen rehabilitation treatment program should be tailored to meet them.1


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.

Frequently Asked Questions