Medically reviewed badge

Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Treatment

Learn more about inpatient alcoholism treatment, what happens within it, and how alcohol rehab can help you recover from alcohol abuse.

According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) survey, approximately 19.3 million people have a substance use disorder (SUD) in the United States.1 Of those with an SUD in the past year, 71.1% had a past year alcohol use disorder, 40.7% had an illicit drug use disorder, and 11.8% had both.1

Though there may be a growing awareness of the need for accessible treatment options to address our country’s pervasive issue of substance use disorders, a staggeringly small percentage of people actually utilize these services.

Among people with an SUD aged 12 or older in 2019, only 1.5% received any treatment in the past year.1 Thankfully, however, even at its most severe—with professional treatment and ongoing recovery efforts—addiction may be effectively managed.2 For example, studies on alcohol use disorders have shown that 1 year post treatment, 1/3 have fewer alcohol-related problems and others substantially reduce their drinking.3

While it may feel overwhelming, getting help for substance abuse is the best thing you can do for you or a loved one struggling with drugs and/or alcohol. Addiction treatment can take place in a number of settings. When considering the different inpatient options, there are several residential program types with various lengths of stay. Learn more about inpatient treatment, what happens within it, and how drug and alcohol rehab can help people recover.

How is Substance Abuse Treated?

Addiction is a treatable, yet chronic medical condition characterized by a the compulsive use of drugs and/or alcohol despite experiencing significant negative consequences due to such use.4

Addiction affects a person on many levels. Addiction development may be accompanied by characteristic physical and chemical changes in the brain, which may reinforce the compulsive nature of the disease.5,6 Left unmanaged, addiction may become progressively debilitating to a person’s health and lifestyle.5,6

Therefore, it is important that substance abuse treatment addresses not only the factors that contributed to the addiction, but the consequences of that addiction as well. Many effective substance abuse treatment strategies are built around some of the below key principles:2

  • There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment; recovery plans should be tailored to each individual.
  • Effective treatment should address not only substance use, but additional needs such as social, medical, and mental health issues.
  • Treatment plans should be reviewed and modified, as needed, throughout the rehabilitation process.
  • Counseling and other behavioral therapeutic approaches constitute the most common elements of treatment.
  • For some substance use disorders, medications will be key elements of treatment alongside of behavioral therapies.
  • Medical detoxification, while important for many types of substance use disorder recovery, is only the first step in a process of rehabilitation.

Like many other chronic medical issues, there is no easy cure for addiction, though it can be successfully managed with ongoing treatment efforts.2 Successful substance abuse treatment is multilayered and comprehensive. Generally, effective treatment is made-up of behavioral counseling, medication, substance abuse education, private and group therapy, and long-term follow-up to prevent relapse.2

What is Inpatient Addiction Treatment?

In contrast with their outpatient counterparts, inpatient treatment programs allow for 24/7 supervision and support throughout the rehabilitation stay. Though the full range of treatment offerings may vary, many inpatient programs provide access to doctors, medical care, and other clinical services throughout their stay. Often, once a participant completes an inpatient treatment program, they may transition to relatively-less intensive levels of care in an outpatient setting to continue their recovery efforts.2

The length of treatment you receive will be determined by many factors including the severity of your addiction, any concurrent medical and mental health issues, as well as insurance coverage. To help determine an appropriate length of treatment, an addiction specialist or medical professional will first assess an individual’s specific needs. These factors can include:7

  • The severity of alcohol and/or drug use, including the amount used, duration, and frequency.
  • Prior attempts at treatment including outcomes.
  • Underlying medical and mental health issues.
  • Amount of social support from friends and family.
  • Living environment.
  • Access to transportation.
  • Legal issues.

Is Detox the Same as Inpatient Treatment?

Detox and inpatient treatment, while both may take place at the same facility, are somewhat different concepts. A period of detoxification is often the first phase of many kinds of addiction treatment, including those that take place on either an outpatient or inpatient basis.

The term detox, as it pertains to addiction medicine, describes the treatment approaches used to manage any remaining intoxication as well as withdrawal. Professional detoxification efforts focus on keeping a person safe and comfortable as they rid themselves of the lingering toxic effects of chronic drug and alcohol use.8

Though they vary by substance, the often unpleasant developments associated with different types of withdrawal may include symptoms such as mood swings, confusion, sleep disturbances, body aches, gastrointestinal issues and, in more severe instances, health complications such as seizures.8

Especially for those at risk of severe or complicated withdrawal, detox under the supervision of medical professionals can be helpful in providing a safer and more comfortable process.8 In such instances, during a medical detox, you may be administered certain medications to help reduce the more serious risks of withdrawal.8

In addition to the potential for added safety and comfort, a professional detox program can serve as an individual’s first point of contact with addiction treatment in general, helping to facilitate their transition from early withdrawal management into longer-term recovery work.8

Does Treatment Really Work?

A major goal of rehab is to help patients return to productive functioning in the family, workplace, and community following successful completion of treatment.9 Many individuals who complete treatment are able to stop using drugs or alcohol; improve their social, psychological and occupational functioning; and decrease their criminal activity.9

Additionally, treatment can help people examine potential vulnerabilities to relapse and build a plan for them to more effectively cope with stress, cravings, and other life challenges without the use of drugs and alcohol.9 And, though any treatment can provide much needed recovery help, the length of time in treatment may be significant, as longer treatment times are associated with relatively improved treatment outcomes.10 According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most addicted individuals need at least 3 months of treatment to significantly reduce or stop their drug use.11

Treatment lengths don’t dictate the whole story, however. Treatment outcomes will also be influenced by the strength of the relationship between the patient and their treatment providers, the nature and extent of that patient’s problems, and the appropriateness of treatment in addressing those issues.9

Does a Relapse Mean Treatment Failed?

It is important to understand that relapse can be a common occurrence in recovery despite completing a substance abuse treatment program.12 Addiction is a chronic condition much in the way that medical issues such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are.12

A relapse is said to have occurred when a person who had previously been making efforts to reduce or altogether avoid using drugs or alcohol returns to prior levels of use.13 Many things can contribute to a person relapsing, including stress at home or work, ongoing emotional and psychological issues, or problems with a person’s social support networks.13

It’s important to note that should a relapse occur, it does not necessarily mean that treatment failed; rather, it should be taken as is an indicator that your treatment plan may need to be evaluated and modified to get your recovery efforts back on track to better prevent future relapses.11 Many treatment programs have a plan for relapse, with some offering discounted services or complimentary treatment for a specified length of time. Notifying your treatment provider of a relapse can be an essential first step in getting back on track.

Discuss Your Treatment Options

If you or someone you care about is ready to seek help for addiction, American Addiction Centers (AAC) is ready to speak with you. Operator of AlcoholRehab.com, AAC is a nationwide provider of addiction treatment facilities.

Whether you’re ready to start treatment or just need to ask a few questions, our admissions navigators are available 24/7 to provide you with answers and address any concerns you may have. We are committed to making recovery accessible to everyone in need and accept many insurance plans or can work with you so that finances aren’t a roadblock to getting the help you need.

Call our hotline at to get your journey toward recovery started today; all calls are 100% confidential. Or fill out the form below to see if your insurance covers treatment with AAC.