What is inpatient alcohol rehab?

Inpatient alcohol rehab programs offer structured and supervised environments to help you can stop drinking…for good. What can you expect during a stay in rehab? We review here.

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The goal of inpatient rehab treatment is to help you stop drinking (for good)! What can you expect during a stay in a residential treatment center? We review here. Then, we invite your questions at the end. In fact, we try to respond to all questions personally.

Inpatient alcohol rehab definition

Inpatient alcohol rehab is a type of residential facility that provides treatment services to people who have a problem with alcohol. Inpatient alcohol rehab programs offer structured and supervised environments away from home and can last anywhere between 28 days and 12 months. The singular focus of rehab is on recovery and quitting drinking.

What does inpatient alcohol rehab include?

Alcohol rehabs mainly offer detoxification services, psychological treatment, pharmacological treatment (the use of prescription medications), and counseling services. Plus, inpatient alcohol rehab usually includes referral to aftercare programs.

Inpatient alcohol rehab goals

The primary goal of any inpatient alcohol rehab is to help problem drinkers stop drinking and stay stopped. In fact, recovery is the most important element of an inpatient alcohol rehab program.

One of the first goals of rehab is to promote a life of abstinence from alcohol. It is typically necessary for a person who is addicted to alcohol to completely stop drinking after detoxification. This is because attempting to control the use of alcohol isn’t possible for a true alcoholic. Once the phenomenon of craving kicks in, controlled drinking cannot happen. So while some experts advocate for harm reduction and controlled or lowered drinking outcomes…this isn’t possible for everyone.

Other goals of inpatient alcohol rehab include:

Employment and educational needs – Inpatient centers ay aims to return clients to patterns of productive participation in their respective educational or employment environments.

Improved overall health – In many cases, someone who has been drinking alcohol for a prolonged period of time sees a decline in general health related to alcohol abuse. When alcohol use is discontinued, most of the general health issues related to its abuse resolve after a short period of time. This increase of overall health positively impacts all areas of a person’a life.

Improved personal circumstances – Inpatient alcohol rehab aims to improve a person’s personal circumstances by instating personal values, coping skills and teaching a patient to meet their basic needs.

Positive support system – A positive support system is incredibly important for a person coming out of an inpatient rehab facility. Typically, someone who has abused or been dependent upon alcohol will come into a rehab without a positive support system. The goal of rehab is to begin building a positive support system in order to make a positive transition when leaving the facility.

Social integration – Alcohol rehabs aim to reduce criminal behavior and resolve legal problems of inpatient clients. Typically, people have abused or been dependent on alcohol come in to treatment with various legal problems, or a background of criminal behavior. Treatment aims to resolve these problems and teach clients how to function in society without engaging in criminal activities.

Treat psychiatric disorders and psychological problems – Long-term drinking can lead to psychological and emotional problems, as well as neurological damage in some cases. Inpatient alcohol rehab aims to provide treatment or refer clients to other treatment facilities which address specific psychological problems.

What happens during inpatient alcohol rehab?

The course of most alcohol rehab programs are about the same. Treatment usually follows the same stages:

1.  Assessment

When you first arrive at an inpatient alcohol rehab, you will be clinically assessed and the extent of the problem will be diagnosed. During this process, the facility staff (usually a certified addiction specialist) will assess your current condition, defining the nature of your alcohol problem and determine a specific, suggested treatment plan for you as an individual. You may be given a physical exam, asked to take a drug test, and be interviewed by a psychologist or psychiatrist to determine the extent of the problems. This stage of treatment helps determine an inidivualized plan for your treatment.

2.  Therapy/Treatment plan

Then, treatment modalities follow, with continuing evaluation to help adjust your treatment program, as necessary. Possible treatments include:

Detox – Withdrawal from alcohol begins as soon as 3-5 hours following the last drink. Medical detox is advised when you have become physically dependent on alcohol. Inpatient alcohol rehabs provide the staff necessary to oversee detox (usually a medical doctor, nurse and/or psychiatrist) and provide you with medication, or medical intervention if necessary. Once alcohol is totally removed from your system, alcohol rehabs continue to evaluate and help stabilize your physical condition.

Psychotherapy – Counseling is one of the most important phases of rehab. This phase of alcohol rehab identifies your mental and emotional condition in order to make positive changes and prevent relapse. Alcohol rehabs should also refer you to more intensive psychotherapy in cases of past trauma or severe psycho-emotional abuse.

Phamacotherapy – Pharmacotherapy (a fancy word for medications) for alcohol dependence is an emerging and valuable tool for treatment. This treatment will be assessed on an individual basis and will be implemented along with psychosocial treatment. Medications which may help you during alcohol rehab include drugs which address withdrawal symptoms, alcohol cravings, or which deter future drinking.  Additionally, anti-depressant and/or anti-anxiety medications may help former alcoholics during inpatient alcohol rehab.

Alcoholism education – Education is an important apect of inpatient alcohol rehab. Educating a patient about the disease model of alcoholism and the effects of alcohol abuse can support recovery and allow a patient to understand how drinking affects their health. The idea is that a rational understanding of the cycle of addiction can prevent future use.

3.  Continued assessment

Throughout your stay at an inpatient rehab, staff should be assessing your progress and adjusting therapies to match your needs.

4.  Preparing for departure/aftercare

Inpatient alcohol rehabs often connect patients to services outside of the facility in order to maintain abstinence from alcohol. This can include sober living houses, transitional living, outpatient programs, or individual counseling.

What happens after inpatient alcohol rehab?

Leaving an inpatient rehab can sometimes be difficult and frightening. However, establishing an aftercare program allows you to leave alcohol rehab with a personalized plan for how you are going to maintain long-term sobriety. Following inpatient alcohol rehab, it is important to establish an aftercare program that includes:

  • a strong support system
  • outpatient addiction therapy
  • employment (services)
  • relapse prevention plan

It is typical for people leaving inpatient rehab to enter a sober living house, which is a semi-structured environment that allows a person to maintain strong connection with other recovering addicts, while still living in a structured environment in order to prevent relapse. It is also important to get involved in recovery groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery and to continue alcohol counseling in individual and/or group settings.

Inpatient alcohol rehab questions

Do you still have questions about residential rehab for alcohol? Are you interested in learning about the COSTS of inpatient rehab? Please ask us your questions below. We’ll do our best to respond to you personally.

Reference Sources: SAMHSA Series: Technical Assistance Publications (TAPs)
SAMHSA: Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment Improvement Protocol TIP 45
Substance Abuse Treatment: Addressing the Specific Needs of Women, Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 51.
PubMed: The state of pharmacotherapy for the treatment of alcohol dependence
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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