How Does Inpatient Rehab Work?

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Addiction is an issue that affects many of us. At least 10% of adults in the United States will experience substance abuse disorder at some point in their lives. Of those who do experience addiction, about 75% of them go untreated.

These staggering statistics let us know that addiction is a disease that requires support and help. Furthermore, those who have loved folks experiencing addiction know how much substance abuse can impact the entire family system. That 10% of folks who will experience this disease have loved ones, colleagues, and family members who are all inevitably impacted by this illness as well.

We can change the overwhelming number of folks who go without recovering when we learn more about what support is out there and how we can help. This article will explore inpatient rehab, explaining how it works, what to expect, how to find a rehab center and ways to support someone who needs help.

What Is Inpatient Rehab?

Inpatient rehab is a type of rehabilitation program designed to help those experiencing addiction to drugs and alcohol heal and quit using. Inpatient rehab, also known as residential rehab, is a place where 24-hour care and supervision are available.

The intensity of support offered in inpatient rehab makes this a treatment option recommended for severe cases of substance abuse or if an individual is experiencing both substance abuse and another mental health disorder.

Contact with the world outside the rehab can be minimal when staying at an inpatient rehab. While visitors may be welcome during certain hours, it isn’t uncommon for residents to not have access to their personal cell phones. In addition, strict protocols are in place to ensure those receiving treatment can focus on recovery without distractions or outside triggering events.

Who Should Go to Inpatient Rehab?

Those who enter inpatient rehab are individuals struggling with substance abuse disorder or substance misuse. Substance abuse disorder is a type of mental illness where an individual cannot control their use of mind-state-altering substances and, in turn, notice their executive functioning, relationships, and lifestyle are negatively impacted.

Some mental health disorders, like ADHD and bipolar, commonly co-occur with substance abuse disorder. However, it is also essential that any other mental health disorders, like depression or anxiety, are ruled out before someone is diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder.

Substance misuse is an umbrella term referring to misusing substances to the point of detrimental consequences. Substance misuse can be a precursor to substance abuse disorder. However, it is important to note that substance misuse, even if not identified as a full-blown addiction, can be just as detrimental to one’s health, wellness, and overall lifestyle. Furthermore, substance misuse can cause harm to others through the risky behavior that can follow—for example, drunk driving after binge drinking.

How Does Inpatient Rehab Work?

An inpatient rehabilitation stay tends to begin with a medically managed detox period. This is a period where one can start to detox from the substances they’ve been abusing under close medical supervision.

Substance withdrawals can be very dangerous. As such, ensuring the individual has access to care constantly is incredibly important. The withdrawal period typically lasts between 3 to 7 days. After withdrawing, the individual is in a residential inpatient center for anywhere from 1 month to 3 months.

Once the inpatient rehab stay is complete, it is common for folks to then be referred to outpatient rehab. Depending on the circumstances, one may be referred to a sober living house while participating in outpatient programming.

Outpatient rehab is a treatment that meets multiple times a week for a few months. Then, slowly, treatment is tapered to a few times a month once the individual has achieved a level of comfort in their sobriety where they can move from intensive care to maintenance care.

How Do I Know If I Need to Go to an Inpatient Rehab?

Some opt to go to an inpatient rehab of their own accord, while others are mandated to attend, whether by the legal system or family members. Regardless, it is vital for us to all be able to spot the signs that someone may need an inpatient rehab stay.

If it is impossible to abstain from substance use, you fear intense withdrawals, despite many attempts, it is impossible to quit using, and your day-to-day functioning is severely impaired, it may be time to consider rehab options.

As previously mentioned, folks who have been unable to maintain sobriety through alternative means are referred to inpatient rehab. If you haven’t tried 12 Step Meetings and outpatient programming, those may be the first places you want to start when seeking help.

How to Find an Inpatient Rehab

Finding an inpatient rehab facility can be an expensive and daunting journey, especially when already navigating emotional turmoil. But, don’t let finances or the task of finding support stop you – help is available.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a national helpline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days out of the year. It is for those impacted by mental health or substance abuse concerns. By giving them a call, they can let you know what your options are for finding a facility.

If you don’t have insurance, they will refer you to the state-funded programs in your area. They can also provide information on what to expect in your recovery journey, further resources, and education for family and friends. You can contact them at 1-800-662-HELP.

Supporting Someone Who Needs Help

If someone you love is experiencing addiction, it may be worth looking into inpatient rehab options. There may be a concern that your loved one will not want to go to rehab. If this is the case, consider reaching out to a licensed mental health professional for guidance. They can offer insight and even support on how to stage an intervention. Additionally, they can help you navigate the painful experience of loving someone with an addiction.

If you find that your relationship with someone misusing substances is beginning to cause emotional turmoil that stunts your daily functioning, consider bolstering your support network. Al-Anon is a 12-step program created for the friends and families of alcoholics. This program offers peer support, a safe space to be heard, and an opportunity to learn more about addiction.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institutes of Health (NIH). 10 percent of US adults have drug use disorder at some point in their lives.

  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); Office of the Surgeon General (US). Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Washington (DC): US Department of Health and Human Services; 2016.

  3. Jahan AR, Burgess DM. Substance use disorder. Treasure Island, FL. StatPearls Publishing; 2022.

  4. McLellan AT. Substance misuse and substance use disorders: why do they matter in healthcare? Trans Am Clin Climatol Assoc. 2017;128:112-130.

By Julia Childs Heyl
Julia Childs Heyl, MSW, is a clinical social worker and writer. As a writer, she focuses on mental health disparities and uses critical race theory as her preferred theoretical framework. In her clinical work, she specializes in treating people of color experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma through depth therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy.