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Inpatient treatment, or residential treatment, occurs when a person being treated for some condition remains in the treatment facility during the prescribed treatment period.
The individual sleeps, eats their meals, and performs all activities within the facility (although there may be brief periods of time where the person can leave the facility). Many normal daily activities of living, such as work and socializing with friends and family, are put on hold while the individual remains in treatment. In outpatient treatment, the individual typically attends treatment sessions at a clinic or hospital, and then returns home and participates in the normal daily activities of their life. Both programs have similar rates of success regarding long-term recovery from substance use disorders, such as an alcohol use disorder; however, there are certain advantages to initially enrolling in an inpatient treatment program if one has a moderate to severe alcohol use disorder.
Because individuals who have alcohol use disorders will inevitably experience some level of withdrawal when they first stop drinking, inpatient treatment programs often include medical detox. In fact, those who are addicted to alcohol should never attempt to stop drinking on their own; medical detox is always recommended.
There are many advantages to negotiating the withdraw process in an inpatient facility. The potential to relapse is extremely high when individuals are undergoing alcohol withdrawal. The symptoms are physically and emotionally very uncomfortable, and drinking alcohol will almost immediately result in a reversal of the withdrawal process. Individuals in inpatient programs undergoing alcohol withdrawal can have their symptoms monitored around the clock and managed to a point where they can comfortably tolerate them via the use of medications. Continual supervision allows the individual to immediately get professional intervention to address any cravings, emotional issues, or physical symptoms associated with withdrawal.
Since the person is in an inpatient environment, it is extremely hard for them to procure alcohol, and this assists in the recovery process. It is certainly not impossible for individuals to have alcohol smuggled in or to leave the program and drink alcohol, but the inpatient environment makes it substantially more difficult to obtain alcohol.
During the inpatient stay, people are also in the company of other individuals experiencing the same or similar issues. This allows them to form relationships and bonds that can be extremely useful in negotiating the withdrawal process. In addition, the inpatient withdrawal management program is structured. This helps to distract clients from issues that might lead to relapse as well as to keep clients busy and keep their minds off alcohol.
Because the withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol use disorders can be potentially fatal, inpatient withdrawal management programs allow for immediate intervention on any potentially serious withdrawal symptoms, such as delirium tremens or seizures. Finally, research indicates that individuals who initially begin treatment for alcohol use disorders in an inpatient setting are more likely to be successful in long-term recovery.
The advantages to initially enrolling in an inpatient treatment program for an alcohol use disorder extend beyond managing the withdrawal period. Residential treatment programs will deliver a comprehensive treatment package that covers multiple levels of intervention. The advantages to inpatient/residential treatment for alcohol use disorders include the following:
- Residential programs are highly structured and include elements of intervention and psychoeducation.
- The identification and treatment of any co-occurring psychological/psychiatric issues can be implemented more effectively when the individual can be observed around the clock.
- The inpatient treatment process helps clients to address their dysfunctional belief systems regarding alcohol use in a manner that recruits professional and peer support.
- Inpatient programs are run by multidisciplinary teams of treatment providers who can address clients’ issues from a number of different levels. This results in a more comprehensive approach to treatment.
- The inpatient treatment environment is extremely suited to developing a sense of personal responsibility and accountability in the individual for their own behavior and use of alcohol. This is especially true as individuals negotiate the withdrawal process, but it is also true once the withdrawal process has peaked.
- Individual treatment programs can be easily modified to treat any special needs that the person has.
- People who live in specific environmental conditions where recovery is seriously jeopardized, such as individuals who are homeless, who are in abusive relationships, or who live in areas with particularly high rates of drug abuse, can be isolated from these conditions while they develop a solid base for recovery. Even individuals who do not live in such conditions find that they can avoid distractions much more effectively in an inpatient treatment program.
- People who have legal issues associated with their alcohol use disorders find that enrolling in an inpatient treatment program may often soften any remediation they must face, such as fines, incarceration, etc.
- Individuals who are initially very resistant to the prospect of abstinence and remaining sober, or who lack confidence in their ability to effectively engage in a real recovery program, find that once they participate in an inpatient treatment program, their outlook and attitude change significantly.
- Many individuals with alcohol use disorders have experienced multiple attempts at recovery, and relapse is often associated with these attempts. Inpatient treatment programs provide a solid base for a successful recovery program.
- Committing and completing an inpatient treatment program for an alcohol use disorder is a major accomplishment. This helps develop confidence, creates a base for continued recovery, and sends a message to others that the individual is committed to recovering from their alcohol use disorder.