Updated on November 17, 2023
6 min read

Inpatient Alcohol Rehab

What is an Inpatient Alcohol Rehab Program?

Inpatient alcohol rehab is an addiction treatment that occurs in a 24-hour setting. This treatment option comes in two different forms: ‘true’ inpatient rehab and residential treatment. 

True inpatient rehab has acute care and medical treatments readily available. It takes place in a hospital-like setting.

Residential treatment is a step down, providing ‘hotelling’ accommodations and basic nursing support. It isn’t ideal for those with severe addictions.  

In inpatient treatment:1, 2

  • People live in the treatment facility during the entire treatment
  • Medical professionals and support staff are available 24/7
  • Non-physician addiction specialists manage the program
  • The program’s intensity can range from low to high
female patient actively listening to therapist

How Long is Inpatient Alcohol Rehab?

How long inpatient alcohol rehab is depends on the severity of the addiction. However, it typically lasts for 30, 60, or 90 days. 

Some people may need more time before they move on to outpatient programs. People who have struggled with alcohol abuse for years are among those who need prolonged treatment. 

People who don’t have supportive home environments may require additional time to set up a safe and stable living environment after detox. 

Chronic alcohol use changes body chemistry, which may have negative effects on how the body looks and functions. Some of these changes are reversible when a person quits drinking. Others will just stop progressing, but won’t reverse. But certain changes will continue to progress even after stopping drinking.

Apart from the brain, heavy alcohol use affects the liver, heart, lungs, and other organs. Thus, it will take time before the body goes back to normal functioning.3


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Differences Between Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab

In inpatient rehab, people: 

  • Live in the treatment center
  • May need to make complex life choices (like leaving a job or school)
  • Pay more than in outpatient treatment
  • Partake in treatment that lasts for 30 to 90 days (longer duration for certain people)
  • Receive treatment for severe addiction 

Outpatient rehab doesn’t involve living in the rehab center. Instead, people visit their counselor regularly and/or attend support groups. 

In outpatient rehab, people:

  • Go home after treatment
  • Maintain their normal activities (like work, school, or family obligations) 
  • Pay less than for inpatient treatment
  • Have treatment sessions that typically last up to 9 hours per week
  • Receive treatment for mild-to-moderate addiction

Why Do People Require Different Treatments?

No single alcohol addiction treatment fits all people’s needs. While one option may work for one person, it may not work for others.

Have medical professionals evaluate you to find a suitable treatment plan. The evaluator may ask about the following:6

  • The quantity and frequency of of alcohol use
  • Use of drugs and other addictive substance
  • Any previous treatment and attempts to stop drinking without outside assistance
  • Co-occurring health issues (like diabetes or liver problems) 
  • Co-occurring mental health conditions (like depression or anxiety)7
  • Support from family and friends
  • Financial situation
  • Stability of living situation
  • Access to transportation
  • Legal issues (like arrests and probations) related to alcohol use
  • Special situations (like teens, pregnant women, seniors, and people in safety-sensitive occupations like pilots and law enforcers)

If you have mild-to-moderate addiction, a supportive group of family and friends, a stable living situation, and access to transportation, your doctor may recommend outpatient treatment. 

If you have severe addiction, co-occurring conditions, unstable housing, or no social support, inpatient treatment may be better.

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How to Find the Right Rehab Program 

If you have insurance, call your provider. They can help you find a covered inpatient alcohol rehab center. If you don’t have insurance, there are other ways to pay for treatment. 

You can also check the directories of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).8, 9

When checking out inpatient rehab facilities, NIAAA recommends asking these questions:10

  • Availability: How soon can the treatment start? 
  • Costs and insurance: How much is the cost of treatment? Will insurance cover the costs?  
  • Credentials: Is the treatment center licensed and accredited? Are the staff, therapists, and doctors qualified? 
  • Complete evaluation and personalized plan: How does the facility design a treatment plan? Do they start with an evaluation? 
  • Treatment approach: What are the treatment options? 
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): Does the rehab center use medications to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD)?
  • Support for co-occurring conditions: How does the treatment center help people with co-occurring mental health and medical conditions?   
  • Expectations: What are the facility’s expectations of residents and their families during treatment? 
  • Managing relapse: How does the treatment center respond if a resident relapses during treatment?
  • Recovery support: What happens after inpatient alcohol rehab? Does the facility offer support for continuous recovery? 

How Much Does Inpatient Treatment Cost?

The cost of inpatient treatment varies depending on the location, features, and duration of treatment. 

One thing is clear: it’s more expensive than outpatient treatment. But not everyone needs inpatient treatment. For those with severe addictions or unstable home environments, residential care is typically necessary. 

Many alcohol rehab centers accept insurance. Check if your insurance provider covers inpatient treatment.
Some facilities accept Medicaid, Medicare, private financing, and other non-insurance options. There are also state-funded rehab facilities for people who meet the entry requirements.

What to Expect During Inpatient Alcohol Rehab

If you decide to enter inpatient rehab, you’ll be required to live in the facility until you complete treatment. 

You’ll undergo several stages:

1. Medical Screening

During the first day, you’ll undergo an initial health assessment. Medical professionals will also check if you have any co-occurring medical or mental health conditions that require urgent attention. 

A full, current health history is crucial so they can design a suitable treatment plan for your stay.4

2. Detoxification

Your treatment will include detox if you’re at risk of severe alcohol withdrawal.4

This detox process can be uncomfortable. You’re likely to experience serious withdrawal symptoms as your body flushes out alcohol. 

Rehab facilities have support staff to help you detox safely and comfortably. 

Sometimes, medical staff administer medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms and prevent seizures. Examples of these medications include benzodiazepines and anticonvulsants.5

3. Structured Rehab Care

After detox, you’ll continue the remaining parts of rehab. This stage is typically very structured.

You’ll follow a strict schedule. Your day will typically consist of therapies, counseling sessions, and other activities. Schedule compliance and activity participation is required to complete the program successfully. Continued noncompliance usually results in early termination.

4. After Inpatient Rehab

After inpatient rehab, you will likely continue recovery through outpatient approaches. 

In outpatient settings, you will attend support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and AI-Anon. You will also likely continue to meet with a counselor.

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Updated on November 17, 2023
10 sources cited
Updated on November 17, 2023
  1. What Types of Alcohol Treatment are Available?National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 
  2. Overview of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Care Clinical Guidelines: A Resource for States Developing SUD Delivery System Reforms.Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program (IAP). April 2017. 
  3. Principles of Effective Treatment.National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). January 2018.
  4. Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment [Internet].” Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2006. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45.) 1 Overview, Essential Concepts, and Definitions in Detoxification. 
  5. Hayashida, Motoi. “An overview of outpatient and inpatient detoxification.Alcohol health and research world vol. 22,1 : 44-6.
  6. Why Do Different People Need Different Options?National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 
  7. Comorbidity: Substance Use Disorders and Other Mental Illnesses.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). August 2018.
  8. Find Treatment.Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). January 18, 2022.
  9. Step 1 - Search Trusted Sources to Find Providers.National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
  10. Step 2 - Ask 10 Recommended Questions.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

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