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Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Detox Treatment

Inpatient detox programs can be an effective method to stabilize before attending a more intensive rehab program for substance use. Read on to learn more.

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Detox is often an important first step in substance abuse treatment process, and for many people, inpatient detox can be an effective option. Inpatient detox programs offer 24/7 support and supervision, especially in medical inpatient detox centers. Understanding the benefits of inpatient detox, what inpatient detox entails, and how to find inpatient detox centers near you can help you start your journey to recovery.

What Is Inpatient Detox?

Professional detox consists of different interventions, such as medication and monitoring, to help you through the substance withdrawal process.1 People can enter inpatient or residential detox programs that involve different levels of intensity, supervision, and support.1 However, inpatient detox offers a few key benefits that may not be present in outpatient detox or social detox residential programs.

Inpatient residential detox treatment means that you stay overnight and receive round-the-clock care, supervision, and monitoring.1 If you enter inpatient medical detox, then you’ll typically receive supervision and support from medical professionals, such as physicians and nursing staff who are available 24/7, either by phone or in person.1 There is also another form of residential detox known as social detox, and these programs typically offer limited medical oversight and usually rely on peer supervision and interpersonal support.1

Due to the associated risks of severely unpleasant, if not dangerous, withdrawal symptoms, supervised medical detox is currently the standard of care for people undergoing withdrawal from opioids, sedative-hypnotics (such as benzodiazepines), and alcohol.1, 2

Others who may also benefit from inpatient or residential detox include people who lack supportive or safe home environments, people with severe addictions or a history of severe withdrawal symptoms or complications, and people who are suicidal or who have serious psychiatric conditions.1

What Happens During Inpatient Detox Treatment?

Detox begins with a thorough assessment to evaluate your individual needs and then determine a treatment plan including the most appropriate treatment setting for your circumstances.1 You’ll be asked questions about your substance use, medical  and psychiatric history, home environment, and other concerns. Detox can involve a combination of interventions such as medication and supervision.1 Detox is complete when you are stabilized and you’ll likely next transition into a treatment program that’s appropriate for your individual needs.Every program has its own rules and expectations; some may require you to adhere to certain dress code regulations, avoid computer or cell phone use, adhere to a regular set schedule, and avoid violent or provocative behavior. Rules, like treatment itself, are designed to keep you safe and comfortable throughout the detox process.

Additionally, inpatient detox can be provided in a variety of different settings which may cause your inpatient detox experience to vary. Specifically, these different settings include:1

  • Hospital or acute care center detox. You’ll receive 24/7 care and monitoring from your treatment team at an inpatient wing of a hospital or acute care detox. These facilities are equipped to handle any emergency that may arise during detox and can administer medications if necessary. Once stabilized, patients are typically referred to or transitioned into an addiction treatment program.
  • Standalone medical detox program. You’ll live onsite at a standalone medical detox center and receive round-the-clock care and support from a team consisting of medical and substance abuse professionals. These facilities may also be able to address other psychiatric or medical complications that can arise during withdrawal and can provide medication or further support if required.
  • Medical detox at the start of a residential treatment program. Many addiction treatment centers offer detox services prior to transitioning patients to formal addiction treatment. Medical detox at these facilities can vary in the level of medical support and supervision, and typically have protocols in place in the instance that additional medical support is required These programs can often treat common acute withdrawal symptoms, provide, provide certain medications indicated for addiction treatment, and, in general, manage most withdrawal symptoms and identify and treat common complications that may arise.
  • Peer support residential detox program. Also known as social detox, this usually involves minimal medical oversight in a communal living or another residential setting. Social detox is better suited for people without severe addictions and for those who are not deemed to have a risk of experiencing severe symptoms or complications. Social detox programs may or may not use medication, and they should be able to refer patients to appropriate medical care if emergencies or complications arise.

Are Medications Used in Inpatient Detox?

Depending on the specific substance(s) that you used, your risk for experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, and other factors, you may receive medications during detox to eliminate or reduce the severity of uncomfortable or potentially dangerous  withdrawal symptoms. Medication may be used for patients addicted to opioids,  alcohol, or sedatives, and they may also be used to help manage symptoms of co-occurring medical or psychiatric disorders.4

How Long Is Inpatient Detox?

The length of detox is often on the minds of prospective patients. According to the Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, most periods of withdrawal are relatively short (3 to 5 days) and are managed with medications combined with vitamins, exercise, and sleep, except in the case of sedative-hypnotics and alcohol, where a more rapid withdrawal can cause health complications.3 However, there are a variety of factors that may cause one’s detox length to be longer of shorter than the aforementioned time, including the substance you use, how long you’ve used it, any co-occurring medical or psychiatric conditions you may have, the specific types of detox treatment/medication you receive, and other considerations. 1, 2

What Happens After Inpatient Detox Treatment?

Detox in any setting is typically considered the first stage of addiction treatment. According to NIDA’s principles of effective treatment, remaining in a treatment program equipped to meet your individuals needs for an adequate period of time can help you achieve and maintain recovery.Specifically, post-detox treatment may consist of rehab in an inpatient setting, outpatient setting, or a combination of both.

How Do I Choose the Right Detox?

You may wish to consider certain questions that can impact the detox setting you choose to enter, including:1, 2

  • Are you willing and able to follow a treatment plan? People should be willing to enter the recovery process and have a desire to follow through with medical recommendations.
  • Do you have any other mental health issues? People who have co-occurring psychiatric problems may have special considerations that require inpatient supervision and medication.
  • Do you have any medical problems? As with psychiatric issues, certain medical problems may require inpatient care, although the right setting for you will be determined by medical professionals before you start detox.
  • Have you gone through medically managed withdrawal before? People who have a history of multiple withdrawals tend not to be good candidates for outpatient detox.
  • If you’ve gone through withdrawal in the past, how severe were your symptoms? A history of severe withdrawal symptoms, such as delirium tremens or seizures, can be a good indication for inpatient medical detox.
  • What is your living environment like? It’s important to have a supportive home environment where you won’t have the trigger to resume substance use if you want to enter outpatient detox. It’s also important to have support at home or in your community once you leave inpatient detox to help you in your ongoing recovery.
  • Do you plan to pay for detox with insurance? If so, you’ll need to be sure the treatment center accepts your insurance plan.

How to Find Inpatient Detox Programs Near Me

Once you’ve decided that you need treatment, you’ll need to find an inpatient detox center and rehab program near you. A good first step would be to reach out to your doctor or a trusted medical professional who can conduct an assessment and discuss your options with you, as well as possibly provide you with a referral.

If you want to search online, you can find detox centers and other treatment programs using SAMHSA’s website. Additionally, sites like provide a nationwide directory of detox and rehab centers to help you find your local inpatient detox center. But if you prefer speaking with someone, many treatment providers, like American Addiction Centers (AAC), operate confidential 24/7 detox and rehab hotlines to answer questions about treatment and help you understand your next steps.