Inpatient Detox: Residential Drug Detoxification

Last Updated: October 25, 2019

Patients, for whom outpatient cleansing is not appropriate, become candidates for inpatient detox. Inpatient detoxification settings offer the advantages of constant medical care and supervision by medical professionals and the easy availability of treatment for possible serious complications. Also, inpatient detox centers offer patients separation from the substance-using environment. 

What Is Inpatient Drug Detoxification?

Detox from drugs can be done in two general settings, inpatient and outpatient. Overall, inpatient detox programs are more intensive. One has to reside inside a detox facility, where the whole cleansing process will be completed.

This is the safest setting to manage drug withdrawal and specific processes like rapid opiate detox, where dangerous and unpleasant symptoms may arise at any time.

A detox inpatient facility will offer continuous support for patients as they cleanse from drug or alcohol intoxication. Patients are supported appropriately and monitored 24/7 by medical professionals. However, some people cannot afford the potential cost of inpatient detoxification. Hence, they do outpatient treatments or detox at home. Most would cave into cheaper options. For example, some kits include detoxification drinks, which at best are only helpful for rehydration. Others do the Thomas recipe, which is a self-detox regimen mixing supplements and drugs to ease drug withdrawal symptoms.

Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Detox

While both inpatient and outpatient detoxification are equally focused on freeing the body from toxic substances, each type has unique attributes and benefits to offer. Outpatient detoxification involves part-time programs, which allow recovering users to keep going to school or work while being cleansed. On the other hand, inpatient detox is an intensive, residential treatment process designed to treat severe cases of addiction.

doctor and patients discussing detox options

With patients staying inside a detox residential treatment, there is a higher success rate of completion. While it is not possible to maintain a regular daily routine, there will be no distractions of everyday life.

Some centers may also have amenities such as pools and spas; others offer holistic programs like yoga and art classes. This type of experience will help patients find relief and comfort from their daily pressures and focus more on getting better in a well-controlled environment.

How Long It Takes to Complete Inpatient Detox

The duration of inpatient drug detox may vary from one person to another. While the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that the usual length of detox is less than eight days, some may require anywhere from 28 days to 6 months. Several factors may affect this timeframe. The type of substance abused, how long and frequent it has been used, and the amount taken recently will play a huge factor. Alcohol and opioid detox may produce significant withdrawal symptoms than others, which are dangerous and even life-threatening. The degree of medical assistance needed and other co-occurring disorders should likewise be considered.

What Happens During Inpatient Detox

The main objectives of alcohol and drug inpatient detox are to decrease the severity of withdrawal symptoms and ease the patient into sobriety. Just like any other detoxification program, it will focus on 3 critical stages of care – evaluation, treatment, and links to additional services.

Based on the data gathered during the evaluation phase, medical experts will focus on creating and executing a plan to safely withdraw a patient from drug or alcohol use. While the administration of drugs is not always a part of the treatment, approximately 80% of programs feature at least one or more medications for detox to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse. The most commonly prescribed drugs include benzodiazepines, anti-psychotics, anticonvulsants, anti-nausea, methadone, buprenorphine, and suboxone. Unlike natural drug detox, medically assisted cleansing is customized to the needs of the patient and is overseen by medical professionals 24/7.

doctor assessing a patient before prescribing treatment

While inpatient medical detox helps cleanse the body immediately, long-term recovery can only be attained if factors beyond physical dependence are addressed. Links to other services such as counseling and other therapeutic measures are highly recommended to ensure sobriety.

Different Types of Inpatient Detoxification Centers

One may receive inpatient alcohol detox or drug cleansing in different settings. The choice will depend on many factors like location, cost, and insurance coverage. The best rehabilitation facilities offer a wide range of various treatments and amenities.

  • Hospitals, which are staffed by doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals, offer the most intensive care possible during detox inpatient. Assistance and monitoring are done at all times, which is the best option for patients with long-standing or otherwise severe addictions.
  • Medically supervised detoxification is also staffed by medical professionals. But instead of being admitted to a hospital, patients live at a rehab facility for the entire process. 24-hour support and drugs are given to help patients feel more comfortable and reduce cravings. After detoxification, they are advised to enter a 30, 60, or 90-day addiction treatment program, which handles medical complications and mental health issues. 
  • A lot of comprehensive addiction treatment centers also have a detox wing. Here, detox incorporated at the beginning of ongoing treatment. After the completion of detox, patients will be referred to long-term rehabilitation programs like chemical dependency treatment plans on the same campus.
  • Another popular inpatient program is social detox, which depends significantly on peer and counselor support instead of medical supervision. While no medications are used during this process, this still requires a clearance from a medical doctor to ensure effectiveness and safety.

Inpatient Detoxification Effectiveness

There is no standardized way to measure the success of detoxification programs and centers. Many of them base their rates on unreliable metrics such as client feedback, program completion, and sobriety rates soon after treatment.

relaxed man sitting on grass

Detoxification is just the first stage of addiction treatment and may not be sufficient to help patients achieve sobriety. However, for most patients, the safe management of physical and mental withdrawal symptoms through medications and a sound support system are suitable precursors to effective and long-term addiction treatment.

How to Choose the Best Detox Center

The respective advantages and disadvantages of the different types of inpatient detox programs and centers may make one setting more suitable than the other for a particular patient. Some patients would want to be near their family while others prefer to go to vacation-like setting. Aside from location, patients are advised to go with a specific group of people who they can identify with more closely. It could be gender, age, or faith-specific. 

When choosing a center, exclusive programs that best suits a patient’s condition should be well evaluated. Are they more experienced and equipped in managing alcohol or drug addiction? If a patient requires long-term treatment after cleansing, a large center may be suitable for a smooth transition.

Cost is a significant factor in choosing any treatment. While most centers accept insurance, others don’t. Learn about the possible payment plans before enrolling. One may also check for free drug detox funded by the state or private sectors.

Page Sources

  1. Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  2. Motoi Hayashida. An Overview of Outpatient and Inpatient Detoxification. Alcohol Health & Research World. 1998. 44-46.

Published on: October 25th, 2019

Updated on: October 25th, 2019


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  • Jacquelyn A Summerville
    I was looking to get someone I care about help