Inpatient Substance Abuse Treatment

“Inpatient” is a medical term meaning “patient in the hospital”.  Naturally, inpatient treatment programs are in a hospital setting and are the highest level of treatment available for addiction.  Inpatient treatment ranges from patients who are unconscious in an ICU (as a complication of their addiction) to patients who are exercising, independent and participating in group therapy.  Here are some different levels of treatment for the “Inpatient” Setting:

One thing to keep in mind about inpatient treatment is that it is by far the most expensive option for treatment of an addiction.  The good news is that your insurance may cover the costs of hospitalization if your deductible has been met.

Mental Health Hospitals

These hospitals care to people suffering from Mental Illness.  Many of these facilities also have “Detox Units” which will treat people suffering from addiction during the “withdrawal period”.  Often, the withdrawal period is the most difficult and dangerous time for the person suffering from addiction.  They often feel physically ill and their craving for the drug is at its peak.  The treatment patients receive is designed to accomplish two things: make the patient as comfortable as possible and start the psychological journey of recovery.  These hospitals are also the ideal place for “dual diagnosis” patients as they can receive treatment for their mental illness and addiction simultaneously.

Detox Centers

These centers are specifically designed to manage patients going through withdrawal.  They are typically smaller than hospitals although many can place IV lines and give oxygen.  Typically, these centers will have the patient attend groups while the withdrawal symptoms are being managed.  The main difference between Detox Centers and Mental Health Hospitals is that Detox Centers are less likely to have psychiatrists so that a patient’s addiction and mental illness can be addressed simultaneously.  However, many Detox Centers can manage more medically complex withdrawal than Mental Health Hospitals.


Medical Inpatient Treatment

General Medicine Inpatient

Addiction often leads to unintended harm to the body such as an alcoholic throwing up causing the stomach contents to trickle down from the throat into the lungs (leading to a lung infection or “pneumonia”).  In these cases, the medical illness and the withdrawal symptoms of the addiction have to be treated simultaneously.  Most often these patients are treated on a “General Medicine” floor and as a result cannot begin any psychological treatment for addiction (as these hospitals do not specialize in treating addiction).  Once the medical illness resolves, their care is transferred to a facility that specializes in treating addiction.



Some addictions, like alcohol, can be so dangerous that patients may require ICU level care.  An ICU is the part of the hospital where the sickest patients are treated.  The ICU has special staff, machines and rooms to take care of these very ill patients.  Usually these patients have other underlying medical issues that are worsened by the addiction.  Sometimes, it is the withdrawal from the drug that is the reason that the patient needs to be in the ICU (for example: an alcoholic who has repeated seizures after (s)he stops drinking and requires prolonged sedation).  Rarely, it can be the drug itself that harms to body to the extent that an ICU stay is necessary (“bath salts” causing kidney failure).