Entering an inpatient drug rehab program can be an intimidating experience. You might feel nervous, overwhelmed, or otherwise hesitant. And that’s totally normal. Starting inpatient drug treatment is a huge step to take to better your health. Big leaps like that can leave us feeling unmoored. Sometimes, however, just knowing what to expect can help us feel more grounded. So, today we’re going to break down the general steps involved in inpatient drug treatment programs.
The exact steps in an inpatient drug treatment program will vary from facility to facility, but know that no matter where you choose to seek inpatient drug treatment, the staff is going to work tirelessly to make sure you get the help you need. These steps can generally be sorted into six stages: First conversations, intake, orientation, detox, therapy, and aftercare. We’ll break each one down into its components, and by the end, you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from a treatment program.
Note that our goal here is just to give you a very broad overview of what inpatient drug rehab often looks like. For specifics, you’ll need to speak directly with a treatment center, and you should definitely seek out specifics before entering any type of treatment. If you need a place to start, you can reach out here.
What does inpatient drug rehab entail?
Let’s start with some basic definitions. Inpatient drug treatment means that you will spend the night at the facility. It’s the exact opposite of outpatient treatment, where you receive services at the facility for part of the day and then go home. Each option meets different needs, and you should pursue the kind of treatment that will best suit you. A medical professional at the center you’re considering can recommend either inpatient or outpatient treatment.
When opting for inpatient drug rehab, the length of your stay will depend on the specific program’s requirements. It will likely be anywhere from 30 days to 90 days. However, there are also longer options out there. It might be intimidating to commit to several months of 24/7 treatment, but it’s the most effective way. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, longer treatments get better outcomes. So, if you’re recommended a longer treatment program, don’t balk at it automatically. Consider all your alternatives, but know that recovery will take some time and work.
Inpatient Drug Rehab Steps
Any inpatient drug treatment is a multi-step process. Like we mentioned earlier, it will differ depending on your specific needs and the specific types of treatment your chosen facility offers. Take this step-by-step breakdown only as a place to start. If you have any questions, definitely reach out to your care provider and clarify what happens at each step.
These are steps that happen before you ever show up at the inpatient drug rehab center. Typically, you or a loved one reaches out to a treatment facility to establish initial contact. They’ll help you decide if their programs would be a good fit, and what the best way to get you into one is. If you’re looking into an inpatient drug rehab program for a loved one, they will help you determine if they’re eligible for their services. They’ll also support you through an intervention process if necessary. The facility will make sure you know what to expect throughout the entire inpatient drug treatment process, and they’ll want to know some information about the patient to get an idea of what they need.
They’ll ask you questions, but you want to be sure to ask some of your own, as well. Make sure the center is licensed and credentialed. You should also inquire about the types of therapies offered and what kinds of professionals will be overseeing your care. We’ll go over some generic advice on what to pack a little later, but it’s a good idea to ask about what items aren’t allowed at this point, too. And any specific details of the process you’re curious about can be addressed here, as well.
The representative who speaks with you will also likely go over logistical details, like payment options. Many insurance providers cover inpatient drug treatment, but there are other options, as well. The center should be able to work with you to figure out the best way to pay for the treatment. At this stage, they’ll also schedule an admission date.
When you get there, you’ll likely participate in some kind of intake interview. This is how they’ll know how to customize your inpatient drug treatment. The inpatient drug rehab facility will have already gotten your basic information at the first conversations step, but the intake interview process will provide them with more detail.
You can expect questions about your medical and substance use history. They might also ask questions about your life more generally — topics like your work and family might come up. The specific questions and details needed will depend on the individual inpatient drug rehab center’s process. Effective drug treatment addresses more than just your drug use, so your medical professionals will want to address any other problems you’re having that impact your drug use.
After those questions, you will probably undergo physical and psychological evaluations. These help to create a treatment plan customized to your specific situation. You will likely finish up the intake process by filling out a lot of paperwork. It will help the inpatient drug treatment center gather the information it needs to treat you appropriately.
You should be given a tour of the facility at this stage. The inpatient drug rehab center will show you where you’ll be staying, and they’ll explain any rules they expect you to follow. The disciplinary actions for not following those rules should also be discussed.
Your personal belongings might be searched at this stage. That might feel like a breach of trust, but they do it with the best of intentions. Most inpatient drug rehab centers have a list of banned items available before you arrive, so it’s worth checking that out before you pack. That way, you can avoid any issues. Check their website for that list, and reach out if you have any questions about what to bring and what to leave at home.
The admissions team at your specific inpatient drug treatment center will have better tips on what and how to pack, but here’s a general list:
- The right clothes – Again, it’s best to get the exact guidelines from your inpatient drug rehab center of choice, but it’s a good rule of thumb to pack comfortable, neutral clothes that you can layer. Avoid bringing anything you’d be upset to lose, just in case.
- Toiletries – It’s generally safest to leave anything with alcohol as a main ingredient at home, and to only pack brand-new, unopened products.
- Important Documents – The paperwork you’d take with you pretty much anywhere. Health insurance card, ID, prescription or pharmacy cards.
- Prescription Medication
- Extras – You might be allowed a little free time, and you might want to pack something for that. A journal or a book are good choices — it’s usually best to leave your electronic devices at home. You also might want to throw in some pictures of loved ones.
Once you’ve completed the intake process and have been shown around the facility, the detoxification process begins. This is one of the more difficult steps in an inpatient drug rehab program for many people. The details of your detox experience will heavily depend on what type of substance you use, how much you use, and how often you’ve been doing it.
The goal of this stage is to get all of the substances you’re abusing out of your system. That can take a few days for some people, but it can take longer for others. As previously mentioned, it all depends on the specifics of your situation. As the drug leaves your body, some chemicals in your brain might fluctuate, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Flu-like symptoms
- Hot and cold flashes
- Runny nose
- Excessive sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Body aches
- Depressed mood
- Psychotic episodes
- Thoughts of self-harm
- Delirium Tremens
As you can see, these symptoms range from mild to potentially life-threatening. That’s why it’s a good idea to go through the detox process in an inpatient drug rehab center. That way, medical professionals can monitor you and help manage those symptoms. There are certain medications they can administer to stabilize someone experiencing withdrawal. Such medicines are not appropriate in every case, but enlisting the help of an inpatient drug rehab center means you’ll have access to them if the professionals in charge of your case decide you need them.
The kinds of therapy you’ll get in an inpatient drug treatment program will depend on your specific needs, which is why that extensive intake process is so important. However, they generally take the form of a mixture of group and individual therapy sessions multiple times each day.
There are multiple types of therapy that can be effective in treating substance use disorders, and each inpatient drug rehab program will have their own preferred methods. The type of therapy you receive will depend on the program you’re participating in and your specific needs. However, some popular treatment types include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and contingency management. Depending on the inpatient drug treatment center you choose, you might also participate in various types of experiential therapy, such as music or art therapy.
There will also probably be resources for your family members at this stage. Some inpatient drug treatment centers have regular meetings for loved ones of people receiving treatment. There, they can learn about what you’re going through and how best to support you on your recovery journey.
Your journey doesn’t end when the inpatient drug treatment does. A substance use disorder is a chronic condition that requires long-term management. The inpatient drug rehab is just the first step. While you’re there, you, your family, and your medical professionals should make plans for what your aftercare will look like.
There might be an outpatient program that picks up where your inpatient drug treatment leaves off. That will help you stay on track as you transition back to everyday life. The center might also offer telehealth services that you can take advantage of after you leave. Another option might be a transitional housing program. These kinds of programs provide housing and additional therapy and treatment while allowing you to have a job. You might be eligible for one after going through inpatient drug rehab, and it might be a good choice.
Whatever kind of aftercare you and your medical professionals decide on, there will be some kind of ongoing support after you leave the treatment center.
Don’t wait to get inpatient drug treatment.
Deciding to pursue inpatient drug rehab for yourself or a loved one is a huge step, and you’re not going to take it lightly. Hopefully, knowing a little bit more about what you can expect will help make that giant leap a little less scary. Any good inpatient drug treatment center is going to do their absolute best to get you the help you need at every step along the way. That includes answering any questions you have about their process.
By having you partake in an extensive intake process, they’ll learn how to customize your treatment so you can see the best results. They’ll show you around the place and help you get acquainted with where you’ll be staying for a while. Then, you’ll undergo the detox and therapy process. As your treatment comes to an end, your team will set up an aftercare plan.
You don’t have to go it alone. If you’re considering an inpatient drug treatment program for yourself or a loved one, you should reach out to a center as soon as possible. Armed with your new-found knowledge about how those programs work, you should have everything you need to get that conversation started. Good luck.