I. The Basics of Inpatient Rehab

Substance abuse rehabilitation is a medical process that should be done under professional supervision. Heavy users may need medical treatment during their initial drying out phase as well as steady emotional support during the difficult early days of sobriety. Staff at a recovery center are highly trained to assess an incoming individual’s needs, and they can craft a plan to make the most of that patient’s time in the facility. Finally, the rehab counselors work with soon-to-be discharged patients to prepare for sober living after discharge. There continue to be follow-ups for released patients and their family members through an extended network of resources.

II. Step 1: The Intake Process

Intake is a crucial first step for people who check into a substance abuse rehab center. This initial process can be lengthy and may even overwhelm an individual who may feel sick or intoxicated during the interviews. Depending on the patient’s ability to participate, the intake process may consist of several segments:

Medical Triage

Many of the people who arrive at a rehabilitation facility have serious medical needs that need to be met before any treatment for addiction can begin. Because of drug use, brain injury, or other complications, some individuals are unable to effectively communicate their medical needs. Medical practitioners, either a nurse or doctor, do a physical examination to ensure that the patient is reasonably fit to be treated.

Psychological Assessment

People arrive at rehab with a variety of issues, and not all of them are strictly drug-related. The best substance abuse facilities perform a full psychological assessment with a psychiatrist or psychologist who specializes in addiction medicine. The purpose of this assessment is to identify other disorders that exist alongside the addiction, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or schizophrenia.

Developing a Treatment Plan

Crafting an individualized treatment plan is generally the last step of the intake process. Using information developed during the triage and assessments, care professionals at the center develop a plan for treatment that addresses all of treatable conditions. Ideally, this strategy breaks down into a variety of manageable steps with goals that signify the progression of the phase. For example, medicine can be used to treat depression, and the program can define success, at this point, as the end of suicidal thoughts.

III. Step 2: Detox

Once a treatment plan is in place, it’s time to detoxify. This is a blanket term for the process of coming down off of all addictive substances in the body when the individual arrives. Depending on which intoxicants have been used, this stage can be very difficult to get through, and it’s the most clinical part patients experience, with regular medical attention and support.

Some patients are given sedatives and/or other medications to help manage the symptoms of withdrawal. While it can be exceptionally tough going without a drug that’s been used heavily for many years, it must be done before recovery can begin, and inpatient detox is the safest route to go. Staff are available throughout the detoxification, which may last for a couple of days to a week, to care for and comfort the patient.

IV. Step 3: Abstinence

When the pressing symptoms of withdrawal have passed, the real work of substance abuse rehabilitation can begin. During the early abstinence period, patients have to adjust to the daily routines of life in the center. There’s almost always a thoroughly structured schedule for new patients to follow. Mornings begin with a wake-up call, followed by breakfast and treatment sessions, where patients get information about their addictions and help to manage the psychological issues related to recovery. Activities are often included to help groups of patients reinforce each others’ commitment to sobriety.

The period of early sobriety, more than anything else, is geared towards teaching people in recovery to submit to the process and overcome the barriers that have kept them from healing in the past. To that end, most facilities try to control the treatment environment as much as possible. Patients generally have to give up their cell phones, for instance, and visitors at this stage are either not allowed to visit or are heavily monitored. This is a time of intense self-reflection for most patients, and the new thinking habits they’re acquiring need time to mature before they can face the stresses they’re used to outside of rehab.

V. Step 4: Discharge and Continuing Sobriety

Classes continue throughout the rehab process. At nearly every session, staff make every effort to teach individuals about the hurtful patterns that led them into substance abuse and develop strategies to overcome these obstacles. Different rehabilitation centers use various long-term approaches to treatment, with 12-step models being the most popular, but each center tries to equip its patients with lifelong sobriety management tools.

Late-stage sobriety also generally involves group sessions with other patients in the facility. Apart from validating that others have shared similar experiences and that people truly do care, the main advantage of group sessions is to develop a community of people who can help each other stay sober after leaving rehab. In facilities that follow the 12-step plan, this is often the time when patients meet their sponsor, a fellow user in recovery who has successfully gone through the process and can share strategies and support with people just starting their recovery.

After completing the 30-, 60-, or 90-day course of inpatient rehab, it’s time to go home. Usually, this means going back to the world where you used drugs and alcohol, as well as the family and community pressures that in the past facilitated your substance abuse. For many addicts, this can be a difficult move, even for those who have done well in the recovery center’s structured setting but are now struggling to remain sober in their old environment. That’s why the discharge plan includes connecting you with an outside support group that you can lean on to stay sober for life.

VI. How to Get Help Finding a Substance Abuse Rehab

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has an online resource locator’s tool that can help people struggling with addiction, and their loved ones, find a reputable, licensed care facility nearby. This online tool asks relevant information to help find a rehabilitation provider near you but doesn’t keep identifying information and all inquiries are treated as confidential.
  • The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) offers referrals for inpatient addiction recovery programs online through its locator tool. This form asks for a name and address to find close resources, and the information entered is confidential. The form allows a search for providers based on the various addiction-related specialties the staff are certified in.
  • The American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry operates an online database of licensed and board-certified psychiatrists who can help people with addiction and related mental health issues. This isn’t a substitute for emergency help, nor does the resource offer mental health advice, but for addicts and their families it can be a useful starting point for referrals and advice from a qualified expert in addiction medicine.
  • Parents of children and teenagers battling addiction can look for help on the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website. The needs of adolescents with addiction disorders are subtly different from those of adults, and the Academy’s online finder tool can help adults locate the professional help children need to start rehab, cope with mental health issues, and overcome various issues, including abuse and neglect, school stress, and suicidal thoughts.

Substance abuse is a lifetime issue that can be helped with a good foundation of knowledge, support, and understanding. No one person has to figure it out alone. Seek professional help for yourself or a loved one because one phone call can make all the difference in a distressed individual’s life.