Inpatient treatment is a traditional rehabilitation style for patients working to recover from addiction to drugs and alcohol. This process varies by institution but is based on the concept that the patient lives in-house for a standard period while they detox and work to manage their addiction.

Living in the inpatient care facility, the person challenged with the substance use disorder is limited to outside contact and are usually not permitted to leave the premises. This holds patients accountable for their actions and reduces the chances for relapse during the program. Throughout these programs, patients receive different types of treatment both medical and therapeutic.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, you may have considered inpatient rehabilitation in the past. For many people, the thought of entering a rehab program comes with a list of questions. How long does the program last? Are there special requirements of me while I’m enrolled in the program? And more frequently, what are the pros and cons of such a program, is it worth it? Here, we’ll examine this last question in detail, combing through the many pros and cons of inpatient rehab.

Pros of Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab

It’s important to know the pros and cons of any big decision before you make it. When something as serious as addiction is involved, being informed before deciding could be the difference between recovery and relapse. Inpatient care centers are outfitted with some of the best medical professionals, counselors, recovery coaches and therapists that money can buy. It only makes sense then that there are some huge benefits that go along with enrolling in an inpatient program. Here are some of the pros to consider.

Monitored Treatment with Enforced Abstinence: While it would be wonderful if those suffering with a substance use disorder could be held accountable for their own abstinence from drugs or alcohol, that’s asking a lot. Addiction isn’t a choice, but a disease, and once the disease takes hold, the person with the substance use disorder feels a compulsion to interact with the substance they’ve become addicted to. This makes it increasingly difficult to stay away, even if they have the best intentions to abstain. Living in an inpatient care facility doesn’t give the choice of abstaining or imbibing, because the substance isn’t made available and patients are unable to leave the premises. Ongoing monitored treatment means patients learn to be accountable for their own abstinence naturally.

It takes approximately 66 days to form a new habit. This makes the option of living in an inpatient rehab center wise. Building new habits and breaking old ones creates a strong foundation for recovery. Getting to day 66 without falling into old habits is easier when you have ongoing support and supervision 24/7.

Medical Supervision and Treatment When Required: Rehabilitation isn’t easy, especially if a patient is at the beginning of their journey. Starting out as someone with an out of control substance use disorder sometimes means detoxing, and this can be stressful, emotional, fatiguing, and even painful. There’s a small risk in some cases of withdrawal and detoxification that a patient could die from the trauma. Having trained medical doctors and nurses nearby during this experience is helpful. American Addiction Centers writes, “While it is true that unassisted withdrawal from some substances, such as alcohol and benzodiazepines, can be deadly, professional treatment provided in medical detox programs can reduce that risk. With medical attention, withdrawal symptoms can be controlled or eliminated altogether.”

It’s not just your physical health that inpatient care provides ongoing assistance with. It’s your mental and emotional health as well. Inpatient facilities provide a staff of psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, recovery coaches and therapists to help someone with a substance use disorder uncover the root of their addiction. For some who suffer with addiction, the physical help they receive is simply a Band-Aid for the emotional scars they carry. Knowing there’s always someone to turn to is an asset in times of trouble when recovery seems impossible.

Stability and Routines: Before you can break old habits and build new ones, it’s important to find stability and create routines. Routines are the glue which hold new habits together. Inpatient rehab centers know this and work to establish stability quickly. This may include a strict schedule for wakeup, meals, chores, leisure time, therapy, recovery coaching sessions, bedtime, and more. Working within these restrictions may sound frustrating, but it’s highly rewarding to the recovery process. It leaves less time to think about drugs or alcohol, keeps patients busy, and instills a sense of self which promotes self-esteem and motivation toward the end goal.

The hope with building these schedules and routines is that they will carry over into a patient’s life when they leave inpatient care. Establishing new habits now, helps avoid triggers and potential relapse in the future.

Physical Health Programs for Exercise and Nutrition: For many who are challenged with a substance use disorder, life becomes all about the vice. This leaves little time for self-care, including physical activity and proper nutrition. Many people suffering from a substance use disorder are malnourished or lacking the essential vitamins for a healthy fully functioning body and mind. Living within an inpatient facility provides access to ongoing monitored nutrition and exercise. Licensed nutritionists often create the plans used in inpatient care to provide patients with the right foods to help lose or gain weight, increase vitamins and nutrients, and improve overall health.


These health programs also include physical activity, which promote the natural production of endorphins to create feelings of happiness and euphoria without drugs or alcohol. Regular exercise also helps strengthen the body, improve mood, and improve energy levels. All of which could have been affected by long term drug or alcohol use.

Group Support, Regular Meetings, Motivational Speakers: Undergoing the heavy task of rehabilitation alone might seem impossible. Inpatient rehab centers offer the benefit of peers, support, and socialization. With ongoing group support meetings, kind words from motivational speakers, recovery coaches and therapy sessions on your own and with peers, there’s a mountain of help within these walls and always within reach.

Although outpatient rehab has an option for support groups, and some recovering substance abusers choose to find support groups of their own, these are constructed with your current journey in mind. All the people in an inpatient support group are going through the same thing now. 

Fewer Triggers: The worst possible place to be as a recovering substance abuser is anywhere that triggers memories of using drugs or alcohol. Places like bars, homes of people who are involved in drugs, or anywhere else that makes you feel vulnerable are places to avoid. In inpatient care, there are fewer chances to stumble upon a physical trigger because you’re in a place which is new and devoid of that part of your life. While some triggers, like the first sip of hot coffee in the morning, could be trigger enough, those triggers which do slip through are still surrounded by those put in place to help you through.

Managing triggers is an important part of rehab because it’s impossible to stay away from them all. It’s important to recognize the feelings triggers evoke for what they are and learn to cope with them as they come. Inpatient facility staff can help with this and create new and inventive ways to overcome these feelings.

These are only a few of the positive features of inpatient rehabilitation. If you’re interested in learning more about inpatient recovery, you should visit a center and speak to support staff in person before making a final decision.


Cons of Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab

As there are benefits to inpatient care, there are also some pitfalls. It’s important to recognize that no recovery treatment is perfect because no two individuals with substance use disorder are alike. Your experience is completely different from your neighbors, so while inpatient care might be best for them, alternative treatments could be best for you. Here are some of the most noticeable cons of inpatient drug and alcohol rehab.

Higher Cost than Outpatient Care: Just as college students pay more to live in campus than at home with their parents, living in inpatient care is more costly than outpatient rehabilitation programs. Not only do patients pay for the program, but for their costs of living as well. Inpatient care facilities cost anywhere from $6,000 to $20,000 per month. While the average outpatient rehab program costs $5,000 for three months.

Of course, there are options to reduce these costs, including medical insurance. Depending on your plan and provider, your stay at an inpatient facility could be partially covered. Even with this help, you’ll pay more than the standard outpatient option.

Missing Work and Losing Pay: It’s not just the money coming out of your pocket that makes Inpatient care so expensive, but the money that you miss coming into your pocket. Inpatient care requires those who are challenged with the substance use disorder to cut off access to their outside lives. This means no going to work, which could affect job security, income, and more.

Outpatient care has less on-demand support but allows patients to retain normalcy with day to day life. Going to work, the gym, and out to dinner is all still allowed while undergoing outpatient treatment.

Being Separated from Friends and Family: One of the toughest things the patient faces during rehab is missing out on seeing friends and family. For many, these people are the only support they’ve had throughout their addiction experience. Losing these supports leaves patients feeling alone. While there are peers to be met and group therapy to discuss concerns with others during inpatient care, it’s not the same as opening up to someone you trust.

Being apart from loved ones is particularly hard for patients who have spouses and children. For some, it may mean missing birthdays, milestones and special events with their families. Inpatient rehab centers offer visitation for family members, but it’s not the same as seeing them regularly.

Limited Freedom and Contact with Outside World: It’s not just family members who are cut off from the recovering patient during inpatient care. Patients are also removed from their friends and favorite activities. There’s no lunching with the ladies, or darts with the boys. Instead, patients enjoy specially regulated and monitored activities within the facility.

Limiting contact with the outside world isn’t meant as a punishment for those in recovery, but an aid. It’s so easy to be triggered during the first few months of recovery and seeing people who the person who is challenged with the substance use disorder used to imbibe with or around could cause a relapse. There’s also the possibility that while out visiting friends and family, a recovering patient could make a bad decision and get themselves into trouble, reverting back to step one of their program. For these and other reasons inpatient care has stronger restrictions than outpatient programs.

Difficulty Transitioning: Finally, and perhaps the most important con to consider is the difficulty the person challenged with the substance use disorder is, having to transition from an inpatient program into the real world. In an inpatient facility there are no triggers. Nobody drinks alcohol, there are no parties where drugs are readily available. Movies depicting drugs and alcohol are off limits, and patients don’t see old friends or visit old haunts where they might be tempted to relapse. Leaving this bubble of safety means relying on oneself to remain faithful to the program.

Of recovering addicts, up to 60% will relapse following treatment. This is a big deal, and part of the problem is not knowing how to handle themselves once they leave the safety of a program. Facing the real world and making decisions based on wants rather than what’s allowed could result in sticky situations. Outpatient care, on the other hand, has the patient living in the real world while undergoing treatment. There’s no harsh reality to face and overcome once they finish their treatment because they’ve never left.

Researching Alternative Treatments

While inpatient care is perfect for some in recovery, alternative treatments are better for others. One such alternative recovery process is found in online counseling. These internet programs allow patients to connect with a recovery coach from the privacy of home. Simple, private, secure, and affordable, online addiction counseling is a wonderful alternative to inpatient care. The best part is that online recovery programs provide ongoing support even after patients have completed a rehabilitation program.