Taking the Leap: When Inpatient Care Is Necessary for Addiction Recovery

Deciding to take your first steps toward recovery can place you at a crossroads between two main paths: inpatient and outpatient care. Although many decide to opt for the outpatient experience, sometimes inpatient care is necessary. By calling into question the negative connotations of the inpatient experience, we can help those with substance abuse disorders resolve their fears around residential treatment.

It’s been a long time coming, but you’ve finally reached an impasse, and you know that you need help. You wake up every morning wanting to use, and that feeling isn’t going anywhere. If anything, it’s getting worse, and it’s starting to take its toll on your family and career. You know that you have two options before you: inpatient and outpatient care.

If this is where you are right now, know that you’ve taken the first (and perhaps the hardest) step towards recovery. Nonetheless, you may still be thinking about the reality of going through withdrawal, and the possibility of having to tell the people you know and work with. While outpatient care may let you manage your daily commitments, it’s not for everyone—and it may not offer the kind of support you need to truly free yourself from addiction.Withdrawal is real, as is the stigma that comes with addiction, but in a residential addiction center, your treatment team will support you through that withdrawal, and value your confidentiality and privacy just as much as you do.

How Do I Know If I Need Inpatient Care?


When you start thinking about your options, there are a number of things you’ll need to consider:

  • How long you’ve been using, and at what frequency
  • How intense your withdrawals are likely to be
  • Whether you live with any co-occurring mental health disorders

As you probably know, your first step in recovery is undergoing detox. During this period, you’ll likely experience withdrawal, and unfortunately, not all withdrawals are created equally. Benzodiazepine and alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening, and they both require careful medical supervision. What detox will look like for you is the first factor you’ll need to consider when determining whether inpatient care is necessary. If you’ve been drinking or taking benzodiazepines for years, outpatient care may not be able to support you in the way that you need, and, because of that, you may struggle to find a provider who will even consider outpatient as an option.

Treating substance abuse disorders in the presence of other co-occurring mental health disorders can also warrant an extended inpatient program. As an example, social anxiety disorder is known to have high comorbidity with alcoholism and cannabis dependence. Learning the coping strategies necessary for managing both substance use and mental health challenges takes time and persistence, and an outpatient setting may not be equipped to support you in that. Your weekly outpatient sessions might be helping you scratch the surface of your social anxiety triggers and how they relate to your urges to use, but they may not be enough to help you resolve them.

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Breaking Down the Negative Connotations of the Word “Inpatient”


When we think of “inpatient care”—whether we’re thinking of addictions treatment, mental health treatment, or both—we often conjure up the same, well-known set of images: cold, sterile hallways; restraints; locked doors. It doesn’t help that the media tends to sensationalize those images, perpetuating the idea of the “psych ward” experience. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, residential treatment is portrayed as a mental hospital where the guards are easily bribed, nurses have complete control over their patients, and sympathy for client well-being is almost non-existent. But as professor Wind Goodfriend explains, it’s a depiction that doesn’t reflect reality. “The film is largely out of date in terms of depicting hospital staff as manipulative or evil,” she writes. In her experience, residential treatment centers are “calm, healing environments—as they should be.”

Representations like the one in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest sell books and movie tickets, but they don’t represent the modern residential program by any stretch of the imagination. Think of it this way: at its core, residential addiction treatment is designed to be a place where you can address the things you most struggle with, and that necessitates that the setting be calm and tranquil, the environment supportive and non-judgmental, and the staff compassionate and kind.

Resolving Your Fears to Promote Recovery


Nonetheless, the stigma and misinformation that surround residential treatment are pervasive, and it’s understandable if you find yourself struggling with the image of the psych ward. What’s important is that you don’t allow that image to influence your decision-making when you’re considering outpatient or inpatient treatment. If you’re struggling with addiction, you may need a more comprehensive treatment experience than outpatient care can provide, and that’s OK. It’s more than OK. It means you’ve reached the point where you’re ready to seek recovery honestly and earnestly, and sometimes, that’s the hardest part of the process.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive inpatient care to people struggling with substance abuse disorders or other addictions. Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can support you or a loved one in overcoming addiction in a warm and supportive residential environment.