What is acute care?
Acute care refers to short-term medical treatments, like those for sudden injuries or illnesses. Examples of these are trips to the emergency room, minor surgeries for injuries, or medications for temporary pain. Intensive care units are also considered acute care, as patients only stay for relatively short times in ICUs.
Basically, any medical intervention that is meant only for a short time is under acute care. The conditions they address are also sudden, unexpected, and are particularly dangerous to patients’ lives or well-being. Also, after the care has been given, patients may be discharged from the hospital immediately. There is no need to stay for much longer.
What is inpatient rehab?
Inpatient rehab is a type of addiction recovery method. Here, patients stay and live inside a rehab center for the entire duration of their rehab program. This can anywhere from 28 days to six months, depending on the patients’ needs and how severe their addictions are.
Is addiction recovery short term?
Recovering from addiction is definitely not a quick process. It encompasses a range of therapies, which may include medical interventions, but it is not meant to be a short-term treatment. Rather, addiction recovery takes time, as both physical and mental aspects must be addressed. The end goal is for patients to live healthy, sober lives.
Compared to acute care facilities like ERs and ICUs, though, inpatient rehab centers are not places to run to in case of health emergencies brought about by addiction. For example, if drug users experience overdose, they would not run to an inpatient rehab facility for treatment. Instead, they would go to a hospital.
In this case, inpatient rehab is not considered acute care.
But inpatient rehabs give medical interventions too
A crucial part of any inpatient rehab program is what’s known as medically-assisted detox. This is a treatment that aims to rid the body of all traces of addictive substances. Patients may also be given medications to help with the detox. The process is also supervised by medical doctors and nurses.
However, in the wider context of addiction recovery, medically-assisted detox is not acute care. Rather, it is just one stage of a much longer treatment process.
Also, patients are not given detox and then immediately discharged from the rehab facility. The detox is only the first step in the recovery process. They would still have to stay in the rehab facility until their recovery program is over.
Are there acute care methods of addiction treatment?
Actually, there are. Acute care methods deal with late-stage effects of addiction, like overdose. The aim is to keep patients physically and psychologically stable. It does not focus on supporting patients on their journey to recovery.
This acute care model is much like what’s done in hospitals. Admit a patient, diagnose the issue, give an immediate or short-term treatment, then discharge the patient once the treatment regimen has been completed.
Aftercare, which is often essential in addiction recovery, is just an afterthought. It’s not a priority in acute care models.
Why are acute care models used if they’re not that effective anyway?
One huge reason for this is insurance. Many health insurance policies do not fully cover lengthy inpatient rehab procedures, which can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. But in acute care settings, the duration of treatment is way shorter, so the cost is smaller. In turn, these procedures are easier to cover by insurance providers.
Is acute care for addiction any good?
Despite the lack of much-needed long-term support, acute care models do have value for some people. For example, those who have minor cases of substance abuse can benefit a lot from acute care methods. Many of them are already in long-term, stable recovery. Not only is acute care faster, but also more affordable.
For those with more severe cases of substance abuse, acute care models are still useful as a first step. After that, they should be given continuous support and therapy instead of being “discharged” right after acute care treatments are given.
Why is acute care not enough for addiction recovery?
Most inpatient rehab programs require patients to stay for at least a month in a facility. This length of time isn’t quite as “acute” as many acute care methods.
Why is that so?
That’s because addiction recovery is not like treating an acute condition like fever, muscle pain, or a headache. Rather, it’s more like treating chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure. Short-term interventions can be used to treat symptoms, but the effects of addiction must be managed continuously.
Most of the time, long-term support is needed to guarantee successful recovery from an addiction. This includes behavioral therapies, counseling, psychotherapies, and others. These methods require consistency and a lot of time to be effective. Restricting these processes to just a few days will not cut it.
Also, aftercare is usually an essential part of successful recoveries. As the name suggests, aftercare is done after the inpatient rehab process is over. When patients are “discharged” from the rehab center, aftercare provides continuous interventions as they go back home. Therapists or counselors may check up on the patients regularly, say once a week. Also, they may help the patients’ family members in providing environments that would keep the patients sober for a long time. Family members may also be taught to recognize addiction triggers and how to help patients avoid those situations. With that, relapse is much less likely to happen.
Inpatient rehab must be approached holistically
Rehab is not an immediate cure for addiction. It is not a set of medications that patients can take that will quickly remove the urge to take substances.
Rather, effective inpatient rehab addresses the whole person. It removes the physical cravings for addictive substances, and it corrects patterns of behaviors and thinking destroyed by the addiction. Both aspects cannot be addressed with acute care alone. Recovery is a long-term process, and it may take decades, if not a lifetime of continuous care.