What Is Acute Rehabilitation?

Health care occurs on many levels. Primary care equals a visit to a health care professional — and involves check-ups, screenings, and counseling.

It’s usually the first point of contact. With good health and perhaps some good luck, many people’s visits will stop there, especially if a person’s high blood pressure, depression, back pain, or other condition is managed.

Secondary care is more urgent — a necessary and often shorter treatment period for some kind of illness or injury. It can involve a visit to the emergency room, but it also can involve more specialized care, including occupational or psychological therapies.

Acute care lands in that secondary realm.

What Is Acute Rehab?

Acute care provides immediate and usually short-term treatment. It’s the opposite of long-term care. Besides a hospital, it can also occur at some other specialty center — including an inpatient rehabilitation facility.

A person recovering from substance abuse very likely will end up in acute rehab. Because each situation is unique, however, the prescribed care may vary.

Substance abuse care often lands in the acute rehab level.

Some liken acute inpatient rehab to putting out a fire — fixing the more urgent problem, right at that moment, whether it’s seizures from alcohol withdrawal or managing the severe anxiety that can accompany quitting benzodiazepines (benzos).

It’s worth noting that most people with substance abuse problems do recover on their own, but some will invariably need extra treatment. Consider it a life-saving fire prevention strategy that sets the stage for continuing the recovery process.

Since addicts do tend to have more incidents of acute care hospitalization, a longer-term and more targeted care plan can result in better outcomes — lowering the likelihood of relapse.

Acute Rehabilitation

Acute rehabilitation centers can help a client through the struggles and complications that accompany addiction.

For example, a person with severe burns who also struggles with an opioid use disorder can benefit from acute care. There, medication may be administered on a schedule, which tends to be safer for someone with a substance use disorder. (By only dosing once the pain wears off, a person can reinforce drug-seeking behaviors.)

Acute care can also be part of a person’s hospital stay. Occupational, physical, speech and language, and other therapies can be provided (as needed) to help a client return to earlier levels of functioning or to regain some skills. Education — both for clients and family members — may also occur (also as needed).

Take The First Step Towards Recovery

Talk to a Intake Coordinator

  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Acute vs. Sub-Acute: What’s the Difference?

Sub-acute care also often factors into someone’s journey into sobriety. Some refer to it as detoxification (detox) — where professionals provide inpatient care to help individuals stabilize or recover.

This stage tends to be more short-term. People with severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, for example, may experience delirium tremens (DTs) — a condition that may produce extreme confusion, fever, seizures, and hallucinations. This condition could be life-threatening.

It’s most urgent to get people with DTs stabilized and comfortable. Once that occurs, the focus can shift to abstinence.

Other substances — opioids, benzodiazepines, and stimulants, for example — will require different approaches and different timelines.

Finding an Acute Rehab Center

Everyone’s story is unique, and that applies for anyone’s substance use disorder as well. The person who is seeking treatment either for themselves or for a loved one should first focus on getting out of immediate danger and finding appropriate medical attention.

From there, visiting resources such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) behavioral health treatment services locator or consulting with a trusted medical professional can be a solid first step toward finding the right acute rehabilitation facilities or inpatient recovery center.

Doing so can address one’s unique needs — be it by specific substance addiction, co-occurring disorders, location, or special circumstances (such as being a veteran). The most important thing, however, is to seek help.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

Sunshine Behavioral Health Facilities


Chapters Capistrano


Monarch Shores


Mountain Springs


Willow Springs


Lincoln Recovery

Find out more about our admissions process