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Inpatient vs. Outpatient: Which is the Best Option for Treating Addiction?

Deciding about inpatient addiction treatment versus outpatient treatment programs for alcohol and drug addiction is a complex choice. This guide will discuss the differences between to two approaches and the potential advantages and disadvantages. Every person’s path to recovery is a major challenge. Some try and fail many times when seeking to get clean and sober.

Both inpatient drug rehabs and outpatient care can be helpful. In fact, successful recovery may be aided by these two types of treatment programs when they are used together. Inpatient care transitions to outpatient care automatically once a person is discharged from a treatment facility. Many succeed in recovery through outpatient drug rehabs without the need for inpatient addiction treatment.

The main treatment difference between inpatient and outpatient programs is that a person who needs medically-supervised detox support or has serious mental health issues should have inpatient care.

Here are the considerations and comparisons of inpatient drug rehabs with outpatient drug rehabs:

Inpatient Addiction Treatment – What Is It?

Inpatient care includes 24-hour supervision and help with detox, physical needs, and emotional support. It usually includes one-on-one talk therapy, 12-step programs, and group support sessions. Patients check-in to an inpatient care facility for a certain period.

Cost is an important consideration. Inpatient programs provide 24-hour medical supervision and support in a secure environment. The care in these inpatient treatment centers is more costly than participating in an outpatient program.

If a person can afford inpatient treatment, the chances of success in safely getting clean are very good. There are significant benefits in having medically-supervised detox. There is also the possibility of medically-aided detox programs that manage life-threatening risks and reduce the suffering from withdrawal.

Getting clean through detox is a physical process that must be endured; however, the process has a known time-limit. Usually, detox is achievable within a few days, up to the maximum of a few weeks, for very severe cases. Almost everyone who fully participates in detox, without cheating, gets through it. Staying clean afterward is the real challenge.

Advantages of an Inpatient Drug Rehab Program

  • A patient stays in the facility under 24-hour care and supervision.
  • Designed for the treatment of serious addictions.
  • Medically-supervised detox to manage withdrawal symptoms.
  • Medications may help to reduce withdrawal symptoms and taper-off drugs.
  • Focus on treatment with no distractions, stress, and pressure from outside life.
  • Success rate may be higher.
  • Easy transition to outpatient care for long-term treatment.

Disadvantages of Inpatient Facilities

  • Can be costly.
  • Outside life activities (job, career etc.) are disrupted.
  • Lack of personal freedom.
  • Severe regimentation of the daily schedule.
  • Limited time. Typical programs are for a few weeks up to a few months.

What is Outpatient Treatment for Addiction?

Outpatient care includes regular and frequent participation in sessions at a treatment facility. These sessions include psychotherapy of various kinds, such as cognitive therapy and anger management. It may also include counseling for marital problems, vocational issues, and recovery training that includes relapse-prevention strategies. There are usually 12-step programs and group support sessions.

Outpatient treatment can serve as continuing support after release from an inpatient treatment program or it can be used separately. For those with addictions that are not so severe, which have withdrawal symptoms that are not life-threatening, outpatient programs may be an excellent choice.

It is important to understand the distinction between basic outpatient care, which may only have weekly or bi-weekly sessions and intensive outpatient care (IOP), which has at least three weekly sessions of three hours each. IOP programs have similar success rates to inpatient care. Basic outpatient programs have a lower success rate when compared to inpatient care.

Advantages of Outpatient Programs

  • Less costly.
  • Works well as aftercare, when released from inpatient care.
  • Effective for those with milder addictions.
  • A patient stays at home and goes to a treatment clinic for sessions.
  • Regular life (job, career, family etc.) is not completely disrupted.
  • Available for long-term care and aftercare for a few months to many years.
  • More personal freedom.
  • Family and close friends can participate in some sessions.

Disadvantages of Outpatient Treatment

  • Not appropriate for severe addictions that need medically-supervised detox.
  • Not as successful as inpatient care.
  • More personal freedom requires more self-control of the patient.
  • Requires a serious commitment to succeed by attending sessions regularly and staying clean when not supervised.

Which is Better? Inpatient or Outpatient?

Evidence-based research published in the Psychiatric Services journal in an article entitled Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Programs: Assessing the Evidence concluded that the success rates of recovery from alcohol and drug dependency are similar when comparing inpatient programs with intensive outpatient programs.

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are defined as offering more support that weekly or bi-weekly sessions that are usually part of basic outpatient care. IOP programs offer at least three sessions of three hours each per week. IOP programs with more sessions are more effective.

Let Principles Recovery Center Help You Make the Right Choice

Choosing inpatient or outpatient care is not an either/or proposition for those who can afford it. If budget is not a hindrance, most do better by starting recovery in an inpatient setting for a short time and then transitioning to outpatient care. If that is not possible, just commit with all your possible inner strength to participate in an intensive outpatient care program and you are still just as likely to succeed. In case you are wondering when to do this, the time to get help is right now, so call us.

Contact Principles Recovery Center, a drug rehab in South Florida that offers an intimate, evidence-based program that treats mental health + substance abuse. Our family-owned-and-operated treatment center offers you the opportunity to overcome addiction once and for all at our treatment program that produces results. Call us now at 1-866-692-0909 or verify your insurance benefits to get started on your journey to recovery.

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