Drug Rehab: Outpatient vs. Inpatient – What’s The Difference?

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When an addict finally decides to seek out the help they so desperately need, they will have two primary types of addiction treatment programs to choose from: inpatient and outpatient.

Drug Rehab

Understanding the differences and similarities of these two programs will help make it easier for the addict and their loved ones to identify which is best for their individual needs. Similarities Between Inpatient and Outpatient Addiction Treatment Programs Inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment programs have many characteristics in common.

Both types of programs generally utilize individual and group therapy

Because addiction has an effect on the entire family, most provide couples and family therapy. Inpatient and outpatient programs also educate the addict and the family about the nature of addiction while guiding the addict through goal setting and monitoring of those goals. Differences Between Inpatient and Outpatient Addiction Treatment Programs The most obvious difference between an inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment program is the location of the patient during treatment. As the name implies, those who receive help through an inpatient treatment program remain at a treatment facility 24 hours per day. The exact number of days the patient remains at the inpatient treatment facility depends on the policies of the rehab center and the individual needs of the patient. In general, these programs last three to six weeks. After the intensive inpatient treatment is complete, it is generally suggested that the patient receive extensive outpatient treatment.


An outpatient program, on the other hand, allows the patient to remain at home while undergoing treatment. This makes it possible for the addict to continue working and to be with his family while undergoing care.

In an outpatient program, the patient attends treatment during the day. As with inpatient treatment, the number of days the addict attends treatment per week and the length of the program depends on the rehab center policies and the individual needs of the addict. 85% of people participating in an addiction recovery program opt for outpatient treatment. Another option some addicts choose to follow is partial hospitalization. With this type of treatment, the patient remains home at night, but attends treatment more frequently than a person undergoing standard outpatient treatment. Generally, a person in a partial hospitalization program attends the program three to seven days per week for three to twelve hours per day.

Advantages of Outpatient Treatment

When it comes to choosing the right addiction recovery program, there are many factors to consider. For example, an outpatient treatment program may be best for a person that:

  • Needs to continue working every day while undergoing treatment
  • Cannot afford to pay for inpatient treatment, which tends to be quite costly
  • Needs to remain near to family
  • Has a supportive household that will ensure he attends treatment programs and carries through with program goals while at home

It is important to note that a person utilizing outpatient treatment needs to be able to deal with the real world while recovering from addiction. For some, this is too much to bear, while for others the daily tests they encounter can help to strengthen their commitment and their methods of coping with addiction. A partial hospitalization program has many of the same advantages of an outpatient addiction treatment program. It does, however, provide more structure and more intensive programming than outpatient treatment. Partial hospitalization is usually more costly than outpatient treatment, but less costly than inpatient.

Advantages of Inpatient Treatment

There are many reasons to consider inpatient addiction treatment rather than outpatient. These reasons include:

  • The addict has already undergone outpatient or partial hospitalization treatment and it was unsuccessful
  • The addict has other medical problems, such as digestive problems, liver problems, infections, heart problems, anxiety, or intense depression that requires a greater amount of attention
  • The addict lives too far away from the drug rehab center to make outpatient treatment feasible
  • The home situation of the addict is chaotic and unable to provide the support necessary

Despite its advantages, inpatient treatment can be difficult to undertake. Perhaps the hardest aspect is the difficulty patients have reconnecting with their community, family, and friends after being away for a period of time. It can also be difficult to provide after care services to a patient that lives far away from the treatment facility.

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