Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Drug And Alcohol Rehab Programs
Rehab programs for drug and alcohol addiction are offered in both inpatient or outpatient settings. In many cases, inpatient treatment is more effective because it provides a highly structured program with 24-hour professional support.
Addiction is a relapsing brain disease that demands ongoing attention and care. Although addiction is a treatable disease, treatment is complex. There is no “best” treatment for everyone, and the most effective choice depends on individual needs.
However, researchers and addiction treatment professionals agree that people need long-term and continued care to achieve long-lasting recovery. Care and treatment is provided in inpatient or outpatient settings, or through a combination of both. An effective route of treatment for someone with severe addiction is likely first entering an inpatient rehab program, then, after completing the program, following up with outpatient services.
What Are Inpatient Drug And Alcohol Rehab Programs?
Inpatient rehab programs typically take place in hospitals or residential treatment facilities. Also called residential treatment, these rehab facilities are often in secluded locations, far removed from the distractions of everyday life. What separates inpatient rehab from outpatient programs is that a person lives at the facility for the duration of treatment.
Most programs will begin with or require a medically supervised detox program to ensure the person is ready for treatment. After detox is complete, staff can help transition the person into the inpatient rehab program, which is most effective immediately following detox.
Because rehab programs take place in a live-in setting, treatment will be highly structured in a safe and supportive environment. Inpatient rehab programs focus on changing behavior related to drugs or alcohol and addressing addiction with a variety of evidence-based services and amenities. An inpatient rehab program is likely a good option for those receiving treatment for the first time, as the structured environment can ensure the person is substance-free and motivated to engage in treatment.
Benefits And Drawbacks Of Inpatient Rehab Programs
As with any type of treatment, inpatient rehab programs have both pros and cons. A person entering addiction treatment must consider all aspects of treatment, as well as factors such as severity and duration of substance abuse, before deciding on a program.
Some benefits of inpatient rehab programs include:
- 24-hour medical care and supervision
- access to psychiatric evaluation and treatment
- additional activities like yoga, exercise, and meditation
- round-the-clock peer and professional support
- a controlled and structured environment that reduces the risk of relapse
- intensive, evidence-based treatment and care
- limited distractions; removal from stressors and triggers
- treatment for co-occurring mental illness
Drawbacks of inpatient rehab programs may include:
- added costs for room and board
- having to take time off work or school
- time away from friends and family
Many participants of inpatient rehab programs report the importance of having access to support groups, psychiatrists and a strong support system to promote long-lasting wellness in recovery. During treatment, psychiatric support is crucial to help those suffering from addiction and other mental health conditions.
What Are Outpatient Drug And Alcohol Rehab Programs?
Outpatient rehab programs encompass a wide variety of treatments and therapies for addiction. The person continues to live at home and travels daily or weekly to receive treatment. These programs can take place in multiple locations, like professional offices, community clinics, and hospitals.
Only select outpatient programs include high-intensity treatments, and most revolve around therapy and counseling services. Common behavioral therapies offered in outpatient programs include:
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- multidimensional family therapy
- motivational interviewing
- motivational incentives
Outpatient addiction treatment is best for people with mild addictions which do not put themselves or others at risk. Treatment is usually offered fewer than nine hours per week and can include therapy and counseling, medication-assisted therapy (MAT) and other behavioral services.
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Benefits And Drawbacks Of Outpatient Rehab Programs
People with severe or persistent substance abuse and addiction issues will likely benefit most from inpatient treatment. For those who are unsure if they can commit to an inpatient treatment program, though, they must weigh the pros and cons of outpatient treatment.
Some benefits of outpatient rehab programs can include:
- apply therapy techniques to real-life situations
- continue to live at home; can still go to work or school
- have access to friends and family for added support
- lower costs
Drawbacks of outpatient rehab programs can include:
- lack of round-the-clock medical care
- lack of support at home if the home environment is unstable
- limited accountability for using drugs or alcohol during treatment
- limited care and medical support during withdrawal
- risk of exposure to drugs or alcohol during treatment
- traveling several times a week to receive treatment; long commutes
Outpatient addiction treatment can be effective for some, but risky for others. Without a strong support system at home, outpatient programs may not be enough to help a person sustain a substance-free life. If a person has access to using drugs or alcohol during treatment, then recovery can be jeopardized.
What’s The Best Option?
There is no single treatment that is best for everyone. However, the longer a person receives treatment, the better chance they have for achieving long-term recovery. In general, outpatient treatment is the least intensive treatment available. For many people, inpatient addiction treatment is a better option because it’s more intensive and offers a range of medical and addiction treatment services in a highly structured environment.
Inpatient treatment varies greatly in approach, level of structure and recovery philosophy. Although vast, these programs can be more effective than outpatient programs, especially when a person suffers from a co-occurring mental illness. Without the 24-hour professional care, support and supervision, many people with severe addictions may succumb to cravings, struggle with withdrawal symptoms and fall deeper into the cycle of addiction.
Why Inpatient Rehab Programs Are Effective
Inpatient programs provide access to multiple addiction services and treatments. Additionally, inpatient rehab centers offer 24-hour medical care and supervision, ongoing professional support and a safe and structured environment which caters to healing and growth in recovery.
Because inpatient programs take place in well-equipped facilities, quality rehab centers will likely offer the essential components of addiction treatment, which can include:
- withdrawal support during detoxification — During a medically supervised detox program, staff can administer medications, provide safety and comfort and help prepare a person for further treatment. Treatment should immediately follow detox for the best chances of recovery, and medically supervised detox programs can provide a smooth transition into addiction treatment.
- addiction medications — Certain inpatient facilities may have access to medications and use them alongside therapy to help promote engagement in and completion of treatment. Government-approved medications are available to treat addictions to alcohol and opioids.
- behavioral therapy — Behavioral therapy is the most common form of addiction treatment and is used to help change a person’s thinking and attitudes towards drugs. Inpatient rehab centers usually employ several therapists and psychiatrists to provide a variety of therapies, which can be effective for addressing multiple issues.
- treatment for co-occurring mental health issues — Suffering from both addiction and mental illness is called co-occurring disorders, dual diagnosis or comorbidity. Having multiple disorders complicates treatment, which must address both conditions at the same time. Inpatient programs provide crucial access to 24-hour medical supervision and care, which is recommended for treating co-occurring disorders.
- peer support — Self-help support groups and 12-step meetings are frequently attended by those at inpatient rehab centers. These programs work to supplement evidence-based therapies and treatment methods with an extra layer of support.
- special group programs — Some inpatient rehab centers provide special group programs to treat certain populations. These populations can include men, women, pregnant women, women with children, adults in poor health, adolescents, LGBTQIA persons, professionals and people involved in the criminal justice system.
- additional amenities and activities — inpatient rehab centers offer extra activities incorporated into evidence-based treatments. These activities help promote healthy lifestyles, positive relationships, and participation in treatment. Examples of additional amenities and activities include swimming, hiking, yoga and meditation, outdoor recreation and private bedrooms and bathrooms.
How Long Does An Inpatient Rehab Program Last?
Treatment lengths are highly individualized and depend on the particular rehab program. In general, inpatient addiction treatment is typically offered in short-term or long-term programs.
Short-term programs last fewer than 30 days. These programs are intensive and can include 12-step programming, medical support during detox, therapy and counseling and a focus on returning back to the community.
Long-term stays range between 30-, 60-, 90-, and 120-day programs. These programs are even more intensive and focus on changing behaviors relating to substance abuse. Some long-term programs are called extended care, which may provide treatment for six months, a year or longer. While there is no predetermined length for effective treatment, staying in treatment long enough to foster both sobriety and personal growth is essential for long-lasting recovery.
Outpatient Programs After Inpatient Treatment
Although inpatient treatment is likely more effective for addressing all the issues surrounding addiction, outpatient programs can help as an overall continuum of care after an inpatient rehab program. Upon leaving an inpatient facility, a person will likely be exposed to real-life stressors and situations that could trigger a relapse. To further prevent relapse, it can be effective to attend outpatient therapy and counseling programs, peer support or 12-step meetings and other medical and behavioral care services.
Many inpatient facilities will offer aftercare planning to help coordinate outpatient services after discharge. Inpatient rehab programs are designed to promote long-term recovery, but the truth is relapse is common, especially without ongoing care and support. Further treatment in outpatient programs can help sustain and reinforce what was learned at the residential facility, as recovering individuals continue practices to successfully manage addiction.
For more information about inpatient drug and alcohol rehab programs, contact us today.
National Institute on Drug Abuse — Drug Facts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction, Types of Treatment Programs
National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse — Guide to Finding Quality Addiction Treatment
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Treatments for Substance Use Disorders, Pathways to Healing and Recovery