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Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Treatment: Recovery Options – Addiction Center

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Drug and alcohol treatment programs generally fall into 1 of 2 categories — inpatient or outpatient rehab. While equally focused on rehabilitation, each type has unique attributes and benefits to offer. Inpatient rehabs are intensive, residential treatment programs designed to treat serious addictions. Outpatient rehabs are part-time programs, allowing the recovering user to keep going to work or school during the day.
It’s important that both the individual with a substance use disorder (SUD) and their loved ones understand the differences before selecting a treatment program. Exploring all options prior to making a decision can put you or a loved one on the road to long-term sobriety.
Inpatient recovery programs, also known as residential treatment, require patients to check themselves into a controlled environment to overcome their addictions. Patients stay at a clinic with 24-hour medical and emotional support.
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It’s important to properly prepare for rehab. There’s no set amount of time needed to prepare for treatment. It is important to set an entry date for rehab and to have affairs settled before that date.
Some of the things to take care of before entering rehab include:
Successful inpatient clinics know family involvement is crucial to recovery. Family members can contact loved ones in residential treatment to provide emotional support and encouragement.
When it comes to how and how often residents can communicate with their loved ones, each inpatient center’s policy is different. Some rehab centers also provide counseling for the family of the individual in treatment.

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You have options. Talk about them with a treatment provider today.
(833) 303-1467
During inpatient treatment, residents are able to completely focus on getting well and sober without the distractions of everyday life. A typical day in residential treatment is carefully scheduled and accounted for. Psychologists, counselors, and psychiatrists meet with patients individually and in group settings to guide inpatient recovery. A typical inpatient program runs anywhere from 28 days to 6 months.
The first step in inpatient treatment is medically assisted detox. Physicians and addiction specialists monitor patients’ vital signs while the drugs exit the system. Drug cravings are common during detox and can be difficult to overcome, often leading to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps guard against relapse. Clinicians can provide necessary medicine and medical expertise to lessen cravings and withdrawals.
The brain reacts differently to different addictive substances over time and a course of frequent use. Withdrawal symptoms aren’t pleasant for any drug, but some drugs should never be quit without medical supervision. Some withdrawals can be fatal. Lethal withdrawals are linked to drugs like synthetic Opiates, Benzodiazepines, alcohol, and Heroin. During inpatient rehab, patients have access to 24-hour medical attention. This attention can mean the difference between relapse and recovery.
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Outpatient drug rehab is less restrictive than inpatient programs. Outpatient recovery programs usually require 10 to 12 hours a week spent visiting a local treatment center.
These sessions focus on drug abuse education, individual and group counseling, and teaching addicted people how to cope without their drug. Outpatient drug rehab can be a good standalone option for someone with a mild addiction, or it can be part of a long-term treatment program. Outpatient drug rehab can last 3 to 6 months — something similar to inpatient treatment — or over a year.
Patients with mild-to-moderate drug withdrawal symptoms might find outpatient detoxification a fitting alternative to residential detox. Outpatient detox is safe, effective, and takes less time to complete than inpatient detox; the average outpatient detox is 6.5 days.
Patients must visit a hospital or other treatment facility for physical and mental check-ups during outpatient detox. Clinicians or doctors might administer medications on-site to soothe withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, depression, and increased heart rate.
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Outpatient drug rehab allows those in recovery to remain at home during treatment. Those undergoing outpatient drug rehab can continue working and remain close to family and friends. Outpatient treatment centers usually conduct meetings at night or in the early morning, helping those in the program maintain their normal schedules.
Twelve-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) may be used as part of outpatient treatment. Studies show that participating in recovery groups like AA and NA helps recovering addicts stay sober. Many individuals with a substance use disorder (SUD) also turn to outpatient treatment after completing an inpatient program as part of their continued recovery.
Inpatient treatment programs typically cost more than outpatient drug rehab. The on-hand medical care and psychotherapy available to residential rehab patients increases treatment costs. The price difference should not encourage or discourage someone from choosing the best treatment route for them.
No matter which treatment option you choose for you or a loved one, rehab can change your life. Addiction is a chronic illness, and recovery is a lifelong process. Medical professionals, mental health counselors, and community groups like AA can teach the necessary skills to avoid relapse. Take the first step toward recovery and contact a treatment provider today.
Last Edited: January 12, 2022
Jeffrey Juergens
Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffrey’s desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffrey’s mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.
Clinically Reviewed: December 7, 2018
David Hampton
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.
David embarked on his journey into sobriety in June of 2005, which led him to his current career path as a Certified Professional Addiction Recovery Coach in private practice in Greater Nashville. David is also a public speaker and the author of two books. David is cohost of the weekly Positive Sobriety Podcast, as well as being a frequent contributor to various articles and recovery based materials. As a member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC), David works closely with Nashville area treatment centers, nonprofit recovery organizations, and consulting with faith-based groups trying to bridge the gap between the recovery communities and faith-based organizations who wish to understand addiction.
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