Outpatient and inpatient treatment both treat substance addictions, but they differ in ways that one or the other could help or leave you still in need of substance abuse help if the wrong one is chosen. Depending on the severity of an addiction, a person will be placed in outpatient or inpatient treatment. If the patient goes to outpatient treatment, this means they get to go home as soon as the treatment session ends. With inpatient treatment, the patient spends the night at the rehab center for a few days or months until the doctor deems them healed.
Basics of Outpatient Treatment
Outpatient treatment programs are offered for patients with less severe cases of addiction and who can be helped without extensive overnight treatment. There are different types of outpatient programs out there. Some programs primarily offer education about the stages of addiction, how this affects the brain, and ways to manage symptoms of addiction like withdrawal and relapse.
Other outpatient services are like inpatient treatment because they offer detox programs and medications to manage withdrawal, except in outpatient programs, the patient gets to go home afterwards. Group counseling sessions are often used, some with the 12-step approach. The patient may also have scheduled sessions with a substance abuse counselor who will help them develop coping skills to help them overcome their addiction.
Basics of Inpatient Treatment
Inpatient treatment is offered in residential rehabilitation treatment programs for severe cases of drug or alcohol addiction, especially for those who have comorbidity. Comorbidity is the presence of either two substance addictions or a substance addiction and a mental disorder. These conditions are difficult to treat on an outpatient basis because the person may relapse at night when they go back home and are in need of 24-hour assistance to prevent that.
Some withdrawal symptoms for only a certain amount of addictive substances can become deadly without medical assistance. Staying in an inpatient facility may save someone’s life from these dangerous withdrawal reactions like seizures and comas. There are two main types of inpatient treatments, short-term residential treatment and long-term residential treatment.
Short-Term Residential Treatment
Short term residential treatment is based on the 12-step approach to substance addiction and usually ends after 3-6 weeks of staying overnight at a hospital. Afterwards, patients typically go to an outpatient program for further substance abuse help while attending a self-help group like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. This program is mostly for those who improve significantly after a few weeks in inpatient treatment and who therefore do not need long-term assistance or monitoring.
While the person is in short-term residential treatment, they will receive group therapy, individual counseling sessions, social support from self-help groups, and medications that decrease withdrawal symptoms. These act to reduce urges to relapse and should hopefully help the person realize that life without drugs is better.
Long-Term Residential Treatment
This kind of residential rehabilitation treatment program is for the most severe cases of substance addiction, normally for people who have been abusing drugs for several years. Long-term residential treatment typically lasts anytime from several months to 2 years. Cognitive behavioral therapy, 12-step programs, and relapse prevention training are some of the services provided during this type of treatment. Medications are given during the detoxification process, when patients cease taking the addictive substance, to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Long-term residential treatment is not just about helping the person achieve abstinence, but is also about changing that person’s entire lifestyle to prevent a future return to drugs or alcohol abuse.
Pros and Cons of Inpatient Treatment
Some inpatient programs omit family therapy because they believe that having people speak with their family about their addiction too soon could be overwhelming and disrupt the healing process. Families may be harmed by this and the fact that they may not see much of their loved one after their loved one enters the residential rehabilitation treatment program. Residential treatment, especially long-term treatment, can be expensive if not covered by insurance or if insurance only covers a certain amount of treatment.
However, inpatient treatment is important for those who will experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms without medication and for those who are likely to return to the drug as soon as they leave outpatient treatment. Some people may need the assistance of nurses and other staff to prevent themselves from relapsing.
Pros and Cons of Outpatient Treatment
Outpatient programs do not usually have housing or vocational training services for patients because they lack funding since they are not an inpatient program. Although, family therapy is offered openly at these facilities and works to improve family connections by providing psychoeducation and coping skills. This form of treatment is also less expensive than inpatient treatment and naturally allows flexibility in a patient’s schedule if that patient has important obligations, like work, outside of treatment. Inpatient treatment requires all of the patient’s time and may make the patient miss important events.
Is Outpatient or Inpatient Treatment Better?
Whether inpatient or outpatient treatment is better depends on the individual’s unique situation and level of addiction. If an addiction is severe enough to prevent the person from sleeping or if an addiction increases chances of overdose or death, then inpatient treatment is better. When a patient is struggling with an addiction, but can manage that addiction with some outside help, has a busy schedule, and poor insurance coverage, then outpatient treatment is better.
How to Find the Right Treatment Program for You
At the Recover, our goal is to provide you with relevant information that can help you make the best decisions when it comes to substance addiction. An addiction can make you feel like there is no way out, but with the help of trained professionals with a variety of resources, you have a fighting chance.
The Recover is an unbiased substance abuse and mental health news provider that offers the public information about treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction. We also provide information about West Virginia centers for addiction recovery. If you are still deciding whether you should seek substance abuse help, then call (888) 510-3898 today to talk with a treatment specialist who can help you find the right treatment program for your needs.