Major Pros and Cons of Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment Programs for Addiction Recovery


Addiction is a complex medical illness, and it can affect anyone. When someone is dealing with substance use disorder, they continue to use alcohol or drugs regardless of the negative impact it has on their lives. The individual and those around them are both impacted by the difficulties associated with substance abuse.

Though it may seem like an insurmountable obstacle to make that first step toward a sober life, it’s possible to start the path to recovery. When searching for the right direction to go, the number of options for recovery can seem overwhelming at times. Two of the primary treatment programs for addiction recovery include inpatient and outpatient. Both are focused on rehabilitation and have their pros and cons, and here we aim to help you choose the right direction.

An Outline of Inpatient Programs

Before deciding on which one is right for you, it’s helpful to know the key factors that make up both inpatient and outpatient programs. Some basics of inpatient programs include:

  • Detox upon admission
  • Controlled environment
  • 24 hours of both emotional and medical support
  • 30 days to 6 months of intensive care – you don’t leave the facility

Detox is the first step to recovery. Admission into an inpatient program will often start with medically assisted detox to eliminate all traces of drugs and alcohol from the patient’s body. Detox in a setting like this as opposed to at home is important because of the complications that are often involved in withdrawal, including relapse and potential overdose.

The detox portion of the program will typically last between three days to a week, and then that’s when the holistic approach is integrated into inpatient programs. A major benefit of inpatient programs is being surrounded by others going through the same process while also receiving individualized psychological care; without any of the stressors of daily life impacting recovery.

The controlled environment of inpatient programs allows complete focus on recovery and mental well-being, which is great for those who can afford to take this time away from the outside world. Though, with most inpatient programs, those undergoing treatment can still usually visit with family. Some inpatient care programs have more stringent policies on visitors and contact with friends and family.

The environment itself in inpatient programs varies drastically. Some are complete luxury resorts, and others are in a more hospital-type setting. Resort-style inpatient programs will tend to be more expensive, and both are pricier than outpatient programs.

An Outline of Outpatient Programs

Outpatient programs do not have as many restrictions as inpatient programs. Along with the options of inpatient and outpatient programs, outpatient care can be categorized into two different subtypes known as partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient. Both are often part of an extended recovery plan after a residential inpatient program.

Out of the two outpatient options, partial hospitalization is the most rigorous treatment program. This intensive outpatient program is typically done 5 to 6 days a week with 5 to 6 hours every day focused on addiction treatment and psychological care. While partial hospitalization is intensive, the amount of dedicated time required does not leave much room for work and other regular life tasks.

Though intensive outpatient programming is still completely focused on recovery steps, it allows patients more flexibility for other aspects of life. The primary focus of these long-term outpatient programs is to avoid relapse. They also help with co-occurring disorders that require support. The time commitment for outpatient programming is generally 3-5 days a week and lasts for 3 hours for each meeting.

Which Treatment Plan is Better? Inpatient or Outpatient?

Overall, which treatment plan is best depends on patients’ current goals and where they’re at in the process of recovery. Inpatient treatment is often a good starting point for those seeking help. Patients will be able to detox and spend an extended amount of time away from potential stressors such as work and they won’t be able to obtain any illicit substances while in an inpatient treatment program.

For those who struggle with maintaining recovery once outside of a highly controlled environment like inpatient programs, outpatient treatment can help with mitigating potential relapse. It’s also a great option for those who wish to seek help for co-occurring disorders like depression or PTSD due to its treatment over an even more extended amount of time. Outpatient treatment as the initial form of treatment can also work in some instances, particularly when the individual is unable to take a lot of time away from home.

Many people with addiction have co-occurring disorders because addiction is often a symptom of underlying emotional struggles. Drugs and alcohol often start as coping mechanisms for other issues. With extensive therapy in a safe environment, individuals can both talk out what’s on their mind and gain alternative coping mechanisms for underlying problems.

Inpatient programs are beneficial for those who can afford them. However, they may not align with many patients’ budgets or availability to be away from home for various reasons. Outpatient programs are more focused on long-term results and helping people adapt to an everyday life of sobriety.

Both can help with the path to recovery, and sometimes it may even make the most sense to start with an inpatient program and then move on to an outpatient program. After this treatment, many find it beneficial to continue with community support such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

It’s Not too Late To Seek Help

The first step to a path to sobriety is to understand the options and seek the best treatment for you or a loved one. For outpatient care that works, Achieve Wellness and Recovery has a few offerings that will put patients on the long-term path to sobriety. To see their offerings, visit company website for that first step to holistic wellness.

It’s important to know your options to take empowered steps on the path to recovery. Healing from addiction is a long-term commitment, but it is potentially the most important one someone struggling with these issues will ever take.


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