Inpatient vs. Outpatient Treatment

Notwithstanding the number of people who struggle with relapse issues after detoxing from substance use disorder, the large majority of those who set out to quit will ultimately succeed—though for some who struggle to commit to treatment, this is only on the third, fourth or fifth attempt. Often, the difference between success and setback is proper inpatient medical treatment, not just during physical detox but over the next several weeks.

What’s Involved in Successful Treatment?

Withdrawal—losing immediate physical cravings for a drug—is only the first step in a long recovery journey. If a patient immediately returns to the everyday world and the old routine, emotional cravings for the drugs (which were, after all, part of that “old normal”) will resurface at the first hint of stress or the first sight of the old bar. That pull may be impossible to resist—unless a person is prepared in advance through a qualified treatment program, including therapy, practiced new habits and a relapse-prevention plan.

Depending on the treatment center and the patient’s individual needs (and often on what’s covered by health insurance), a full rehab program may be as short as 6 weeks or as long as 12 months, but most medical experts recommend that addiction patients stay in treatment for at least 90 days. Longer programs offer the best prognosis for long-term recovery.

All treatment programs are not created equal, though. If nothing is required beyond occasional therapy appointments combined with MAT (Medication-Assisted Treatment) prescriptions, the benefits are few. Such a limited approach is the extreme of outpatient treatment, which sends patients home after detox but requires them to maintain ongoing accountability, usually by attending therapy and/or peer support groups several days a week.

The other major category of post-detox rehab is inpatient treatment, where patients live at the detox center or an associated campus for several weeks in a 24/7 drug-free environment. Although some studies indicate that certain forms of outpatient treatment are as effective as inpatient, research shows that the average person is more effectively served by inpatient treatment.

Advantages of Inpatient Treatment

The top advantage, of course, is that inpatient care ensures complete separation from drugs and drug-related temptations until patients adjust to sober living as a new normal. Other inpatient benefits include:

  • A relaxing, healthy environment in which to recuperate
  • A well-ordered daily schedule
  • Guaranteed accountability while planning for long-term sobriety
  • Quick access to doctors and therapists as needed
  • Living in close association with others who understand the struggles of addiction

If you’re seeking addiction treatment, and your first inclination is to opt for outpatient care rather than inpatient, think long and hard first. Is the treatment center convenient for regular commuting? Will it be easy to keep the neighborhood bar out of sight and out of mind? Can you rely on everyone in your home and work environments to actively support your sobriety in the vulnerable early weeks? Are you sure you aren’t just afraid the “everyday” world will fall apart without you there to take care of it? (One of the worst places to go immediately after detox is back into the stress-filled atmosphere of overwork.)

When Outpatient Treatment Can Work

If you still feel outpatient treatment is your personal best option, look for a program labeled “intensive outpatient”—an option that involves deep immersion, not simply medication or occasional counseling. Expect to attend several hours of appointments three to five days a week, and be prepared to keep all these appointments. Plan your outpatient schedule carefully, with the aid of a counselor, before you leave the detox hospital. And get at least one person at home, plus someone from the outpatient center, to actively hold you accountable for sticking to the program.

But again, consider inpatient care as your first-choice option. Any time “lost” from everyday responsibilities will be more than repaid in the resilience you build for future challenges.

Inpatient Care for Alcohol and Drug Addiction

Inpatient programs at Cumberland Heights are located in a peaceful rural environment where you can heal without distraction. We offer therapy, fellowship and a physically healthy atmosphere to prepare for your drug-free future. It’s never too late to get your life back: contact us today to learn more.