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What is the Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab for Addiction?

You, a friend or a loved one may be suffering from drug or alcohol addiction. If there is even the slightest question about drug or alcohol abuse, a professional assessment is strongly recommended. When a problem is uncovered, there is also help.

One way to help treat various addictions is through treatment. There are essentially two types of programs. There are residential inpatient facilities, plus outpatient programs. Frequently, residential facilities offer both inpatient and outpatient rehab programs for addiction.

Like many people struggling with addiction, you may wonder if there is a difference. Although both options strive to help clients recover from addiction, there are some major differences between them. Here are some differences between inpatient and outpatient rehab programs for addiction to help you make the right choice.

What is the Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab for Addiction?

Living Environment

The single biggest difference between inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment programs will be your living environment. Inpatient treatment facilities provide you with safe and secure housing while you go through your treatment. These facilities offer you a chance to commingle with others who are struggling to recover from drug or alcohol addiction. Your daily schedule is usually very structured. This can be a welcoming facet of recovery. It especially benefits the most serious addiction cases, situations where the problem has caused life to spiral out of control.

Often, structure is a key component missing from your life. Inside the secure environment of a residential facility, you can work towards successful recovery. You will live and work within your program without being subjected to the temptations that might be inherent in your home setting. Your home environment may not present triggers or temptations to relapse, but the stress of home life can also be an issue.

There are situations, however, where outpatient treatment is a better option for certain individuals. You will not have to explain an absence from work or from your community. Clients can often carry on with their normal daily activities when not attending to their outpatient obligations. Outpatient treatment does not mean the program less significant. The major difference is where you live. If you think your home environment is too challenging, or the courts have suggested an in-house facility, you should lean towards an inpatient program. Outpatient programs tend to be more effective for less severe addictions.

Length of Time

Drug treatment centers will offer programs of varying lengths. These different lengths of treatment are not usually restricted by either inpatient or outpatient plans. However, most inpatient treatment centers have a minimum stay requirement. These requirements are based on proven methods of success. Similar to requesting a residential environment, courts can also place minimum lengths on either type of treatment program. A majority of inpatient programs are no less than 28 days in duration.

Most inpatient facilities have treatment plans that span various amounts of time, from one month to a full year. Likewise, outpatient treatment plans can be different lengths. There are basic outpatient plans that are as short as two weeks. Most of the time, however, drug treatment centers have much longer plans designed for residential clients. In addition, outpatient treatment plans frequently follow a period of in-house treatment.

The duration of either program should be based on a professional recommendation from a drug and alcohol counselor. In lieu of a specific request from the courts, inpatient treatment is commonly between 30 and 180 days. It is commonly suggested that an outpatient program follows an inpatient residential stay. Since one of the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse is death, these can seem like very short lengths of time for successful recovery and a healthy life.

Intense Recovery

The third difference between inpatient and outpatient rehab programs for addiction addresses the intensity of recovery. This by no means a knock against outpatient treatment plans. However, being in an environment that is totally dedicated to recovery has an inherent intensity. People who share your common dilemma will surround you with a level of sincere understanding. Inpatient treatment centers also provide patients the ability to focus solely on recovery without any distractions.

An alcohol and drug rehab facility has the unique capability of putting people from all walks of life together, to focus on one common goal. Being in an in-house facility will help you eliminate the differences between people in recovery, and learn to concentrate on your unified objective. The goal of every person who registers as a client to inpatient treatment centers is to live clean and sober. Again, not that outpatient programs do not have a viable place in recovery, sometimes not everyone there has reached a critical point in life.

You may have reached the conclusion that a life embroiled in drug or alcohol abuse is really no life at all. When your life reaches this point, the intensity of inpatient recovery may be your wisest choice. Alcohol and drug rehab facilities that provide inpatient treatment will have a compassionate staff available, usually 24 hours a day. You will benefit from a structured daily schedule that will have your ultimate success in mind. There you will be able to receive the support of your peers in recovery. Some of these friendships will become so strong they will last the rest of your life. If for no other reason, inpatient recovery is different from outpatient in the level of intensity of the program.

Detox Period and Success Rate

There may also be subtle differences between inpatient and outpatient alcohol and drug rehab programs. Certain facilities that offer only outpatient plans may not provide a detox center. This is a critical part of early recovery. In cases of severe chemical dependency, you should definitely consider one of the inpatient treatment centers on your list. Many inpatient centers have their own detox program or an outside detox program they can refer you to.

Another difference that may not get discussed enough is the success rate. There is no treatment program that can provide a guarantee for your clean and sober life. However, the rate of successful recovery for inpatient vs. outpatient is higher for those who choose a residential facility. With this knowledge, and depending on the severity of the addiction, an informed decision can be made.

While it’s normal to be apprehensive about going to a residential treatment facility, there are important advantages. When you make this ultimate decision, always remember to follow the advice of professionals. In the end, the difference between inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment could be your life.


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Will my insurance cover treatment for addiction?

The Detox Center of L.A. accepts most major insurance providers and private healthcare policies. We offer free insurance verification as well as eligibility and benefits for both behavioral and mental health treatment services. Please fill out our insurance verification form here to verify your insurance.

What happens in addiction

Effective addiction treatment programs are tailored to each individual. Because of this, it will be a different experience for everyone. However, it generally involves a combination of detoxification, group and individual therapy, educational presentations, and aftercare planning in order to ensure long-term recovery. Upon arrival at The Detox Center of L.A., you can expect our professionally trained staff to create an individualized treatment plan based on your needs and treatment goals.