Inpatient vs. Outpatient: The Facts on Drug and Alcohol Rehab

At, we help residents of Montana, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Idaho, and every state in the union locate the perfect addiction treatment options for their needs. We offer access to both inpatient and outpatient drug and alcohol rehab services, so we’re accustomed to hearing site visitors ask us which is the best drug and alcohol rehab option. The truth is that there’s no single perfect option for everyone; instead, you need to find the addiction treatment arrangement that works best with your needs and lifestyle.

Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab Benefits

Inpatient addiction treatment is the most comprehensive drug and alcohol treatment option, making it an ideal option for addicts who have tried another approach and relapsed or failed to get sober. Inpatient drug or alcohol treatment offers you comfortable living arrangements in a safe and drug-free setting. So if home stress, peer pressure, or the challenges of daily living are a significant incentive for drug or alcohol use, inpatient addiction treatment may be a great option.

Even if this is your first attempt at getting sober, though, inpatient drug or alcohol treatment could be right for you if you’re anxious about maintaining your willpower. Inpatient addiction treatment makes it much harder to relapse, and the steady stream of scheduled activities – which typically includes 12-step meetings, therapy, group therapy, meetings with a doctor, and enrichment activities such as yoga or cooking classes – can help your cravings end more quickly while helping you avoid giving into temptation.

The Challenges of Inpatient Addiction Treatment

The two most significant obstacles to inpatient drug and alcohol treatment are time and money. You won’t typically be able to work, go to school, or work on independent projects while in inpatient addiction treatment. And because you live at the facility, you’ll have to pay a premium price for meals, bedding, and other daily necessities. In essence, you’re merging the costs of addiction treatment with the costs of rent and utilities. For addicts who do not have insurance coverage, this can prove challenging. However, the Affordable Care Act mandates that insurers cover mental health care, so addicts who previously could not get covered for drug and alcohol treatment often now can.

For some addicts, the immersive nature of inpatient addiction treatment is also challenging. If you dislike another resident, there’s no getting away from him or her at the end of the day. Similarly, because inpatient drug and alcohol rehab facilities have to keep everyone safe, their rules – which may include curfews, bed times, prohibitions on phone calls or visitors at certain times, and restrictions on what you can bring to drug and alcohol rehab – can feel restrictive. For some addicts, though, these restrictions actually make the journey toward recovery easier. 

Outpatient Addiction Treatment Benefits

Outpatient addiction treatment varies in scope, length, and effectiveness. Technically speaking, any program at which you do not live is an outpatient drug or alcohol rehab facility. Outpatient rehab for drugs or alcohol , though, refers specifically to comprehensive care at a facility at which you do not live. In many cases, you’ll go to rehab for your drug or alcohol addiction just like you would go to a job – attending eight or so hours a day, then going home at night. For addicts who can’t afford to live at a facility or who have families to tend to, this option offers the best of both worlds – comprehensive addiction treatment, but with some freedom to live your own life.

Outpatient addiction treatment typically blends some form of group therapy with individual counseling, medical consultations, detox assistance, 12-step programs, life skills training, and enrichment programs. You may also attend family counseling or education sessions about the disease of drug and alcohol addiction. Outpatient addiction treatment tends to be less costly than inpatient addiction treatment, and in some cases, you may even be able to continue working your job. Many outpatient programs use a gradual step-down model. With such a model, you’ll begin with intensive outpatient drug or alcohol treatment, then gradually reduce the length of time you spend in drug or alcohol rehab until you’re only going once or twice per week.

The Challenges of Outpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab 

The most significant issue with outpatient treatment for drugs and alcohol is that it does not offer the sort of monitoring, supervision, and support inpatient care does. It’s nearly impossible to use in inpatient drug and alcohol inpatient facilities, but if you opt for outpatient care, you may be tempted to use drugs when you’re at home. If you’re concerned about your ability to resist temptation or you have an extraordinarily stressful life, then, outpatient addiction treatment may not be for you.

Likewise, outpatient treatment for drugs or alcohol requires you to continue living at home. If home pressures, an abusive family, financial issues, or the stress of everyday life play a role in your drug or alcohol addiction, outpatient addiction treatment won’t ameliorate these concerns. It can, though, help you learn how to more effectively deal with them.

Making the Decision Between Inpatient and Outpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer to this conundrum. Go with your gut, and if your gut is wrong, you can always pursue a different addiction treatment option later. Some addicts opt for a blended approach, beginning their addiction treatment in drug or alcohol rehab, stepping down to intensive outpatient care, and then gradually decreasing the time they spend in addiction treatment. Others start with an outpatient drug or alcohol rehab program, then transition to inpatient care when they realize that the outpatient program just isn’t working.

You need to know yourself, and to make an honest appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses. If you’re not sure, ask your loved ones, who may know you better anyway and whose judgment is not clouded by the influence of alcohol or drugs.

No matter which drug or alcohol rehab option you choose, please choose something. Addiction treatment works, but you have to give it a chance first.