When a person suffers from substance addiction or dependence, professional treatment is the safest and most effective path to recovery, and two main options exist for rehabilitation. The first is an inpatient program that involves full-time admission into a recovery center. This type of program, also known as residential care, houses the patient during the primary treatment period, which often lasts between 30 and 90 days. The second rehabilitation option is an outpatient program in which patients spend several hours each week in treatment, but they eat and sleep at home or in another location of their choosing. Within these two programs, several variations exist to meet a wide range of patient needs, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Choosing the optimal program ultimately depends on the individual’s needs.
Common Treatment Concerns
In determining the right course of treatment, it is important to assess the person’s particular needs. Professional admissions coordinators assist in this process, and there are several potential issues to consider, including the following:
- Children at home who do not have another parent or guardian who can care for them
- Possible co-occurring mood or personality disorders like depression or anxiety
- History of failed treatment outcomes or relapse using outpatient programs
- Unstable home life that may include physical or emotional abuse
In both inpatient and outpatient programs, counselors identify personal drug use triggers, which can be people, places, situations, emotions, memories and other cues that initiate obsessive drug cravings. The strength and number of such triggers can play a role in choosing the right program. Furthermore, if the substance abuse involves prescription pain medication, there may be other concerns, such as the following:
- Physical opioid dependence with elevated tolerance levels
- Uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms during opioid detoxification
- Chronic pain problems that initiated the original drug use
The Journal of the American Medical Association noted that chronic pain is a prevalent issue with many treatment patients. A survey of inpatient programs in New York State found that 24 percent of the patients experienced chronic severe pain, with a slight majority saying the substance abuse began as an attempt to self-medicate. With issues like these in mind, the differing benefits of inpatient and outpatient treatment come into focus.
We have both inpatient and outpatient facilities located all over the country, as well as a nation-wide referral network.
Benefits of Inpatient Treatment
Inpatient care can isolate patients from many substance abuse triggers, so for recovering addicts who easily relapse, a residential facility may be the preferred setting to launch a recovery. Inpatient care also has other specific benefits, including the following:
- Immerses patients in an intensive treatment setting with full-time recovery support
- Allows patients to get immediate assistance with cravings and withdrawal issues
- Establishes solid accountability and physically limits access to painkillers
- Temporarily removes negative influences from the patient’s daily routine
- Provides a sense of safety and security for patients with trauma and anxiety issues
- Increases access to non-narcotic therapies and treatments for chronic pain
As noted by the Clinical Psychology Review in 2010, co-occurring mental health disorders are a widespread problem among opioid-dependent populations. An inpatient facility is often better equipped to provide integrated treatment for multiple disorders, which should be addressed simultaneously to promote a lasting recovery.
Benefits of Outpatient Treatment
As noted by PsychCentral online in 2011, outpatient programs share many of the same treatments as inpatient care, but they occur in an environment that is structurally different. While inpatient care provides more accountability and security, outpatient treatment generally affords greater flexibility, among other differences. Outpatient care has its benefits, including the following:
- Enables patients to fulfill important family responsibilities
- Typically allows for continued employment to avoid sudden income drops
- Gives recovering addicts the chance to apply therapies in real time
- Can seamlessly follow outpatient or short-term inpatient detoxification
- Often involves lower overall cost than residential treatment
Among the variations of outpatient care, an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is often a good option for people with a serious addiction or dependency but who are unable to commit to a residential facility. The program typically involves 10 to 14 hours of individual and group therapies per week divided into three-hour blocks. It is more intensive than standard outpatient programs and helps ensure patients are actively engaged in their recovery.
Inpatient vs. Outpatient Programs
Generally speaking, inpatient programs are recommended when the addict has more serious issues like co-occurring mental health disorders, serious unresolved trauma and a history of failed recovery attempts. Still, outpatient programs can be just as productive, and a study published in the Journal of Dual Diagnosis in 2010 documented the effectiveness of IOPs in treating co-occurring disorders. Outpatient programs also provide treatment opportunities for people who might otherwise be unable to get help. Patients who struggle in an outpatient program can always switch to residential care, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) actually advises people who finish residential care to transition into an outpatient program. Regardless, receiving any type of treatment for most addicts can be crucial to their long-term physical and mental health and the safety of their families.