Getting help to beat your drug addiction can be one of the most significant decisions you make in your life. If you have a loved one who has finally agreed to go to rehab, it can feel like the glimmer of hope you have been longing for. But you still have to decide which one will benefit them most between inpatient vs outpatient rehab. 

And choosing the right rehab facility for them can be a daunting task, a fact we know well.   

Drug addiction is a complex condition. It gets tough for most people who develop a substance use disorder to stop without professional help. In essence, the needs and addiction severity determine the right rehab program for an addict.

Once you decide to go to rehab, you must understand the difference between inpatient and outpatient rehab to make an informed decision.

Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Rehab

Inpatient programs require patients to live in the facility. Outpatient programs entail daily treatments that allow patients to go back to their homes once treatment is over. Inpatient programs tend to be quite expensive compared to inpatient programs.

However, on the upside, they offer round-the-clock care. This may offer a more immersive treatment experience for patients. Any distractions and triggers that patients may experience at home are totally eliminated. Patients are given an opportunity to focus solely on recovery. It’s usually wise to consult an addiction counselor about the best option since it will highly depend on the addition level.

An In-depth Look at Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is suitable for most people looking to escape addiction since they can be far away from temptations and get right into sobriety. Several benefits come with inpatient or residential treatment, which we’ll cover in this in-depth post.

Features of an Inpatient Treatment Program

Inpatient programs may vary from facility to facility, but some of the features you’ll find include:

  • Both individual and group therapy
  • Supervised detoxification
  • Medication administration whenever necessary

Beyond these, some facilities may offer other beneficial activities. These may include meditation, yoga, life skills training, and family therapy.

Advantages of Inpatient Treatment

Given that a patient has to live in the facility full time for a certain amount of time, they are likely to benefit more. Most patients will view staying in the facility and away from loved ones as a drawback. However, it can be highly beneficial in terms of recovery. Here are more inpatient treatment benefits.

  • It allows patients to be away from their usual environment that’s possibly rife with temptations.
  • Places the patients in a safe and healthy environment where they are taken care of by professionals and other people who are focused on their recovery
  • Allows patients to get into skills training as well as education
  • Possible chance of a higher success rate
  • Full-time supervision
  • Allows patients to interact with others in a community

Drawbacks of Inpatient Treatment

  • Patients are not free to leave whenever they please
  • They live in a structured environment and have to follow rules about when to wake up, when to eat, and when to undergo counseling sessions
  • Patients with children need to arrange for childcare while they undergo treatment
  • Patients need to leave their jobs or businesses
  • Most insurance companies only cover outpatient treatments

Most treatment programs run between 30 and 90 days. However, patients can undergo treatments for a longer duration in therapeutic communities, which lasts at least six months.

Such programs are suitable for patients who need long term care or comprehensive treatments. They make it easier to transition back into life with renewed hope and better life stills.

What Does Inpatient Treatment Entail?


The first phase of inpatient treatment encompasses detoxification. Patients start taking less and less drugs than their usual dosage, causing withdrawal symptoms. Depending on addition severity, the drugs may be reduced gradually or stopped entirely.

This process can also occur in outpatient facilities. However, inpatient facilities can provide comfort and safety. One of the best things about an inpatient facility during this detoxification phase is that the patient is monitored to ensure the withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening.

Medication Administration

Certain medications can be used to manage acute substance withdrawals. There are several types of FDA approved medications, known as medication-assisted treatment, that treat certain types of substance addiction.

In some cases, it works exceptionally. However, it becomes quite challenging to severe addicts who are addicted to more than one type of drug. Henceforth, it is advisable for patients who need this kind of treatment to use an inpatient setting for success.


One of the most significant benefits of inpatient treatments is the fact that patients can undergo individual or group therapies, which can be more helpful. Living in the facility means the patient will attend therapy without having to worry about other commitments.

The Best Candidates for Inpatient Programs

Inpatient programs are suitable for people who have a hard time staying sober alone. If you are not sure whether you or your loved one can be sober without supervision, then an inpatient rehab center will serve you best.

Patients trying to recover from drugs such as cocaine, opioids, among other hard drugs, are encouraged to use inpatient facilities for safety purposes during the detox phase.

An In-depth Look at Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatments involve a variety of different programs. Patients visit the facilities on a scheduled basis, depending on the treatment they need. Counseling may also be in a group or individual setting, depending on the most beneficial option for the patient.

Features of an Outpatient Treatment Program

Essentially, programs also vary for outpatient therapy, depending on the patient’s needs.

However, more focus is placed on therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management, matrix model, motivational interviewing, and multidimensional family therapy. Patients may also undergo skills training, educational programs, mental health care, among others.

The most significant drawback of outpatient treatment is that patients do not entirely remove themselves from temptations and triggers that may cause a relapse. For this reason alone, outpatient treatment is not suitable for patients with severe addiction.

Advantages of Outpatient Treatment

  • Patients get to live at home close to their loved ones
  • They can continue with school or work and other daily activities
  • They can still take care of their children
  • Get constant support and attention from family
  • They can start applying what they learn in their lives and begin making changes immediately
  • Affordable and generally covered by insurance
  • Privacy and anonymity

Drawbacks of Outpatient Treatment

  • Patients risk being exposed to drugs and substances and risk triggering the addiction
  • Daily distractions may keep them from recovering
  • Limited professional care
  • Risk of life-threatening withdrawal symptoms
  • The missed opportunity of growing into a support community that inpatients have

The Best Candidates for Outpatient Treatments

People addicted to alcohol and not hard drugs tend to have an easier time in outpatient treatment programs. Alcohol withdrawals tend to be milder compared to other substances.

Hence the risk of a medical emergency during detox is significantly reduced. Still, it may be frightening for some people, and the condition of the patient needs to be assessed before making a decision.

If a home environment is completely sober, and neither friends nor family members have alcohol or drugs at home, then an outpatient program may work. It also helps if the patient does not know anyone close by who may procure the substances for them. Otherwise, they risk a relapse.

How Do You Determine the Best Option?

With all this information, it’s clear what both programs offer and what the patient is likely to get from each one. However, choosing the right one that will yield the best results may not be an easy task. It’s essential that you consider several factors that may affect the patient.

Understanding how they’ll affect them and the possible outcomes will be a big help. Here are several questions that will help you come up to the right choice.

  • How severe is the patient’s addiction?
  • Is the patient exposed to drugs at home?
  • How stable and supportive is their family?
  • Is it possible to leave their job, school, or children?
  • Are they suffering from any mental health issues?
  • Do they require specialized treatment, like a handicap-assisted facility?

What Should You Look for In A Facility?

The rehab facility should have the resources to treat both the physical and psychological effects of the addiction. Patients are likely to overcome their addiction if both their dependence and psychological needs contributing to that dependance are addressed. A facility should be able to offer you a complete package until the patient is fully recovered.

Beyond that, the professional in the facility should be educated, trained, licensed, and certified to practice. Such qualifications increase the chance of a successful recovery because the patient will receive optimum care. Do thorough research to ensure the facility is licensed as well, and their reputation is solid.

How Long is Treatment Likely To Last?

The time it takes for a patient to recover depends on many factors, including whether you choose an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. In general, treatment outcomes are much better with prolonged treatments that last 90 days or more.

You also need to understand that rehab is the beginning of a lifelong process. Given the fact that addiction can be a chronic illness, some patients may continue with aftercare programs after treatment.


So, inpatient vs outpatient rehab, which is better? With all these factors to consider, choosing between inpatient and outpatient rehab will be easier for you.

You or your loved deserve a brand new start and picking the right facility will give you just that. If you’d like to know more, kindly check out our website or contact us and we’ll be happy to help.


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  • (877) 224-0761
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