Inpatient Vs Outpatient

Inpatient vs Outpatient, Features, Difference, How Does it Work

Understanding The Difference Between Inpatient Vs Outpatient Rehabs

The terms inpatient vs outpatient rehab have very different meanings in addiction treatment settings. Knowing the difference between inpatient vs outpatient rehab can give you the edge in exploring all options before making a decision that can put you or a loved one on the road to long-term sobriety.

Choosing to change your relationship with alcohol or drugs is a crucial first step toward recovery. But recovery is a process that drug and alcohol rehab programs can help you through. There are many types of substance use treatments, including detox, medication-assisted treatment, therapy, and counseling. These fit into two categories: inpatient and outpatient rehab.

Your needs and the severity of your substance use disorder will help determine which type of rehab is best for you. Both inpatient and outpatient rehab will help you stop using alcohol or drugs and reduce the risk of using them again after your recovery. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) [1], one type of rehab is not better or more effective than the other. What’s different about them is the setting and what works best for you and your personal situation.

Inpatient vs Outpatient
Inpatient treatment works best for patients with poor support systems and psychiatric disorders who usually succeed more and do better in inpatient therapy.
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What is Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab?

What is Inpatient rehab?

For most individuals suffering from alcohol and drug abuse, detox at an inpatient rehab (also referred to as residential treatment) provides a great beginning to achieving sobriety and starting on a path toward lifelong recovery.

Residential rehab or inpatient rehab is a very important step in treatment that gives an individual complete focus on supported and comfortable withdrawal from alcohol and drugs, education on the disease of addiction, and the development of strategies to continue in ongoing recovery.

If you require an acute level of care with moderate to severe addiction, inpatient rehab is probably best for you. It provides an immersive and comprehensive treatment experience with a stay of about 30 days, depending on the need.

How Does Inpatient Rehab Work?

How does rehab work? If an addiction specialist determines that you have a severe alcohol or drug use disorder, unstable living situation, limited social support, or co-occurring mental health conditions, they may recommend an inpatient rehabilitation program, the NIAAA says [2].

These residential programs provide highly structured 24-hour care and are usually run by licensed alcohol and drug counselors and mental health professionals. Short-term programs can last 3 to 6 weeks, followed by outpatient treatment. Long-term programs can last 6 to 12 months.

Many residential and inpatient programs include a structured detox program in their treatment protocol. In either type of medically-assisted detox setting, medications will be often be used to assist with the withdrawal process, especially in issues of severe dependency or addiction to more than one substance.

However, medication isn’t used in all instances of detox. Talk to the program staff if you have any queries about the detox process. After detox is done, treatment must continue. The focus shifts from allowing substances to clear from the body and stabilizing the person throughout the withdrawal process to developing the skills to stay sober long term through counseling, therapy, and education about addiction and recovery.

Features of an Inpatient Rehab

While inpatient programs can vary between facilities, many have some similar features, including:

Inpatient Vs Outpatient
Inpatient vs outpatient treatment, will best suits your condition?

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What are the advantages of inpatient rehab?

  • An inpatient treatment program allows the person to take a step back from daily responsibilities, like work, parenting, and personal relationships, so that they can focus completely on recovery. Self-care is an essential part of relapse prevention, and inpatient rehab can help the person focus entirely on recovery.
  • An inpatient recovery program allows the person to get round-the-clock care and quality treatment from highly-qualified professionals. A good inpatient rehab facility has a professional, trained staff trained with the experience and skills for handling such challenging situations. In addition, they are also trained to be aware of all and any consequences that could disrupt the client’s safety or recovery.
  • Inpatient treatment centers aren’t clinical and sterile like many think. In fact, most treatment facilities offer home-style accommodations and houses that give a home-away-from-home atmosphere. Many include amenities like swimming pools, Flat-screen TVs, on-site laundry facilities, and fully-furnished rooms.

What is Outpatient Rehab?

Outpatient rehab involves daily treatment at a clinic or facility, such as therapy, counseling, or group sessions. Individuals who choose outpatient treatment can continue to live at home as they recover, allowing them to take care of family members or children, keep up with their jobs, and stay on track in school. Outpatient care costs typically less than inpatient rehab, but the level of support may be less intensive.

Most programs involve individual or group therapy and use a step-down approach, which means sessions become less intensive and frequent as the person grows during treatment. These programs help clients overcome their alcohol or drug dependence and then maintain their recovery over the long term.

How Does Outpatient Rehab Work?

In contrast to inpatient programs, outpatient treatment permits the person to live at home outside of treatment hours, allowing them to continue engaging with school or work and the ability to fulfill other personal responsibilities. Recovering individuals will attend group and individual therapy sessions each week, and if needed, they can meet regularly with a psychiatrist for medication to manage withdrawal, cravings, and any existing mental health issues. The treatment provided in an outpatient facility is similar to that provided in an inpatient treatment center but is somewhat less intensive [3].

Features of an Outpatient Rehab 

  • You can live in your home while receiving treatment. This works if your friends and family are a support system.
  • The treatment cost is typically much lower for outpatient rehab compared to inpatient rehab [4].
  • There are many different types of therapy and counseling offered in this setting; you can choose the level of intensity of care that works best for you.
  • Appointments can be made on weekends or in the evenings to accommodate work schedules.

What are the disadvantages of outpatient rehab?

However, outpatient care may not be the best choice for you if:

  • You experience constant cravings to use. Outpatient facilities are not open round-the-clock and do not always offer 24-hour support.
  • You have difficulty showing up to group sessions on your own. The success of outpatient rehab relies on your ability to attend and participate in sessions regularly. If you need more structured and monitored treatment, you may want to consider an inpatient rehab.
  • You need treatment for multiple disorders, such as co-occurring substance abuse and mental illness, and you need medical attention. Unfortunately, most outpatient programs may not dispense medications or offer intensive, multifaceted recovery programs for complicated addictions such as polydrug abuse.​ 

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Inpatient vs Outpatient : Determining the Best Rehab Option

When it comes to alcohol and drug abuse treatment, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What may work for one individual with substance use disorder (SUD) may not be a good fit for someone else.

Depending on their situations, different individuals will have different routes to recovery. How do you know what route is best? A complete assessment of a person’s condition will suggest what specific type of treatment would be best for that person. Someone with a substance use disorder problem should be evaluated by a health professional—a medical doctor or therapist who has formal training in addiction treatment.

Inpatient vs Outpatient
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Individual factors for health professionals to assess

Alcohol and other drug use and previous treatment

  • Drinking patterns or behaviors
  • Other substance use issues
  • Severity of alcohol or other drug problems
  • Prior treatment (if any) and how it went

Other health issues

  • Other mental or medical health conditions, such as diabetes or depression, will need attention during treatment

Living and social situation

  • Amount of support from family and social network
  • Stability of living situation
  • Access to transportation

Legal system issues

  • Any drinking-related arrests, probation, or other legal issues that require coordination with the justice system or social services

Other specialized needs

  • Common examples include pregnant women, people for whom English is not their primary language, and people in safety-sensitive occupations, such as airline pilots, physicians, or law enforcement.

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From Assessment to a Treatment Plan

Here’s how a thorough assessment can help set a course of action:

  • If the assessment discovers that the individual entering treatment has a less severe substance use disorder, stable living conditions, supportive family and friends, access to transportation, and fairly good health, then outpatient treatment with one-on-one or group therapy may be a good option. Outpatient counseling allows the individual to maintain much of his or her regular daily routine.
  • If the assessment sees that the individual has a more severe substance use disorder, or unstable housing, or limited transportation, or few non-drinking peers, or has other health issues in addition to substance use disorder, then he or she may benefit from extended time in an inpatient treatment program. Residential or inpatient programs are also good for anyone who needs a more structured living environment with a predictable daily schedule. A person with significant health issues should consult his or her primary care doctor and might consider an inpatient program where medical staff is available.

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Choosing between inpatient vs outpatient drug and alcohol treatment is an important decision and one that can be extremely difficult to make. In addition, helping yourself or a loved one should be achieved without sacrificing comfort and safety. We level Up NJ provides access to safe and comfortable inpatient treatment through the help of licensed therapists and 24 hours health monitoring. Call us now. We have a 24/7 hotline that is ready to assist you.

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[1] NCBI –

[2] NIAAA –

[3] SAMHSA –

[4] NIDA –

[5] We Level Up Inpatient Alcohol Rehab

[6] We Level UpOutpatient Rehab