Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab: Everything You Need to Know

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What is inpatient vs outpatient rehab? How are they different?

Under what circumstances is inpatient treatment required? When is outpatient treatment the better option? How long does each of these treatment types usually take?

As you can see, researching treatment options brings up a lot of questions. And that’s okay because we’ve got a lot of answers on the subject.

If you’ve been wondering about the difference between inpatient and outpatient treatment, stop wondering and keep reading. Find the answers you’ve been looking for and more right here.

What’s the Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment?

First, let’s answer the big question: What is outpatient vs inpatient rehab treatment? The biggest difference is right there in their names. That is, outpatient treatment is any treatment that takes place outside the medical/mental health facility while inpatient treatment is performed inside.

What Determines Whether Inpatient or Outpatient Rehab Is Necessary?

Before treatment can begin, doctors and their staff perform an initial assessment to determine which approach is required. This assessment is mostly a questionnaire about the patient’s past/current use of the abused substance.

In order to provide effective addiction treatment, the doctors need to know how often the drug has been abused and in what amounts. They’ll also need to know any other co-occurring disorders, like bipolar disorder or depression.

These questions help the doctors understand the severity of the patient’s dependency on the substance. It also tells them if withdrawal from the substance is likely to put the patient in danger of relapse or physical harm.

In addition to the questionnaire, there may be physical tests involved as well, such as blood or urine testing.

Once the doctors have all this information, they decide which treatment approach is required, inpatient or outpatient. Now, let’s take a deeper look at the basics of these two treatment types.

Inpatient Treatment

With inpatient treatment, patients are checked into the rehab facility for 24-hour care and surveillance. This approach provides the safest rehab environment.

A Safe, Clean Environment

The patient is housed in a 100% clean environment during their detox period. This removes any possibility of relapse as long as the patient is checked in.

Many detoxing addicts may lash out at others in words and actions during the anguish of their withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient treatment also keeps patients safely away from others. They remain securely in the hands of qualified rehab professionals. 

Medically Assisted Detox

Lastly, it keeps them physically safe during their withdrawal symptoms. Detoxing from a severe addiction to a powerful drug like heroin can be physically dangerous. Inpatient treatment gives such patients access to medical attention at all times during their detox.

The on-hand medical staff is ready to react in the case of emergency complications due to withdrawals. And they can administer medicine that alleviates withdrawal symptoms and/or helps the body gently wean off the abused substance.

Therapy and Support

Therapy, both individual and group, will be employed as needed to help the patient. A support group is usually included in the inpatient recovery process.

In addition, the patient’s family is kept in the loop with important updates and is encouraged to visit the patient for support.

Also included are cognitive behavioral therapy and other training against relapse.

When Is Inpatient Treatment Required?

Inpatient treatment is reserved for severe cases of addiction. These are cases in which recovery is unlikely to occur and/or dangerous to attempt without professional help.

How Long Does Inpatient Rehab Take?

Inpatient programs can take as little as 30 days or more than 6 months. But, obviously, no two rehab cases are the same.

There are many different abused substances and many different levels of abuse. Since each addiction is so unique, the time it takes to reach full recovery is different for each patient.

But whatever the timeframe, the patient is released when they are fully detoxed and have obtained the cognitive tools and support they need to prevent relapse. 

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment allows patients to recover according to their own schedule. Patients visit the treatment center by appointment for a required number of hours per week.

Outpatient Treatment Methods

The treatment methods included in outpatient rehab are mostly the same as those used in inpatient rehab. The main difference is that they are by appointment.

Treatment includes cognitive training, therapy, and group support. It does not include medically-assisted detox, as the patient’s detox is done offsite.

This treatment approach is far less disruptive to the patient’s life than inpatient treatment. For example, inpatient treatment would require the patient to take a medical leave of absence from work.

Less Disruption

With outpatient treatment, it’s not necessary for them to leave their job or request any time off. They only need to fit the rehab appointments into their schedule.

Outpatient treatment allows patients to continue living at home surrounded by family. But this also means patients are not as secure against relapse.

Outpatient rehab is also much cheaper than inpatient rehab.

When Is Outpatient Treatment Required?

Outpatient rehab is adequate for most recovering addicts. It’s ideal when:

  • The addiction is mild enough that withdrawal isn’t dangerous to the patient
  • The patient has enough support at home to keep them from relapse

For most recovering addicts, inpatient treatment would be an unnecessary disruption to their daily routine. As long as they have all the support they need at home, it’s better to keep as much stability in their life as possible.

How Long Does Outpatient Rehab Take?

Just like inpatient rehab programs, outpatient rehab usually takes 1-3 months. But it may take as long as 6 months or even a year.

However, being in the outside world instead of in a clean, controlled environment can be a complication to the recovery process. It sometimes increases the likelihood of relapse, which makes recovery take longer.

Inpatient Vs Outpatient Treatment

Whatever the approach, recovery is no easy road to travel. But it’s far easier the more help you have.

If rehab is a relevant issue in your life, this guide on inpatient vs outpatient rehab will help you prepare. So remember this guide and talk to someone now if you need help.

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