Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab: What’s Right for You?

While having access to a wide range of treatment options is great for people seeking addiction recovery, it can be hard to know what’s right for you. Between the different levels of care, programs for drugs and alcohol, and inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, a lot of people aren’t sure what to do. Finding the right type of treatment is the first step to recovery, and that’s why we’re here to settle the age-old debate:

Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab: Which do you need?

Inpatient Treatment Program


group meeting in the inpatient treatment program
group meeting in the inpatient treatment program

At an inpatient, residential treatment center, you temporarily leave your home to receive treatment. You live and stay in your treatment center 24/7. Naturally, that comes with some ups and downs.

The Pros of Inpatient Rehabs

  • You are in a 100% sober environment. There is no temptation to use drugs or alcohol because they simply aren’t there.
  • The people around you are dedicated to helping you enjoy sober living. They’ll teach you coping skills to help you stay sober after you leave, and group therapy will help you and other residents overcome addiction.
  • You have a safe place to detox. You will be medically supervised to ensure that you are safe and comfortable while the drugs or alcohol leave your system, which can drastically increase your odds of staying sober.

The Cons of Inpatient Rehabs

  • Since you are spending all day in treatment, you cannot work or leave the rehab facility. This means putting a pause on your daily life during treatment.
  • Some people feel homesick since they can only see family or friends during set visiting hours. This is also what keeps you focused on recovery during treatment, so it’s not entirely a negative thing.
  • There are restrictions on what you can take to inpatient rehab. Most facilities allow you to bring books and similar entertainment so you shouldn’t be bored but may restrict the number of these items to make sure your mind stays on sober living.

Who Is Inpatient Rehab For?

  • Inpatient rehab programs are best for people who cannot stay sober alone. If you are at all unsure of your ability to stay in sober living without 24/7 supervision, an inpatient rehab facility is for you.
  • People who are recovering from drugs like opioids, cocaine, or other “hard” drugs are encouraged to enter residential treatment programs to ensure that they stay safe and sober during detox.

Outpatient Treatment Program

group meeting in the Outpatient Treatment
group meeting in the Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient care is different, not in quality, but in how you receive care. At an outpatient treatment center, you will live at home and spend part of your day receiving treatment at the facility. This is more convenient, but it comes with risks for certain people.

The Pros of Outpatient Rehabs

  • Your treatment will fit your schedule. You can choose day or night treatment times, which allows you to continue working and socializing while you start your path to sober living.
  • Intensive outpatient programs have nine hours of thorough, comprehensive substance abuse recovery treatment each week. This means you’ll still get access to quality treatment and rehabilitation. Partial hospitalization programs require even more hours.
  • Some people report that being able to live at home makes them more comfortable during treatment.

The Cons of Outpatient Rehabs

  • Unlike in inpatient rehabs, there is no supervision to make sure that you stay sober outside the facility. If you have access to drugs or alcohol, there will be nothing to stop you from using them.
  • While you can live at home with outpatient treatment, you still have to find time to go to the rehab facility. For some people, continuing to work long hours makes it difficult to find the time, and they drop out of treatment.
  • When you go through detox, you will not have access to 24/7 medical attention. This can cause discomfort, relapse, and may even be dangerous to your health in extreme cases.

Who Is Outpatient Rehab For?

  • People who are addicted to alcohol rather than drugs may have an easier time in outpatient programs. Since alcohol withdrawals are generally milder, patients are less at risk of experiencing a medical emergency during detox. That said, it’s important to remember that alcohol withdrawals can still be frightening for some people to experience alone.
  • Your home environment needs to be 100% sober. This means no friends or family who would have drugs or alcohol at home, and it also means not knowing anybody who would procure illegal drugs for you.
  • If you have never used an outpatient rehab program before, giving it a try could be a good idea. However, an outpatient program may not be the right decision if you have relapsed after trying outpatient treatment before.

The Final Decision: Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab?

Addiction arises for a variety of reasons, usually due to a combination of genetic, social, and mental factors. For those same reasons, your rehabilitation program needs to suit your unique experience.

Take your first step towards recovery.

If you are surrounded by people abusing drugs or alcohol and have already relapsed after outpatient treatment, then an inpatient treatment program is probably right for you. On the other hand, if you are not at risk of suffering through a major withdrawal and simply cannot afford to take time off work, an outpatient program could get you on the path to recovery.

Ultimately, the decision between inpatient vs outpatient rehab is yours to make. The important thing is that you find a reputable treatment facility that will help you get and stay on the path to sober living.

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