Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Drug Detox

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People who seek out help for drug or alcohol detox must decide whether to do so at an inpatient or outpatient facility. There are benefits to each, with inpatient detox designed to support more serious, long-term addictions and co-occurring disorders.

Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Drug Detox

When a person decides to detox from drug addiction or alcohol addiction, the chosen method of detoxification is the first major decision to be made.

While some people may choose to detox on their own – though this is not recommended – others will opt to do so at a treatment facility or at home under outpatient care.

Both types of treatment are performed under the care of medical professionals, who guide the detox process and monitor withdrawal symptoms to ensure the client’s safety and well-being.

Because inpatient treatment is performed in a treatment facility, it is typically more hands-on than outpatient treatment. For this reason, some people consider inpatient care to be more effective in regard to long-term recovery.

Keep reading to learn about the differences between inpatient and outpatient detox programs and the benefits of each treatment option for substance use disorders.

What Is Detox?

Detoxification or “detox” is the first step in addiction treatment. Detox refers to the removal of an addictive substance by the body; in this case, the substance is drugs or alcohol.

Detox and withdrawal go hand in hand. Withdrawal entails a series of physical and mental symptoms that a person will experience as the addictive substance leaves their body.

Withdrawal occurs when a person develops a physical dependence on drugs or alcohol. In other words, the body has learned to work around the substance as part of its baseline functioning.

When the substance is not present, the body’s ability to carry on, as normal, is affected. At this point, a person will likely experience cravings, as they know use of the substance will ease or eliminate withdrawal symptoms.

The detox process can take anywhere from two to 14 days.

The length of a person’s detox is dependent on factors including:

  • the substance(s) that a person was using
  • the duration of their use
  • their daily dose
  • the severity of their withdrawal symptoms
  • the extent of medical care required
  • the presence of co-occurring disorders

Inpatient Detox: How Does It Work?

In inpatient detox, hospitalization is provided throughout the detoxification process. Inpatient detox offers a higher level of care and is safest for people with co-occurring disorders and/or health conditions.

Inpatient detox is the only option for people with a physical dependency on alcohol and/or benzodiazepines, as complications from detoxing from these substances can be fatal.

Inpatient treatment services allow the client’s condition to be monitored 24 hours a day. Withdrawal symptoms are reduced to make the client as comfortable as possible and urgent needs are attended to immediately.

Inpatient detox also permits the support of FDA-approved medications to help lessen the symptoms of withdrawal and aid in the process. For example, methadone and buprenorphine may be used to help with opioid withdrawal.

Benefits Of Inpatient Detox

Inpatient detox focuses on the removal of an addictive substance from the physical body. However, detox is only the first step on the journey toward long-term recovery.

Overcoming and healing from a substance use disorder requires a multi-faceted approach that treats both the body and the mind. For this reason, clients are often introduced to individual therapy and group therapy during detox.

Having been exposed to these treatment options, clients may be more likely to move on to inpatient rehab after detox. In residential treatment, clients can develop the tools needed to overcome active addiction.

Inpatient facilities also provide a safe environment where clients are protected from outside triggers and cannot easily acquire drugs or alcohol. Inpatient rehab programs strongly support long-term relapse prevention.

Outpatient Detox: How Does It Work?

Addiction affects each person differently. Not everyone who experiences alcohol or drug abuse will necessarily need inpatient detox.

Outpatient programs are structured in a way that allows clients to manage their addiction recovery around their work schedule and/or childcare needs.

These programs are intended for people who can safely stop using drugs or alcohol on their own, but need more support in doing so. Medication may also be used to manage withdrawal symptoms.

Outpatient programs are ideal for people with:

  • a mild-to-moderate addiction
  • relatively good health
  • transportation to and from outpatient services, such as therapy sessions
  • a strong support system of family members and friends
  • the motivation to stick to outpatient treatment programs
  • a low risk of withdrawal-related medical complications

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) is a more structured type of outpatient addiction treatment program. Clients may begin an outpatient detoxification program while attending an IOP.

IOPs are typically eight to 12 weeks long and run for three to five days a week. These programs are designed to help treat substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders for people who do not require 24-hour supervision.

While attending IOPs, clients are able to attend therapy sessions, develop life skills and support groups, and even take classes to understand the causes of addiction.

An IOP may be ideal for someone with a mild-to-moderate addiction who is looking to participate in detox and an outpatient rehab program. It may also be suitable as a step-down from inpatient rehab treatment.

Partial Hospitalization Programs

Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) are more structured than IOPs. These programs provide support for substance abuse and mental health without requiring clients to stay overnight in a rehab facility.

PHPs are full-time day programs that allow clients to attend therapy sessions and classes at a rehab center, much like an IOP, and return home at night.

At PHPs, clients learn more about their substance abuse and mental health disorders, learn coping skills, are given the opportunity to socialize, are taught stress management, and develop healthier ways of living.

PHPs can serve as an alternative to attending inpatient treatment programs. PHPs may also serve as transitional, step-down care after inpatient treatment, or may be used instead of ongoing hospitalization.

Benefits Of Outpatient Detox

Outpatient detox and outpatient rehab offer the benefits of a structured routine while still giving clients the freedom to return home each night.

Clients are able to receive care and treatment at a recovery center while continuing their active lifestyles.

While outpatient detox is certainly helpful for some people, it is not the most effective means of treatment for others. People with severe addictions, long-term use, and existing health issues should seek inpatient treatment options.

Many people with addiction struggle with managing their day-to-day life. For many others, addiction takes priority over everything else, and only a more intensive intervention may prove helpful and effective.

Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Treatment: Which Is Best For You?

When you’re considering detox and treatment for a substance use disorder, you’ll need to decide whether inpatient or outpatient care is best for you.

There are appeals to both forms of treatment, with inpatient care designed for more serious addictions than outpatient care.

The best way to approach a decision such as this is to determine what treatment method will help you develop the life skills and support to overcome your addiction, not the form of treatment that’s most convenient.

Overcoming an addiction sometimes requires you to change everything around you, namely the people, places, and things.

It may not be easy, but the peace of mind that comes with sober living is absolutely worth it.

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If you or a loved one is dealing with a substance abuse issue, you aren’t alone – and you don’t have to face it alone either. Contact and get connected to a treatment center today.


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