Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Treatment For Substance Abuse: What's Best For You?

When you've acknowledged that your substance abuse issues need formal, structured treatment, you're faced with a choice of two fairly broad options. Should you check into a rehabilitation facility to receive highly-regulated treatment on an inpatient basis? Or should you be treated as an outpatient, attending regular treatment sessions without becoming a resident of the facility? 


Excluding court-ordered rehabilitation, the ultimate decision to attend such a facility is largely self-determined. This doesn't mean that you need to make the decision entirely by yourself. Logically, it depends on the severity of your substance dependency, but in order to make a fully-informed decision, you should discuss the pros and cons of inpatient vs. outpatient treatment with your psychiatrist, counselor, physician, or even family and friends. 

A Regulated Approach

Remember that inpatient treatment is a highly-controlled environment, with essentially your every waking minute accounted for. This regulated approach can be highly beneficial to patients whose substance abuse might be severe or those who have been unsuccessful with outpatient treatment in the past, and who may have relapsed. Your own substance abuse issues are undoubtedly serious, but are they serious enough to conclude that inpatient treatment is the best course of action?

Comprehensive Treatment

Although treatment is segregated by either being offered on an inpatient or outpatient basis, there are a huge number of variables to consider, as these two terms are actually quite broad. An intensive outpatient program is a beneficial option for a patient who needs comprehensive treatment, but whose circumstances don't warrant becoming a resident at the facility.

Intensive Treatment as an Outpatient

Intensive outpatient treatment for substance abuse shares a great deal of content with its inpatient counterpart. In fact, you might attend treatment sessions alongside the facility's inpatients, such as group counseling. Individual counseling will also feature in your program, as will drug education. You may also require medical attention and general monitoring for any drug detoxification, but this can be offered on an outpatient basis. Your intensive outpatient treatment program may last for several months, or it may be suggested on an ongoing basis, with your end date being determined depending on your progress.

Although receiving inpatient treatment can't be compared to being in prison, the idea is that you remain confined to the facility for the duration of your treatment. This prospect might not be appealing, and may not be the most beneficial approach in your specific circumstances if your substance abuse issues are classified as a mild addiction. An intensive outpatient program offers clear benefits without needing to relocate yourself.