Once you’ve decided to seek treatment for your drug addiction, you will have to choose which type of program will work best for you. Addiction treatment generally falls into two categories: inpatient (residential), and outpatient. Both types of treatment are helpful in getting you started in recovery, but there are some differences between the two to consider. There are pros and cons to both inpatient and outpatient treatments, and knowing what each has to offer is the best way for you to make an informed decision about how to get started with your recovery.
What is Inpatient Treatment?
Inpatient treatment is a safe, structured, 24 hours a day, residential program that usually lasts 30 – 90 days, in a rehab facility. Essentially, you move in for the length of your stay and are immersed in an environment of recovery. Residential treatment offers recovery education, individual and group therapy, and medical and psychiatric care if needed.
Advantages of Inpatient Treatment
Inpatient treatment has been shown to be the most effective way of treating addiction. The days are full and structured with classes, meetings and therapy, which are the cornerstones of the recovery process. There are some definite advantages to checking into an inpatient treatment program, here are just a few:
Medically supervised detox. Most patients need to detox when they arrive at treatment. Residential programs generally offer a detox program at the beginning of treatment to allow time to get the drugs out of the patients’ systems. Medical detox is much safer and more comfortable than attempting to detox alone.
Around the clock care and support. When you are in a rehab facility, your emotions are apt to be all over the place. Whether you are feeling fearful and anxious, or relieved and hopeful, there is always someone there – someone knowledgeable and qualified to work in the addiction realm – 24 hours a day. It’s comforting to know that you never have to be alone and that you have ample support to begin your recovery.
A sense of community. Living full time with a group of people who share your same struggles builds a sense of community and fellowship. Peer support is an important part of recovery, and residential treatment allows for that like no other program. Friendships and bonding happen quickly in rehab, often lasting long after treatment is over.
Intensive therapy. Inpatient treatment offers a mix of individual and group therapy. Many addicts have underlying psychological issues that need addressing as part of their recovery. Healing old wounds and becoming self-aware are keys to making the most of your time in treatment.
Identifying psychiatric issues. Many patients who enter rehab discover that they have a dual diagnosis. That means that in addition to suffering from addiction, they have a mental health issue like chronic depression, generalized anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, among others. Dual diagnosis is very common because many people who become addicted to drugs begin using as a form of self-medicating. Once sober, other issues can be treated improving the patient’s opportunity for successful recovery.
Outside distractions are eliminated. Because inpatient treatment removes you from your daily life, there are no distractions to take your focus away from recovery. Not having to worry about the day-to-day challenges you may have allows you to build a strong foundation of recovery before you have to deal with them.
Time to recover. Most importantly, residential rehab provides you with time to focus on yourself and your recovery. In the rush of daily life, it is easy to forego the positive things you do for yourself, instead of taking care of problems that come up. When you are in an inpatient treatment program, there is nothing that you have to take care of except yourself and your recovery.
Support after treatment. Once you leave treatment, the support doesn’t end. Residential treatment facilities usually offer types of aftercare or alumni meetings for continued support.
Disadvantages of Inpatient Treatment
Like most things, residential treatment also has certain drawbacks. Although the positive definitively outweighs the negative, here are some of the disadvantages to inpatient treatment:
Freedom to come and go. When you are in an inpatient facility, you cannot come and go as you please. There are sometimes trips off of the campus, most often doctor appointments, recreation, or 12 step meetings, but they are scheduled and supervised.
Structure, structure, structure. The days in residential are very busy and nearly every minute is scheduled. You will have scheduled classes, lectures, meetings, therapy sessions, other activities, and meals, allowing very little downtime. Reduced downtime could also be considered an advantage of residential treatment though because structure is one of the best things for people starting in recovery.
You cannot work or go to school. If you have a job or are a student, you will have to take a leave of absence to attend an inpatient treatment program.
The cost. Residential rehab can be expensive, but it can also be a matter of life and death, making no price too high. Most insurance companies will cover some, or most, of the cost, and most treatment centers will help with a payment plan for the remainder.
What is Outpatient Treatment?
Outpatient treatment for addiction, usually called Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), offers recovery education, therapy, and relapse prevention on an outpatient basis. The program typically meets several times a week for several hours. Outpatient treatment offers some advantages that inpatient does not:
Advantages of Outpatient Treatment
Lower cost. Outpatient programs cost far less than inpatient, and a portion is usually covered by insurance.
You can live at home. Living at home can be a disadvantage as well because outpatient treatment doesn’t remove you from the environment in which you used drugs. However, if you have a strong support system at home, it can be an advantage to be there.
You can work or go to school. Most outpatient program schedules can accommodate you staying at your job or school. Again, this can be good or bad depending on the stress level at work or school. Financially it may seem better to continue earning a paycheck while receiving treatment, but it may not be conducive to your recovery if you are stressed out at work.
You receive therapy and education. Much of the therapy and education in outpatient treatment is the same that you receive inpatient. You learn about self-awareness, addiction, coping and life skills and relapse prevention, only in a more abridged manner.
Disadvantages of Outpatient Treatment
You’re not in a drug-free environment. Outpatient treatment doesn’t offer the safety of not having drugs around. Once you leave a session, you may be right back in the same places you were during active addiction. You are also likely to be around the same people, places or things that acted as triggers for your using. Those things can be difficult to maneuver in early sobriety.
Distractions abound. The challenges of daily life can make it easy to lose focus on recovery. It can be difficult to put your recovery first when you have a family, job and bills. Outpatient treatment is certainly a step in the right direction, but it can be hard to find the balance between recovery and the rest of life.
Which Treatment is Right for You?
Ultimately, deciding which type of treatment to seek is up to you. If you have done outpatient before and relapsed, inpatient treatment may be more helpful. If you have a job that will not allow a leave of absence, then outpatient might be right for you. Weigh the pros and cons and talk with the supportive people in your life to decide which treatment is right for you.
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