Comparing Inpatient Vs Outpatient Addiction Treatment

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When it comes to addiction, there are different levels of care that could be beneficial in an individual finding recovery and learning to live without substances. Often, people wonder about inpatient vs outpatient addiction treatment. This is a valid thought process, but what are these two forms of treatment? How are they beneficial? Which one is better? Knowing the similarities and differences between inpatient and outpatient can help someone to make an informed decision about whether inpatient or outpatient is best for them and their needs.

What are Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment?

Inpatient vs outpatient addiction treatment both have specific goals when it comes to helping someone who has found themselves struggling with drugs and alcohol. They are similar in that they both can consist of group and individual therapy, medication management, family therapy, psychoeducational groups, and wellness exercises. However, while they are similar, knowing that these two forms of addiction treatment are also very different is crucial. The main difference between inpatient and outpatient is that inpatient treatment consists of a more intensive, around the clock treatment approach. During inpatient care, there is medical staff available 24 hours a day in order to address any symptoms that may arise, no matter the time of day. It provides treatment methods during the day, then overnight stays in order to ensure safety and stability throughout the process. Conversely, those who go through an outpatient treatment program generally have stabilized and don’t require such intensive treatment. They participate in treatment programs during designated hours, and then are able to return to a stable and supportive sober environment at home.

Stages of Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment is a continuum of care, meaning that there are stages meant to aid in success and safety. Everyone will have a different recovery journey, and not everyone will require the same thing. It is not linear. There are different factors that will play a role in determining what path is best for the individual. However, there are common stages of inpatient vs outpatient addiction treatment that someone who is struggling should be aware of.  The first and one of the most crucial phases of addiction treatment is detox. During this phase, an individual is able to safely remove all substances from the system. This is best done under medical supervision, as there are many complications and dangers that may arise and make it extremely difficult to stop using the substances. After detox, an individual can then go through residential. This is a stabilization stage in which the substances are removed from the system, but there may be some residual effects needing to be monitored. Detox and residential are both inpatient levels of care, providing around-the-clock medical supervision.


Partial hospitalization programs are generally the next stage of addiction treatment. As an outpatient level of care, there is less intensive care consisting of daytime individual and group therapy, then the individual is able to return to a safe and sober environment. Intensive outpatient (IOP) is usually the next step in the process. IOP provides comprehensive care including group and individual therapy for a few hours per day, 3-5 days per week. Again, as an outpatient level of care the individual is able to maintain their normal lifestyle with work, school, and family outside of treatment hours. The least intensive stage of treatment of outpatient, or OP. During OP, the process is similar to IOP. The main difference between the two is that OP is less frequent than IOP.

Benefits of Inpatient vs Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Comparing inpatient vs outpatient addiction treatment consists of knowing the benefits of both. Inpatient is beneficial for individuals who are just freshly trying to get and stay clean and sober. Inpatient is geared toward helping those who need more intensive care to learn ways of battling addiction on a daily basis. It helps to teach someone how to cope with life’s daily stressors. It provides a space for people seeking recovery to focus solely on getting better. Outpatient addiction treatment is beneficial for individuals who don’t require the more intensive care inpatient offers. It provides a more flexible option for individuals who have families and careers to maintain, while also providing much-needed care and support that outpatient offers.

Inpatient Vs Outpatient Addiction Treatment: Which is Best?

At this point, someone may be wondering if the benefits of inpatient vs outpatient would best suit them. There is no one formula to determine which would be best for someone who is seeking recovery. However, inpatient and outpatient both serve a purpose and can make a difference for the person who is trying to better their life. Many factors can play a role in what would be best. From insurance coverage, legal issues, and responsibilities to substances being used can play a role in figuring out what is best on a case by case basis. With that being said, it is crucial to know that individuals who are struggling with more severe substance use will likely require the higher levels of care that inpatient offers. This helps to ensure that someone safely removes the substances, providing comfort and stability while doing so. Those who have barriers to inpatient treatment can still benefit from outpatient treatment. This can help provide the support to learn the necessary life skills to maintain a clean and sober lifestyle long term.

Begin Addiction Recovery Today

Addiction is a disease affecting the lives of thousands of people on a daily basis. There is no limit to who can be affected by addiction, and when it happens, it alters the lives of those who have found themselves struggling. The impacts addiction can have are devastating, and can affect not only the individual, but their loved ones are not left unscathed. Many people are unaware of the help that is available. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, we can help. At The Healing Center we offer care plans that are tailored to individual needs in order to help ensure the best care possible. Call us today and begin your journey of recovery.