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Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab: The Difference

inpatient vs outpatient

Which type of rehab is best for you? What’s the differences between inpatient vs. outpatient rehab? In this article we discuss Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab, the benefits, drawbacks and much more.


In 2017, some 47,000 Americans died as the result of an opioid overdose. That includes prescription medications like Oxycodone or Vicodin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and street drugs like heroin. Put another way, that’s 130 deaths every single day.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services announced in September 2018 that it was awarding over $1 billion in grants and funds to fight the opioid epidemic that many believe is destroying our country.

If you are addicted to opioid medications, other narcotics, or alcohol, take heart. With addiction in the spotlight, there’s never been a better time for you to get the support you need to get clean and learn how to live a sober life.

Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab — Which Is Right For You?

First, it’s important to acknowledge that just admitting you have a problem is a huge step. So give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for making the decision to get sober. Now, let’s figure out whether inpatient rehab or an outpatient program will serve you better.

Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab Treatment

Inpatient rehab involves a stay at a residential treatment center. As the name implies, you will live at the center, and your days will be highly structured, with little free time.

You will sleep, eat, socialize, undergo therapy, and participate in programs to help you understand and overcome your addiction — all under one roof. While it is likely that you will not be locked down, neither will you be free to come and go.

With outpatient rehab, there’s no residential component. You continue to live at home, and you can attend school or go to work as you normally would. Yet you will also attend a treatment program to tackle your addiction.

Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab Duration?

Inpatient rehab programs typically last about a month. However, there are intensive treatments of only a few days’ duration, as well as longer-term rehab programs of several months or even a year.

Outpatient programs are generally more flexible. As you are only attending them part-time, it’s understandable that your entire recovery process may take a bit longer. Partial hospitalization programs may last several weeks, while other forms of treatment are available to you for as long as you want or need them.

Experts generally recommend that you commit to at least 90 days’ worth of outpatient treatment to get the optimal results.

It’s important to understand that no matter which form of rehab kick-starts your recovery, recovering from addiction is a lifelong pursuit. Continued participation in therapy, 12-step programs, or other support groups is vital to your continued success in staying off drugs.

What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Residential Rehab?

Inpatient, or residential, rehab provides a safe and secure environment in which you can recover without having to worry about the stresses and pressures of everyday life. It is fairly easy to focus on achieving sobriety in this atmosphere since that is all you are expected to do.

You will be asked to participate in individual and group activities, adhere to a fairly strict daily schedule and stay on the premises at all times. While some people might chafe at such tight control, most inpatient rehab residents find the external structure to be comforting and helpful.

You won’t be able to attend classes or go to work while in inpatient rehab. It is itself a full-time pursuit. Although some luxury facilities allow patients to bring their pets, in most rehabs you will be cut off from your pets, family, and friends, except during limited visiting opportunities.

Residential treatment programs are costly, and they may or may not be covered by your health insurance.

On the plus side, the intensive levels of supervision and support you receive as an inpatient are likely to be very effective in helping you overcome your addiction. And because there are onsite medical professionals, anyone who is dual-diagnosed or who needs medical treatment for any reason will be given appropriate care.

What About the Pros and Cons of Outpatient Rehab?

When you attend an outpatient rehab program, you commit to several hours per day of treatment. Other than that, you are free to live your own life. That means you don’t have to give up your job. You can still take care of your children or live with your spouse. In other words, the rest of your life doesn’t have to come to a temporary standstill, as it necessarily does with inpatient rehab.

Of course, the major drawback to outpatient treatment is that you are facing your demons and your temptations every day. There will be plenty of opportunities to use your drug of choice, and no one to protect you from yourself.

Naturally, outpatient rehab is, therefore, better for people who are highly motivated to get clean, but need a more intensive level of support than simply going cold turkey. Those who cannot reschedule their days or put their lives on hold to attend rehab can often find success in outpatient programs.

Wrapping Up

Before you decide which method of treatment will be better for you, it is vital to weigh the pros and cons of inpatient vs. outpatient treatment. If you need help understanding what the differences are, what rehab entails, and which way to turn, feel free to contact us. It’s confidential, and we provide 24/7 staff to support you and answer your questions.

It’s not easy to admit that you have a drug or alcohol problem that requires rehab. In many ways, realizing that you are an addict, and asking for help at all, is half the battle. Just know that whether you choose inpatient or outpatient treatment at this juncture in your life, you are definitely headed in the right direction!