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Inpatient vs. Outpatient treatments

Multiple options regarding the type of rehab individuals offer for drug addiction are available.

At the most basic level, the options are inpatient or outpatient treatment programs. The difference is how these programs allow individuals to receive addiction treatment and function outside the treatment location. It is essential to know whether you’re an outpatient or an inpatient if you or your loved one will need hospital treatment and have private health insurance.

Currently, state services don’t usually cover outpatient services. Since having a test or consultation with a specialist does not necessarily mean you’re an inpatient, this is sometimes a common source of frustration.

Once formally admitted to a medical center, your service is considered inpatient. Thus, outpatient is anything where you have not formally been admitted to a clinic. Clients shift to inpatient services when all the admission paperwork is completed and formally in. Health funds, by legislation, aren’t allowed to pay for any outpatient service where Medicare pays a benefit.

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Should I choose Inpatient or Outpatient?

Individuals in inpatient treatment programs have some condition or situation requiring a professional medical team to monitor them constantly. Numerous states require this level of medical monitoring, including those going through alcohol withdrawal, having a co-occurring mental health disorder that needs to be addressed, being suicidal, or having several relapses and failed attempts at recovery, among others.

Residential and partial hospitalization treatment programs differ from classical inpatient treatment programs as, in this case, patients do not require 24-hour medical monitoring and medical care. Outpatient treatment also includes intensive outpatient treatment programs (IOPs) that often provide the same level of treatment as inpatient treatment programs. Individuals in outpatient treatment programs can visit their relatives, work, and have recreational activities.  

Inpatient treatment programs have a limited duration, which may vary depending on the specific issues. They can last from one week to 3 months or much longer than a year.

For individuals with moderate to severe drug use disorders, getting involved in a medical-assisted withdrawal management program (detoxification) at La Jolla Recovery is a central tenant of treatment because drug withdrawal can be lethal. Relapse rates are incredibly high during this process. Furthermore, individuals withdrawing from alcohol usually develop issues with cognition and reality due to the development of hallucinations and delusions that leave them vulnerable.


Since 2002, the annual census of specialty addiction treatment facilities in the United States has identified intensive outpatient treatment programs as second in prevalence only to regular outpatient treatment for alcohol and drug abuse. In 2011, 6,089 United States programs offered IOPs (44% of 13,720 addiction treatment programs), and IOPs served 141,964 patients—12% of the 1.2 million patients in care.

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mission bay rehab salmon pink outdoors plants outside condos inpatient residential treatment

Advantages of Inpatient Rehab

Some of the main advantages of using an inpatient withdrawal management program are:

  • The treatment program offered at La Jolla Recovery is implemented by a multidisciplinary team of treatment providers who address clients’ issues from different perspectives, which includes physicians, therapists, social workers, and occupational therapists 
  • It fosters a sense of personal responsibility and accountability for the client.
  • Inpatient treatment units isolate individuals with toxic environmental backgrounds, such as being homeless, living in an area where alcohol or drug abuse is predominant, and being in abusive relationships.
  • They help to develop confidence in individuals unsure of their ability to abstain from alcohol.
  • The legal system is more likely to accept inpatient treatment for an addict as at least a partial form of incarceration.

Advantages of Outpatient Treatment

Clients in treatment for an alcohol use disorder will transition to some form of outpatient treatment shortly. Outpatient treatment is the mainstay of all long-term substance use disorder recovery programs. Individuals who remain in treatment-related activities for a sufficient amount of time increase the probability that their long-term recovery will succeed, and they will eventually end up involved in some form of outpatient treatment.

These are the advantages of outpatient treatment:

  1. Outpatient treatment programs allow individuals to continue with their lives and maintain important life commitments to family, work, and college.
  2. Being in an outpatient treatment program protects confidentiality. 
  3. Outpatient treatment programs are sometimes very intensive. For example, intensive outpatient treatment provides around ten or more hours of intensive therapy per week.
  4. Outpatient treatment programs help patients to develop a strong and diverse social support network of other individuals in recovery.

Inpatient treatment programs are beneficial in monitoring and controlling a person’s withdrawal from drugs. They provide individuals with a solid foundation for their recovery program that can help them once they transition to outpatient care. Still, due to their time-limited nature, they only represent the first stage of recovery. Outpatient treatment programs are the foundation of long-term recovery. They provide intensive treatment, the ability to continue their everyday lives, flexibility, social support, and the opportunity to participate in therapy for years after their initial abstinence from alcohol. Nevertheless, more potential temptations can result in relapse. 

Finally, inpatient treatment programs are generally equivalent to long-term outpatient treatment regarding the available rehab quality. Both types of programs at La Jolla Recovery have shown similar success rates.

Inpatient treatment programs are often more successful at helping individuals get through drug withdrawal without relapsing. Still, once the individual has committed to quitting alcohol and other drugs, they must develop an effective relapse prevention program outside the detox venue. Make an appointment at La Jolla Recovery for an assessment to help you decide the best option.

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