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What Is The Difference Between Outpatient Detox And A Regular Facility?

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Millions of Americans struggle with daily addiction across the nation. It’s nearly impossible to avoid the regular devastating news stories surrounding us with the estimated 118 people dying from opioid overdoses every day and the thousands of more addicts who find themselves incarcerated or worse due to drug-related crimes. However, no addict’s future is set in stone, especially once the decision is made to seek treatment.

Treatment centers across the nation specialize in helping even long-term users find a path away from drug and alcohol use. Depending on your individual needs, you may be presented with the option to pursue either an outpatient detox program or inpatient treatment in a regular facility. Before making a decision, it’s important to understand the differences between these two choices.

Making the Commitment

The overall commitment that’s required for each program is one of the leading differences between facility and outpatient treatment. Don’t mistake commitment as meaning the amount of effort or dedication needed to be successful in the program, but instead, commitment is the time you’ll invest on a treatment center’s campus and the level of temporary disruption it may cause to your daily life. Regardless of the time spent in a program, addicts entering treatment will need to be fully committed and involved in the process in order to get the most out of their experience and gain long-lasting results.

Inpatient treatment facilities by nature require a greater commitment of both time and temporary routine change. These programs will require participants to move onto a campus and into a new restricted lifestyle that will provide the best opportunity to achieve a full detox by removing triggers and opportunities for drug use from the equation. These programs typically run 28 days on average but can be as short as three days if used for detox only or extended for several months depending on the needs of the client.

In contrast, outpatient programs typically last longer, usually three months to over a year, but require less of a lifestyle disruption by allowing patients to stay in their home environment and travel to treatment on a daily basis. This option allows for a fair amount of flexibility for those with careers and families, while still providing the care necessary to detox and move away from the addiction cycle.


Outpatient detox and regular facility treatment vary in the types of support they offer. This allows for greater flexibility for a wider range of cases to personalize a program based on the patient’s needs.

Outpatient detox provides greater family or home relationship support. If an addict has a strong family support system or other relationships that may encourage sticking to the treatment process, outpatient detox may provide additional benefits towards sobriety. However, if home life acts as a trigger, an inpatient program may be more beneficial by removing potential situations that may provoke substance use.

Regular facility treatment provides additional support through 24-hour care in the form of both emotional and medical support. Medical support is especially important during the early stages of detox, especially when detoxing from drugs like benzodiazepines, alcohol, methadone or methamphetamines.

While inpatient programs may remove you from living with your family temporarily, that does not mean that all contact is cut off. Inpatient facilities still allow contact for mental and emotional support, but it’s important to understand that different facilities may have different regulations on the types of contact and when that contact occurs.

Treatment Methods

The treatment methods used in both inpatient and outpatient care are quite similar when compared side by side, but the way counselors are able to use the treatment methods can vary based on time.

An inpatient setting brings patients closer to each other over longer periods of time as well as patients closer to the staff of the treatment center during the day. This closeness can allow for much deeper treatment sessions, including intensive group and individual therapy sessions. More time in a regular facility may also allow for extra treatment services that teach additional coping mechanisms outside of turning to drugs or alcohol, such as yoga, meditation, and other stress reduction techniques.

Accessibility and Outcome

Cost and accessibility is another difference to consider when comparing these two treatment options. These two factors must also be compared with the potential outcomes and success rates depending on what substances you’re using and how long you’ve been using them. For example, the average cost of outpatient treatment is considerably cheaper than that of a regular facility. If a person does not have the right insurance coverage or resources to afford an inpatient program, then an outpatient program may make treatment more accessible. This removes cost as an obstacle to getting some form of treatment.

While the cost of outpatient treatment programs is typically less, it’s important to note that they may have slightly lower success rates, especially when working with those with long-term chronic use problems or those that are using alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. In some cases, a short initial inpatient detox before outpatient treatment may help improve the outcome by providing a boost of support during the first steps, as well as medical supervision during withdrawal. It’s essential to work with an addiction professional when choosing a program and taking their suggestions seriously, including entering a regular facility if it’s the best option for success based on your individual circumstances.

Even if you’ve failed in treatment in the past, emerging research and new treatment methods continue to evolve the way that addiction professionals approach substance abuse. This means every year facilities have a more diverse set of tools to approach each patient as an individual, working to provide unique treatment plans that increase success rates. Regardless of whether you choose an outpatient detox or regular facility program, the important step is making the choice. Get the help you need today to get your life back on the healthy and happy track you deserve.

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