Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab: Which is the Best Choice for Your Loved One?

Recovery is a process. Choosing to change your relationship with substance abuse is the first step in that process. Once you have decided to change your life, you need to decide what the best way to do that for you is. The question of inpatient vs outpatient rehab is valid.

Not every recovery follows the same path. You need to decide which course of treatment is the best for your situation.

Keep reading to learn the difference between the two types of rehabilitation.

Inpatient Rehabilitation

Inpatient rehab refers to treatment programs that are residential in nature. This means that those in the program will take an extended break from the rest of their life to focus solely on recovery.

They are usually a more intensive form of rehabilitation.

Inpatient Detox

Many inpatient rehab programs begin with a supervised detox. Detox is the most difficult part of recovery, from a physical aspect.

Withdrawal symptoms are never pleasant. There are some drugs that should not be quit unless under the care of a doctor because withdrawal can be deadly. Lethal withdrawals can occur with drugs like synthetic opiates, benzodiazepines, alcohol, and heroin.

If you are addicted to any of these drugs, an inpatient program is the safest choice because you will receive dedicated medical attention during detox.


The length of stay for an inpatient treatment program will depend on the program. Most programs last 28 days.

In the last few years, new programs have started to gain popularity. These new programs can last from as few as 3 days to as many as 365 days.

Benefits of Inpatient Programs

Inpatient recovery is particularly effective for people dealing with co-occurring disorders.

The term “co-occurring disorders” is used when someone has a mental health disorder as well as a drug or alcohol addiction.

Mental health professionals believe that these two co-occurring disorders need to be treated simultaneously. They believe that treating only the substance abuse, or only the mental health disorder, is a disservice to the patient.

Living at the rehab program facility helps you avoid temptations and influences from your daily life. These temptations may be triggers for your substance abuse. Living away from the daily triggers allows you to focus on recovery.

Inpatient facilities offer 24-hour support and care during your treatment. Many programs incorporate a step-down approach. This approach helps transition patients from full-time, inpatient care back to regular life.

Drawbacks to Inpatient Programs

The structured nature of an inpatient program does not work for some people. Because they are residential programs, you are not free to come and go at will. Your daily schedule involves intensive care and a rigid agenda.

Your life commitments may not allow for inpatient treatment.

For example, some people cannot leave work or school for a program. Others have children or parents to care for, and cannot be absent for that length of time.

Depending on the type of health insurance you carry, inpatient treatment may not be covered under your plan. You may have to pay out-of-pocket for treatment.

Inpatient care is typically more expensive than outpatient care.

Outpatient Rehabilitation

Outpatient rehab programs are part-time programs. This means that you do not reside at the rehab facility. You live your normal life of work or school during the day.

You attend the treatment program during your off-hours.

Outpatient Detox

Depending on the type of drug, outpatient detox is completely safe and effective.

Most patients find that outpatient detox is faster than inpatient detox, lasting an average of six days.

You will need to visit a hospital or other treatment facility for a physical and mental check-in during outpatient detox. Your doctor may prescribe medicine to help ease withdrawal symptoms.


Because you are seeking treatment as an outpatient, the duration of the treatment program is more variable. It can be designed to fit your individual needs and addiction.

Typically, you should expect to spend ten to twelve hours per week in your outpatient facility.

Most outpatient programs involve a step-down approach. This means that sessions become less intensive and frequent as you progress through your recovery.

Benefits of Outpatient Programs

Outpatient programs are more flexible. You can choose the intensity of support and care that you need. You can decide which type of counseling and therapy is best for you.

You do not have to take time away from your life — your job, your children, your schooling — to receive the help you need.

Outpatient care is typically less expensive than inpatient care. This, coupled with the fact that you can still receive a paycheck during treatment, makes it a better financial choice for some people.

Drawbacks to Outpatient Programs

Outpatient facilities do not offer 24-hour support.

For some people, being faced with daily life’s triggers during the early stages of recovery can lead to relapse. If your urge to use is constant, you may require more support than an outpatient program can provide.

The success of your treatment is dependent on your commitment to the program. If you will not voluntarily show up to, and participate in, counseling and therapy every single day, this program will have no benefit for you.

Outpatient programs may not be structured enough for some patients.

You will not receive dedicated medical attention during recovery. If you have complicated medical issues stemming from addiction that require the daily care of a medical doctor, you may need to opt for inpatient care.

Making the Choice: Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab

The choice between the two types of programs can be difficult.

Not everyone needs inpatient care. On the other hand, not everyone is committed enough for outpatient care.

Financial and logistical issues come into play during this decision-making process. Do you have childcare? Can you afford to be away from work? Will you be paying out of pocket?

Ultimately, you need to choose the program that will provide you with the type of support and care you need to recover. Is the program structured enough? Can you access care when you need it most?

Is this your best bet at recovery?

Defining Success

The average drop-out rate for outpatient therapy is higher than inpatient programs.

This may seem to indicate that inpatient programs are more successful. However, the overall success rate (defined as achieving and maintaining sobriety) is the same, regardless of the type of rehabilitation program chosen.

The following aspects of treatment have been shown to improve the chances of success:

  • Ongoing assessment
  • A wide range of services, including treatment, counseling, and education
  • Monitoring to determine an appropriate intensity of care
  • Continuing social support

The Process of Recovery

Acknowledging that you need to address your addiction is a huge first step. You’ve already committed to getting the help that you need.

Now you just need to pick the treatment program that will offer you the right type of support during your recovery.

Inpatient vs outpatient rehab is a personal choice.

Need more information to decide what type of rehabilitation is right for you? Click here to see the treatment options offered at your nearby recovery center in Savannah, Georgia.

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