Tackling the Addiction

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Treating any kind of addiction can be a very stressful process. It requires time, care, both medical and emotional support, and very possibly a lot of money. In the end, all of those different factors are invested in turning someone against some of their most strongly ingrained, hard to kick habits, and the result is often worth it. No matter what kind of addiction care or rehab you seek, though, one of the biggest determining factors is whether it is on an inpatient or an outpatient basis.

Because it’s such a huge factor, in this article we’ll be going into some of the biggest differences you can expect between inpatient and outpatient treatment plans. Each type has its own unique benefits for a prospective patient, as well as its own pitfalls. Often, one type will suit an individual patient much better than another due to their individual needs and living conditions. So without further ado, let’s get into some definitions.

What is Inpatient Care?

Inpatient care is intense. In short, it’s exactly what it sounds like: individual treatment plans wherein patients are required to stay in a treatment facility for the duration of the program. This means that treatment is fast and effective. Patients can be monitored and their progress recorded around the clock, with the little relative possibility of slip-ups or mishaps. Addiction can be treated effectively, and recovery will follow very quickly after.

However, this kind of treatment also means a halt to the things that constitute daily life: school, work, family, friends, nights out and lazy Sundays on the couch, Monday night football games — all these activities are impossible while undergoing inpatient care, but the tradeoff could very well be worth it.

Imagine going to a hospital for major surgery. If you had a serious issue with, say, your heart or your liver, and you needed treatment as soon as possible, your doctor probably wouldn’t say “Okay, we’ve got you down. Here’s a care plan. Now go home and have lunch, and then you can come back and we can get started on the first part of the procedure today.” Instead, you’d be admitted to the hospital, have your surgery done, and then likely need to stay for at least a couple of days while being monitored to make sure your health had returned back to normal.

Inpatient care is, metaphorically, the same as having just such a major surgery done at a hospital. It disrupts daily life and requires patients to live, eat and sleep within the confines of the place where they’re getting treated.

At the same time, said disruption comes with a lot of benefits: it concretely cuts off any source of addiction and eliminates any distractions or temptations that might exist in a patient’s everyday life. For anybody with a truly serious addiction, inpatient care’s intensive nature could be just what they need to get back on the right track.

What is Outpatient Care?

Outpatient care, again, is exactly what it sounds like. In outpatient care, addiction can be treated while the patient continues to live the same lifestyle they had before the treatment while getting care on a regular schedule. Instead of living in an inpatient institution, you can live at home, see your friends, go to work, attend classes, and basically just engage in everyday life.

Obviously, this is an attractive solution; you get to recover while living a relatively normal life, and likely for cheaper than a comparable inpatient program! Outpatient care can be an essential tool for those who just can’t put their daily lives on hold. If you’re a parent, a student or you don’t have high job security, outpatient care may be a better solution than inpatient care.

That said, outpatient care does come with its drawbacks. It has a lower success rate, meaning that while it may be good for patients with relatively mild addictions, it won’t provide a solution to really serious addictions the same way that inpatient care will.

Outpatient care can be thought of like a minor surgery; cataract surgery, for example. It’s not a major procedure, and it only takes a couple of hours. You go to the doctor during the day, and then after the operation is over, you’re free to return and recover from the comfort of your own home. You wouldn’t be able to do so with major surgery, but because cataract surgery is relatively well-researched and easily done, it allows you to continue living your life in a convenient manner.

Which Type of Care is Better?

The type of care that’s best for you is a very personal question. It depends upon your living circumstances, your financial situation, and the status of your health and your addiction. Inpatient care has a higher success rate and lower dropout rate, and that’s the bottom line. If your addiction is serious, and if you can afford more costly inpatient programs, then they’re the way to go.

But inpatient programs aren’t always the solution. One drawback is that you lose a lot of access to your friends and family during the time that you’re in a treatment facility. For patients who draw a lot of strength and support from their social interactions, outpatient care might be a better option. Furthermore, not everybody can afford the more costly fees of inpatient care. Similarly, not everyone can simply spend their daily routine for weeks or months at a time in order to get treatment.

All of these factors mean: if you’re someone in need of addiction treatment, your individual circumstances will determine what’s right for you. Addiction is a truly complex condition that depends on many factors, both genetic and social. Neither type of care is better than the other 100% of the time.


To sum things up: inpatient care requires that addiction patients stay in a facility where they receive treatment. It has a higher success rate, but it’s more expensive and changes your daily routine. Outpatient care is less expensive and allows you to live at home while attending care for usually a couple of hours a week. It’s much more convenient, but it also comes with a higher dropout rate than inpatient care.

In the end, the best treatment is the one that’s right for you, the treatment that actually works for your life and your health needs. Only you and your doctor can decide that.

About The Author:

Stacey Smith is a freelance health writer. She is passionate to write about women’s health, dental health, diabetes, endocrinology and nutrition and provide in-depth features on the latest in health news for medical clinics and health magazines.

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