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How to Choose Between Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment

There are many approaches to addiction treatment. There is therapy, addiction medicine, 12-step programs, inpatient programs, and outpatient programs. Treatment programs typically include therapy, medication, and 12-step programs, simplifying treatment, but you may be unsure whether to go for inpatient or outpatient treatment.

Whether you choose inpatient or outpatient largely depends on your circumstances. Inpatient programs are more intensive and regimented. There is less possibility of relapse because you are always at the treatment center. You have very few distractions and you can really focus on recovery. You will typically see a therapist, go to group meetings, meet with a doctor, and have other activities, possibly exercise or complementary therapies, such as massage, acupuncture, or yoga.

Most people will want to at least detox in a residential facility. Detoxing from alcohol or benzodiazepines can be dangerous, and having a medical staff on hand to manage your symptoms will be safer than trying to detox at home. For opioids, especially, this is a time when many people give up and go back to using. If you detox in a facility, you are more likely to follow through with treatment and you will be safer and more comfortable. Since many facilities do detox and treatment, it simplifies things to detox and go right into inpatient treatment.

The downside of inpatient treatment is that you have to put your life on hold while you’re there. For some people, this will be exactly what they need. Others may have some unavoidable responsibilities. This is especially true of single parents who need treatment but also need to work and take care of their children. Sometimes people want to keep working or going to school and want a program that can work with their schedule. Outpatient programs allow much more flexibility in this regard.

The downsides of outpatient programs are that they allow many more opportunities for relapse and you don’t get a break from your normal stressors. If you’re trying to work, study, or take care of children, you can’t focus on recovery and you might have to deal with a lot of stress while still being exposed to opportunities to use.

Where you live and where you choose to get treatment make a difference too. You can go to an inpatient program pretty much anywhere because you live at the facility. Outpatient programs require you to commute or find other lodgings. If there is no outpatient program near where you live, an inpatient program may be a simpler solution. Also, some people just want to get some distance from their regular scene. Entering an inpatient program some distance from where you live can provide privacy and extra insulation from temptation.

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