Choosing Between Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Treatment For An Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) 

When seeking treatment for an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), it is important to understand the differences between rehabilitation options. The two main types of treatment for alcohol addiction are inpatient and outpatient. Even though inpatient and outpatient treatments are distinct in their approaches, either can be successful. Choosing between inpatient and outpatient treatment typically depends on the individual’s support system, previous commitments, and medical history.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is when a patient stays overnight at a facility to allow for more observation and assistance. Generally, it takes more than one overnight stay to treat an AUD, therefore these programs range from 30-90 days in length. This method is fully immersive and gives those seeking treatment around the clock access to medical and emotional support. Additionally, inpatient facilities offer environments with as few triggers as possible. These factors give inpatient treatment a higher success rate.

Detoxification is the first step to recovering from an alcohol addiction. During this process, the body clears itself of alcohol which can cause some unpleasant side effects like nausea, tremors, and even hallucinations. At an inpatient facility, physicians can administer medication to manage these withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, symptoms typically lessen about 50 hours after last drink. Once detoxification is complete, professionals can immediately begin the appropriate next steps which commonly include a structured schedule of individual therapy, support groups, and aftercare planning.

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Who Should Get Inpatient Treatment?

Inpatient and outpatient treatment are both fitting to anyone seeking help with an alcohol addiction, but certain factors solidifies that an individual should highly consider inpatient treatment. For people with co-occurring mental health conditions or dual diagnosis, like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), being able to personalize treatment can be extremely helpful. Specialists at these facilities can treat addiction and mental health simultaneously. It is also highly recommended that those with heart, liver, or breathing issues in their medical history seek inpatient treatment so physicians can closely monitor any signs of these separate health conditions.

Types Of Inpatient Treatment

Choosing an inpatient facility will depend on personal preferences and any co-occurring mental health or behavioral conditions. Specific preference for a type of therapy or group activity a facility offers may also be a deciding factor for some. For example, if someone seeking treatment is passionate about art, there are centers that have a greater focus on art therapy than others.

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Outpatient Treatment

Where inpatient and outpatient treatment differ is that outpatient does not offer overnight services in a facility. With this method, day to day life is not changed drastically as these programs frequently only require a few hours of commitment during the day and then patients get to return home. The detoxification process can be offered at either inpatient or outpatient treatment. Often, group counseling or 12 step programs are the next steps after detoxification.

Who Should Get Outpatient Treatment?

Outpatient treatment is ideal for people looking for a less expensive, yet still effective, treatment option. Additionally, those with jobs or other commitments might find that outpatient treatment is a viable option. A solid support group is imperative to keeping an outpatient accountable when not at the facility. Outpatient facilities can also be used for aftercare or those who are in the early stages of an AUD.

Types Of Outpatient Treatment

When deciding on an outpatient program for an AUD, the amount of time one needs to commit can be a deciding factor. Partial hospitalization programs offer the most structure by requiring that patients meet 5-7 days a week for 6-8 hours per day. These sessions involve individual therapy, group therapy, and other activities.

Another option is Intensive Outpatient Programs which includes clear milestones for recovery meant to facilitate transition. This type of outpatient treatment involves multiple short sessions each week for group therapy, relapse prevention education, and sometimes a 12-step program. As the set milestones are met, less and less time is required, and the patient becomes more capable of self-management.

For those who have already received a form of rehabilitation, standard outpatient is an aftercare option that uses support groups. These groups, made up of people who are also in the recovery process, offer resources, stability, and accountability. Often led by a licensed therapist, continuing care groups can be limited to specific demographics like age. This level of care meets for 1-2 days per week, 2 hours per group, with one weekly individual therapy session.

Weighing The Options

While both inpatient and outpatient treatments can be successful for an AUD, choosing which type to attend depends on the individual and their circumstances. Weighing the pros and cons of both options can be very helpful to the decision-making process.

Meant to treat more serious addictions, inpatient facilities provide 24/7 access to medical support. The benefits of inpatient treatment do come at a cost as this option tends to be more expensive than outpatient. However, there are opportunities for grants and scholarships to bring down the cost.

One of the positive aspects of outpatient treatments is that it is a more affordable route for people with milder addictions who wish to not be displaced from their normal environment and routine. Unfortunately, these programs often have more opportunity for relapse to occur because it is not as immersive as inpatient.

Both inpatient and outpatient treatments can be successful for an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Choosing between the two when seeking treatment depends on the individual and which environment and method they desire for their treatment. If you are struggling with an alcohol addiction and would like to explore your treatment options, contact a treatment provider.

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