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Is Inpatient Alcohol Rehab More Effective Than Outpatient Treatment?

inpatient vs outpatient alcohol rehab

Making the decision to seek help for a drinking problem is life-changing. Now, it’s time to make some important decisions regarding your treatment regimen. If you’ve never been to rehab before, you may have a lot of questions about the different treatment programs offered. One of the most pressing questions that pop up is whether or not inpatient or outpatient alcohol rehab is more effective.

The truth is, no two individuals are exactly alike, so your treatment needs may differ from someone else in the program. Rather than asking yourself which program has better outcomes, it’s vital to ask yourself which program you can benefit from the most.

The Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Alcohol Rehab

Inpatient alcohol rehab programs require you to live at the treatment facility (or at a supervised housing area associated with the treatment facility) for the entire duration of your stay. You are not able to come and go as you please. You can only leave the facility for treatment-related activities or with approval from your primary therapist. During your stay, you have access to 24/7 medical services, psychiatric care, and emotional support. Inpatient is the highest level of care offered during alcohol treatment.

Outpatient rehab, on the other hand, addresses alcoholism on an appointment-only basis. You are not required to live at the treatment facility and are able to manage your usual responsibilities such as work, school, or family. You are only at the alcohol treatment facility during your scheduled group and therapy sessions.

There are several different types of outpatient rehab. In order from the most intensive to the least, these are: partial hospitalization (PHP), intensive outpatient (IOP), and regular outpatient (OP).

What Makes an Alcohol Rehab Program Effective?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are many different principles of effective addiction treatment–none of which revolve around the level of care offered. A few guiding principles that make up effective care include:[1]

  • Recognizing that no single treatment is appropriate for everyone, and that treatment needs to meet each patient’s individual needs.
  • Using behavioral therapies such as individual, family, and group counseling to help patients overcome their alcoholism.
  • Incorporating medications into treatment reduces the risk for relapse and provides physical and psychiatric stabilization.
  • Addressing underlying mental health conditions that contribute to drinking.

As long as an alcohol rehab program meets these guidelines, the program can be effective–whether it is offered on an inpatient or an outpatient basis.

Is Inpatient Alcohol Rehab Better than Outpatient?

Researchers have found varying results when comparing the efficacy of inpatient and outpatient rehab for alcoholism. Some studies suggest that inpatient rehab is more effective and others suggest there is no evidence that one program is better than another. However, certain types of patients can benefit more from one program than the other.[2]

For example, patients with lower levels of depression and anxiety who participated in an outpatient program had lower rates of alcohol relapse compared to those in an outpatient program who struggled with depression and anxiety. The same patients with more severe mental health conditions, however, are able to achieve the same level of success as their counterparts if they participate in an inpatient treatment program.[3]

Since both inpatient and outpatient alcohol rehab can be effective, it’s important to consider your individual needs. This way, you can choose the program that will benefit you the most. Rather than asking yourself, “is inpatient alcohol rehab more effective than outpatient,” you should be asking which level of care is right for you.

inpatient or outpatient rehab

Get The Care You Need and Deserve

Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment is a leader in the addiction treatment field, with proven success in facilitating long-term recovery. Our team of top clinical & medical experts specializes in treating addiction coupled with mental illness, ensuring that each person receives individualized care. Call us – we’re available 24/day, 7 days/week.

Which Program is Better for Me?

If you want to have the best chances of staying sober, you need to choose the treatment program that meets your individual needs. When choosing between inpatient and outpatient alcohol rehab, ask yourself these questions to help you decide:

  • How severe is my alcoholism? Will I be able to avoid drinking without around-the-clock care?
  • Do I struggle with any co-occurring mental or physical health issues that may require a high level of care?
  • Do I need medical detox services? Is it possible for me to detox successfully on an outpatient basis?
  • How supportive is my home environment? Do I need a safe, stable, and sober place to live until I get back on my feet?

You are a good candidate for outpatient alcohol treatment if you:

  • Have a mild alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • Live in a supportive, stable, and sober household
  • Have already completed a higher level of care
  • Do not require medical detox services

However, if you relate to the following, you may benefit more from an inpatient program:

  • You have a severe alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • You need medical detox services to stop drinking safely
  • Your home environment is not conducive to recovery
  • You struggle with co-occurring mental health condition that could benefit from intensive treatment

Start Your Recovery From Alcoholism Today

The best way to figure out if inpatient alcohol rehab will be more effective than outpatient rehab is to speak with an addiction specialist about your situation. Here at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, our dedicated admissions counselors can evaluate your needs, speak with you about your options, and help you choose the right alcohol rehab program for you.

Don’t wait any longer. Call now to begin your recovery.


Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC
Clinical Director

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