Is it Worth Going to Outpatient Drug Rehab?

Is it Worth Going to Outpatient Drug Rehab?


Outpatient drug rehab has some limitations. In my personal journey through early recovery, outpatient never really worked for me. But there are some benefits to it as well, and it seems to work for some.

Let’s dig in and take a closer look at outpatient treatment:

What is outpatient drug rehab?

Outpatient is essentially the day program at a residential treatment facility without actually staying in the facility overnight. In other words, with outpatient treatment, you go from your home to the treatment center each day, and then stay there and attend lectures and groups all day, then come back home at night.

Thus the idea is that this is a step down in therapeutic levels from an actual residential program where you would check in and stay overnight.

Does outpatient drug rehab work?

Some people do find success in outpatient drug rehab, but the odds are lower than if they had checked into a residential program. This is just my opinion, but the numbers seem to back it up. This study states that outpatient clients are more than 4 times more likely to relapse than those who are staying in a residential treatment center.

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Addiction is complicated, and thus can attack us from various different angles. One of these angles is our environment. Most of us have a set of triggers that naturally present themselves to us throughout the course of our daily lives, such as the liquor store we walk past every day, or the drug-using friends that might stop by our house, and so on. Our life in addiction has formed our environment to support our use of drugs and alcohol. Therefore getting out of this environment can be a critical part of anyone’s recovery, especially in the very beginning when we are most vulnerable. Inpatient residential treatment provides relief from these environmental factors, while outpatient treatment does not.

Another factor is in relationship-building. Outpatient treatment does not offer the same level of intimacy and networking potential as inpatient treatment does. This is a crucial difference and could account for the difference in success rates between the two. When you check into a residential facility and stay there for a period of weeks, a certain bond is formed with the other recovering addicts that is an important part of early recovery. You don’t get this bonding experience in an outpatient setting, because you’re not actually living with the other participants.

Are there any benefits to outpatient treatment?

Sue outpatient treatment is more convenient, because you can go home each night. So it’s not such a major impact on your life like checking into a residential program is. The cost is also lower, because you’re not paying for the treatment center to house and feed you.

Some might even be able to continue working while attending outpatient treatment, so there is added convenience there as well.

Consider these benefits carefully though because in most cases they seem to work against building real, long term sobriety. Outpatient is “less disruptive” to most people’s lifestyles, but that is not necessarily a good thing. We want a major disruption. That’s the strength of inpatient residential treatment – that is completely removes you from your environment so that you can get some clean time under your belt.

The cost should be irrelevant if a person is serious about getting sober. The cost of continuing to drink or use drugs is extremely high, and in comparison, the cost of any treatment is quite low really. So don’t make a decision for treatment based on cost – look at which option is going to produce the best results for you.

Who should go to outpatient drug rehab?

People who have never tried any treatment before might do well in outpatient treatment, so it might be worth a try for some. If it works for you, that’s great. Sobriety is what matters. Results matter.

On the other hand, if you’ve tried outpatient in the past and not had good long term results, you might want to take a look at other treatment options. Residential treatment is just one of those possibilities. You could also try attending 12 step meetings on a regular basis or perhaps doing some one-on-one counseling with a therapist. There are many paths to sobriety.

If you try one method of treatment and fail to stay clean and sober, my suggestion is to try something more structured in the future. If outpatient doesn’t work, then try residential. If that doesn’t work, try long term treatment. You get the idea.

When I was still drinking I used to balk at the idea of long term treatment and living in a treatment center for several months. I thought that the idea was absurd because it would “take up too much of my time.” This was ridiculous though because all I was doing was living to drink and use drugs! My precious “time” was being flitted away anyways. Finally I went to long term treatment and it was the best decision I ever made.

So give outpatient a try but if it doesn’t work for you then remember to intensify your next recovery effort. Don’t keep doing the same thing and expecting things to change. If outpatient works for you that is great – but if it doesn’t then consider taking a more aggressive approach next time.


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