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Scope of Outpatient treatment for addiction

July 29, 2022
Reviewed by: Rajnandini Rathod

India is facing a serious drug addiction problem. According to the ministry of social justice and empowerment, there were 250 drug addicts for every 100,000 Indians about a decade back. This number has only been rising.

In India, children as young as 15 years old are abusing drugs. However, the mean age of drug abusers is around thirty-five, and almost 95% of them are males. This age group is the prime working force of the country, and the economic losses of having so many drug addicts can be staggering.

On a personal front, an individual with a drug addiction problem may not be able to afford round care treatment as they have to earn a living. In such a scenario, outpatient treatment can be really valuable. Let’s understand how outpatient treatment can help with addiction issues when inpatient treatment is not an option.

What is Outpatient Treatment?

Outpatient treatment involves seeking rehabilitation from drugs by visiting the outpatient department or outpatient clinic of a rehabilitation centre or hospital that has de-addiction programs. Just like inpatient programs, there are similar treatments offered like CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy), group therapy, counselling and even medication. In an inpatient program, the recovering addict has to undergo daily treatment; however, in an outpatient treatment facility, one can work out a schedule with the counsellor that helps accommodate work and family responsibilities.

Who can benefit from outpatient treatment?

Inpatient treatment is often considered the best option for drug rehabilitation; however, for many, this may not be a feasible option. Following are the circumstances that make outpatient treatment the ideal choice for people struggling with addiction issues.

  • Someone who wants to be discreet about their addiction treatment
  • Someone who cannot take leave from work for financial or personal reasons
  • Someone who has young children or elder family members dependent on them
  • Someone who cannot afford the cost of inpatient treatment
  • Former inpatient treatment who want to manage their sobriety

How is outpatient treatment different from inpatient programs?

To know the difference between the two, let’s first understand what an inpatient program is. This method of treatment involves keeping the person with addiction issues in a rehabilitation centre for a specific period of time. Most inpatient rehab centres have a detoxification program which is carried out under strict medical supervision. The detoxification process may last for a few days to a couple of weeks and can be a very challenging time for the patient. 

Outpatient treatment does not involve a detoxification program and hence is ideal only for those who have mild addiction problems. While CBT, counselling, and medical treatment are also offered in outpatient treatment, the frequency of these sessions is less, and the onus is on the person seeking treatment to be regular for these sessions. Inpatient treatments are more intense as there is no access to family and friends, and all work and life distractions are removed from the equation. Outpatient treatments tend to be a little more flexible, and you can sometimes even get your loved one to these sessions for support.

Pros of outpatient treatment vs Inpatient treatment

Outpatient treatmentInpatient treatment
You can plan your treatment to accommodate your work and family responsibilities.You have to follow a strict timetable. Wake-up and bedtime, treatment sessions, food time, bathing time; everything is scheduled for you.
There is no loss in income as you can continue going to work/doing business as usual.You have to miss out on work which could mean a loss of pay.
You can apply whatever you learn in your counselling sessions in real life, in real-time.You have to wait till you are out of the rehab centre to put your learnings into practice.
A few outpatient treatment programs allow family sessions, which can help your loved ones understand your situation and recover better.You have to be away from family and friends, and they may not understand how difficult your recovery process has been.
Outpatient treatment is much more affordable than inpatient treatment as you are not paying for room costs, food costs and other living expenses of a rehab centre. While government-run inpatient facilities are affordable, private inpatient facilities can be quite expensive. 

Cons of outpatient treatment vs Inpatient treatment

Outpatient treatmentInpatient treatment
Since you are not in a controlled environment, you are still exposed to the same temptations and triggers that caused your addiction problems in the first place.You are cut off from your friends, family and work. There is no access to phones or the internet. This removes all the distractions of daily life, and your focus is only on recovery.
You can still access drugs and alcohol as there is no authority figure to stop you.You have no access to drugs and alcohol as you are under strict supervision at all times.
You may not be able to fully focus on your recovery as work and family responsibilities may keep you occupied.All your time at an inpatient treatment facility is focused on therapy. You spend adequate time on both individual and group counselling sessions.
You need to book your time with the counsellors/therapist in advance. If you aren’t punctual or if the therapist is busy, then you may miss sessions.You have 24×7 access to trained staff and therapists.

De-Addiction programs in India

To counter the rising problem of drug addiction, the Government of India has mandated two of its major ministries, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, to offer free de-addiction treatments. Drug Treatment Clinics (DTC) offer outpatient treatment services, and Integrated Rehabilitation Centres for Addicts (IRCAs) provide inpatient treatment services. Currently, there are 27 DTCs and 480 IRCAs that are running in different states in the country.

In conclusion, outpatient treatment can be a very feasible option for de-addiction treatment for people who are either short on time or money. It can help people seek treatment without giving up on their work or family responsibilities. One can also stay on the path of sobriety for life by visiting counsellors and going for group therapy in these outpatient treatment facilities. At the end of the day, the outcome of both inpatient and outpatient treatment relies on how dedicated the patient is to the recovery process. You can browse a list of centres that provide outpatient treatment for addiction here


Drug Abuse Monitoring System – A Profile of Treatment Seekers

National Centre for Drug Abuse Prevention

Hafeez. S. (2021, June) 5 facts you should know about drug abuse in India.

(2020, June 3) Types of Treatment Programs. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Cruz. B. (2014, Aug) 5 Pros & Cons of Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab Centers

Department of Social Justice and Empowerment. NashaMukt Bharat: Annual Action Plan (2020-21) for 272 most affected Districts