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Inpatient Rehab vs Outpatient Treatment

April 19, 2022
Reviewed by: Rajnandini Rathod

Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab Treatment. Which is a better option?

There comes a point in life where any person with addiction has to choose between recovery with rehab or continuing on the path of substance abuse and risk mental and physical breakdown and even death. At this crucial juncture, it is often the family and friends who decide on behalf of the patient with addiction and hence it’s better for everyone involved to understand the types of treatment available. If you or your loved one need assistance with substance abuse issues, then this article will help you understand the difference between inpatient and outpatient rehab treatment, the pros and the cons of each treatment and which treatment facility is a better option.

What is inpatient rehab treatment?

Inpatient rehab involves admitting patients with addiction to a rehabilitation centre for an extended period of time. While a few addicted individuals who want to turn their life around admit themselves voluntarily, a majority of them are admitted involuntarily by their parents or loved ones. Most inpatient rehab centres will have detoxification programs that the patients will undergo under strict medical supervision. The process of detoxification may take a few days, weeks or even a couple of months, depending on the intensity of the addiction. During and post detoxification, the patient can undergo a combination of treatments and can include a few or all of the therapies like Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Motivational Enhancement Therapy, individual counselling, group therapy, etc.  

What is outpatient treatment?

This type of treatment would entail the patient with addiction visiting the outpatient department or the outpatient clinic of a rehabilitation centre or hospitals that also run de-addiction programs. Typically, they would have to attend similar kinds of treatment like Cognitive Behavior Therapy, counselling, group therapy, etc., on a daily or weekly basis depending on the severity of the addiction. Outpatient treatment is suited for individuals who cannot take time off work or parenting duties or cannot afford the cost of inpatient rehab treatment. Outpatient treatment is also sought by persons in recovery who are now aiming at managing their sobriety.

Pros and cons of inpatient rehab treatment

Inpatient rehab treatment is often a more effective and faster method of addiction recovery. However, along with the many pros, there are a few cons to this treatment method as well. Here’s a short list:


·   24X7 supervision by trained staff and therapists.

·   Being part of a community that includes other patients in recovery.

·   Adequate time spent on therapy, both individual and group.

·   No access to drugs and alcohol.

·   No distractions or worries of everyday life.  


·   One cannot come and go whenever they want.

·   One has to follow a strict timetable from when one can get up to what time to attend sessions.

·   One has to miss out on work which could mean a loss of pay for some.

·   One has to spend time away from family and friends.

·   Private inpatient facilities can be expensive.

Pros and cons of outpatient rehab treatment

Outpatient treatment may seem more lucrative as it allows one to continue with their normal everyday life. However, along with the pros, there are always some cons and here are some of them:


·   Outpatient treatment can be planned around one’s work and family responsibilities.

·   One can implement the learnings from their counselling sessions immediately in real life.

·   Many outpatient treatment programs involve family sessions, which empower the family members to understand the patient’s condition better.

·   Outpatient treatment is more affordable as one does not have to pay the cost of inpatient living expenses.


·   One is still exposed to the same triggers and influences that lead to the addiction issues in the first place

·   One has still unrestricted access to drugs and alcohol

·   Work stress and everyday life issues may keep some from focusing fully on their recovery

·   Access to counsellors/therapists is more limited and sessions need to be booked in advance.  

Inpatient vs Outpatient, which treatment option should one choose?

Now that you have understood the pros and cons of both treatment methods, you may be wondering which is the best option. Here are a few things to consider:

Costs: Government-run inpatient facilities are free or offer services at a very affordable cost. However, these centres tend to be overcrowded and therapists and caregivers tend to be overworked and this may hamper the service provided. Private inpatient facilities tend to be more focused, more personalized, clean and hygienic with round the clock care. However, they tend to be more costly and the rising bills can be a cause of stress to both the patient and the family members.

Responsibilities: If the patient is the sole earner in the family and taking time off work could mean loss of pay then it could be a very inconvenient situation. Also, if the patient is the primary caregiver for a child or an elderly family member then time off from these responsibilities may not be an option at all. In such cases, outpatient treatment is a more ideal choice of treatment.  

Severity of the addiction: Sometimes the addiction problem can be so severe that the person has no choice but to admit themselves to an inpatient program. Once the patient has some control over their addiction issues then they may choose outpatient treatment so that they can go back to their work or family responsibilities and still work on recovery.

De-Addiction programs in India

Approximately 5.7 crore Indians need treatment for alcohol-related disorders and over a crore Indians are addicted to cannabis, opium, heroin and synthetic drugs. 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 provide treatment services for addiction issues. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has financed two schemes related to drug rehabilitation. Drug Treatment Clinics (DTC) offer outpatient treatment services and Integrated Rehabilitation Centres for Addicts (IRCAs) take care of inpatient treatments. At present, there are 27 DTCs and 480 IRCAs that are running in different states in the country. These centres are overseen and coordinated across India by the NDDTC, AIIMS, and are majorly operated by NGOs.

In closing, addiction to drugs and alcohol can be a life-threatening condition. Rehabilitation programs whether inpatient or outpatient offer a glimmer of hope and a road to recovery for addicts.  If you or your loved one is dealing with addiction issues then you can seek further guidance here.


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

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

NDDTC All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). (2019, February). Magnitude of Substance use in India. Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.