Drug and Alcohol Detox: Inpatient vs. Outpatient

Detox, or detoxification, centers assist people who are attempting to overcome alcoholism or drug addictions by providing medical treatment for unpleasant and occasionally harmful withdrawal symptoms. These services can be offered in two different settings: inpatient and outpatient.

Detoxing in an Inpatient Environment

Inpatient treatment for a person who is suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction involves living within a treatment center for a certain period of time. This treatment could be in the form of a hospital visit or a stay at a rehabilitation center. The main characteristic of the inpatient environment is that medical staff members constantly monitor the person who is going through detox. Because some withdrawal symptoms, such as hallucination, tremors and seizures, can make the detoxification process dangerous, having extra medical support is often very desirable.

Detoxing in an Outpatient Environment

Outpatient treatment is characterized by the fact that a patient lives in his or her home throughout the detoxification process. Outpatient treatment is usually the best option when a person needs to detox after only a short period of substance abuse. This will mean that there are less of the substances in the person's body, making the entire process less dangerous. A person will have times when he or she needs to check in with a medical specialist in order to ensure that the detox is going as planned.

Choosing Between Inpatient and Outpatient

There are a few main factors that need to be taken into consideration to make the choice between detoxing in an inpatient or an outpatient environment. The first factor is the severity of a person's drug addiction or alcoholism. Although all addictions are destructive, the length of time for which a person has been using alcohol or drugs needs to be thoroughly considered, because this will determine how much of a substance is in a person's body and how deeply affected that person will be when it is removed. The longer a person has been using the substance, the more dangerous the detox process will be. These dangerous cases will generally require inpatient treatment.

A second factor that should be considered is a person's financial status. If a person does not have a lot of money or adequate health insurance, then he or she will likely need to do outpatient treatment, which tends to be cheaper than inpatient treatment. A person's financial situation should never be considered more important than the first factor of detoxing, which is the severity of an addiction.

The third factor that ought to be looked at is whether a person has a reliable caretaker. The presence of a supportive caretaker increases the chances of successfully completing outpatient detox treatment. The caretaker will be able to transport the person to doctor's appointments, check periodically to make sure that he or she is okay, and provide any other necessary support.

Last Updated: January 12, 2017