Deciding to get better: Can you do outpatient drug rehab?

can you do outpatient drug rehab

If you’re wrestling with a drug or alcohol problem, but you feel like a 30-day stay at a treatment center is more than what you need, then you may be wondering: Can you do outpatient drug rehab?

Absolutely. Outpatient treatment — commonly known as intensive outpatient treatment — is a viable alternative for individuals who aren’t ready to take the step for residential inpatient treatment, or they can’t afford to take time away from work or family responsibilities in order to do so.

As with any form of addiction and alcoholism treatment, it’s important to consider what your needs are before committing to either one. Because while an intensive outpatient program (IOP) can and has worked for hundreds of addicts and alcoholics, it also requires a certain measure of fortitude to resist temptations and triggers that are removed during a 30-day on-campus stay at a drug and alcohol treatment center.

Can you do outpatient drug rehab: What is it?

If you’re wondering, “Can you do outpatient drug rehab?,” you should probably research what, exactly, outpatient treatment entails. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Outpatient treatment varies in the types and intensity of services offered. Such treatment costs less than residential or inpatient treatment and often is more suitable for people with jobs or extensive social supports.” However, the NIDA cautions, “It should be noted … that low-intensity programs may offer little more than drug education.”

There are outpatient programs … and then there are intensive outpatient programs, which is exactly what the name implies: As the NIDA notes, these particular treatment tracks “can be comparable to residential programs in services and effectiveness, depending on the individual patient’s characteristics and needs.” Most IOP programs involve attendance for several hours a day, four (or more) days per week, during which time participants take part in group therapy, educational lectures, processing groups and one-on-one counseling.

In many instances, participants can schedule their treatment around their outside responsibilities. If you work a 9-to-5 job, for example, you may find that attending evening IOP groups from 6-9 p.m. is a better fit for your schedule. Others who work second or third shifts may want to attend groups from 9 a.m. to noon. Most facilities are willing to work with you on a schedule that best meets your needs, so that the answer to “can you do outpatient drug rehab” is as simple as, “Indeed. When can you start?”

Can you do outpatient drug rehab: What are the challenges?

can you do outpatient drug rehabUltimately, asking, “Can you do outpatient drug rehab” isn’t as important of a question as, “Is outpatient drug rehab going to be effective for you?” Writing for the website PsychCentral, Steven Gifford points out that “Unlike residential treatment programs, patients are not provided with the safe, secure environment that isolates them from negatively influencing factors. Patients return to their own environments after outpatient drug or alcohol treatment, and must voluntarily abstain from drug or alcohol use, which requires a greater amount of diligence.”

That’s doesn’t mean that success in an outpatient program is impossible to achieve — not by any means. As Gifford points out, “the benefit of this is that outpatient programs (like residential programs) provide a support network for patients in the form of official support groups, individual counseling, and family counseling so that patients are never alone in their recovery. Patients are provided with a strong support network of non-using peers and sponsors.”

In the end, the success (or lack thereof) of an outpatient program depends on the willingness of the participating individual to commit to a lifestyle of sobriety. It should be pointed out that some outpatient clients are court-ordered to attend, and doing so is not something they would have chosen voluntarily. That doesn’t mean they can’t get something out of outpatient treatment, but it does mean their initial reluctance can be a barrier against long-term success. In other cases, some individuals choose an IOP program because they’re fearful of what a 30-day residential stay might entail. Still others go through Medical Detox first to wean themselves off of drugs and alcohol, only to find that in their first few days of abstinence in an IOP program, the temptation to return to using and drinking is too much.

Fortunately, IOP patients can avail themselves of the experience, strength and hope of their peers and their counselors. And while an outpatient program may be an individual’s first choice, it doesn’t mean that’s the only choice: There’s always the possibility that if an outpatient program isn’t successful, or if a participant struggles to stay clean and sober while enrolled in one, that they can admit to a residential stay instead.

It outpatient drug rehab effective?

In 2014, a group of researchers scoured a number of studies and reviews to compare the effectiveness of intensive outpatient treatment vs. inpatient treatment. They compiled data from 13 of them, published between 1995 and 2012, and ultimately found this: “Based on the quality of trials, diversity of settings, and consistency of outcomes, the level of evidence for IOP research was considered high. Multiple randomized trials and naturalistic analyses compared IOPs with inpatient or residential care; these types of services had comparable outcomes. All studies reported substantial reductions in alcohol and drug use between baseline and follow-up.”

In laymen’s terms: Outpatient treatment proved to be just as effective, in many cases, as inpatient treatment … but the deciding factor was in the quality of the outpatient treatment. Programs with a wide range of services, they discovered, often had greater success rates, and many individuals with several alcohol and drug issues seemed to fare better in an residential treatment setting than in an intensive outpatient one.

However, the overall results of their study were encouraging: “IOPs have emerged as a critical facet of 21st century addiction treatment for people who need a more intensive level of service than usual outpatient treatment, and they allow participants to avoid or step down successfully from inpatient services. This is an important consideration for policymakers, providers, and individuals engaged in substance abuse treatment services when deciding which level of care is most appropriate for specific clinical situations.”

Can you do outpatient drug rehab? Many facilities offer it, and if that’s your preference, they won’t deny you enrollment, providing you can meet the abstinence criteria. But the ultimate arbiter is the individual himself (or herself): What do you feel is best for you? At a facility like Cornerstone of Recovery, we’ll meet you wherever you’re at … and we’ll be glad to provide additional services should the need arise.