Outpatient Addiction Treatment


When considering outpatient addiction treatment there are many facets to consider. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), effective treatment consists of several elements. Here are a few:

  • * Readily available
  • * Addresses multiple needs of the patient
  • * Includes monitoring
  • * Must be reassessed periodically

There is no stipulation that any of this has to occur in an inpatient setting. However, those factors are more easily accomplished if the patient is under the direct supervision of a medical authority. In fact, NIDA’s literature mentions that addiction treatment doesn’t have to be voluntary to work.

Unfortunately, inpatient addiction treatment is very expensive and doesn’t allow someone in recovery to interact with the outside world. Eventually, every addict has to go back to their own life and leave the shelter of an inpatient setting. With the cost differential, this makes outpatient addiction treatment a good choice for many.

The problem becomes a lack of enforcement. Patients are much more likely to drop the program and quit attending because of the burden outpatient addiction treatment becomes. Transportation may be an issue (especially if they have lost their driving privileges) and scheduling is also a problem. Of course, “in the wild” patients also have access to drugs – that’s why monitoring by drug test is so common in outpatient addiction treatment.

For many reasons outpatient addiction treatment is a popular choice. Sometimes it’s because an addict needs help but can’t afford to remove themselves from work or their lives for months at a time. Sometimes it’s the best insurance will pay for. Another reason is the stigma attached to entering a rehab center. Hopefully, those who need an inpatient setting will eventually end up there – even if it is by way of failing to meet the conditions of outpatient addiction treatment.

The elephant in the room isn’t a choice between inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment, it’s the number of addicts who receive no treatment at all. Estimates are that about 90% do not get professional treatment. These are people who need help, but get none.


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