Rehab is quickly becoming an essential medical service for million of Americans. It’s a metaphorical jumper-cable that can help them to restart their life, to move forward. But it can also be costly if it’s not covered by insurance and there are multiple questions to consider, including whether to opt for inpatient or outpatient treatment.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how inpatient vs outpatient rehab differs, focusing on the pros and the cons of each.

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehab is a pricier service as it takes place in a rehab facility and requires around-the-clock care. It’s deemed to be more effective as it reduces many of the risks associated with outpatient rehab, but it’s not perfect, it doesn’t work all of the time, and for some patients it may not be the most cost effective approach.


  • Constant Care: Inpatient rehab provides constant care, with doctors able to prescribe treatments and staff able to offer assistance where needed. If the patient takes a bad turn, as is common during acute withdrawals of alcohol and most narcotics, they can get immediate assistance to ensure they are safe and comfortable.
  • No Distractions: In the comfort of their own home a patient is more likely to relapse. Not only do they have easy access to the drugs or alcohol that put them in that position, but they are constantly battling with the temptation, the denial and the over-confidence that leads many addicts to relapse.
  • Professional Help: Most addicts can rely on support from family and friends during this difficult time, but with inpatient facilities they can get that support in addition to support from qualified medical professionals and from patients who are going through something similar.


  • Price: Inpatient rehab services are much more expensive than outpatient ones and may be out of reach for anyone without insurance or anyone with a salary to cover such a service.
  • Time: A patient may be required to spend several weeks in an inpatient facility in order to withdraw and detox. This constant support throughout such a difficult time is invaluable, but some addicts will struggle to put their lives on hold like that and may not be able to take the time off work or school.
  • Isolation: While it can help to have support from fellow addicts and medical professionals, some addicts will find that they need to be around friends and family and may feel isolated and home sick in an inpatient facility.

Outpatient Rehab

An outpatient program still makes use of medical professionals and all of the guidance and help that they can provide, but only on a part-time basis and the patient will be required to spend most of their time at home.


  • Comfort: Withdrawal is incredibly uncomfortable, with symptoms ranging from nausea and sickness to insomnia and a general malaise. It’s something that may be hard to experience in a strange environment without the creature comforts of home.
  • Price: Outpatient services are typically covered by most insurance plans and are available at far lower prices.


  • Relapse: A relapse is much more common during outpatient treatment, with addicts turning back to drugs and using them as a way to escape the sickness. Not only can this render all of their hard work redundant, but it also increases the risk of overdose, with many ex users taking the same dose they used to take despite their greatly reduced tolerance.
  • Limited Support: While an outpatient can receive support when needed, they won’t receive it around the clock and may also be limited in terms of drugs that can be prescribed to help them, or sedatives that can be given if they take a bad turn.

What is the Best Option?

There is no “better” option, as it all comes down to affordability. If you have money/insurance and are dealing with a long-term addiction to alcohol, narcotics or benzodiazepines, you may decide that inpatient treatment is the best course of action. If your budget is limited and you’re dealing with a short-term addiction to a drug that doesn’t cause severe, acute withdrawals, you may decide that outpatient treatment is best.

In any case, both can help you to achieve sobriety but neither will do all of the work for you. You have to be committed and willing to give it your all throughout the treatment period and beyond. The average addict will withdraw and relapse many times before they actually get clean, and while proper rehab treatment can greatly reduce this risk, it won’t eradicate it altogether.

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