A relatively new but increasingly popular option, outpatient detox programs are medically managed, safe, and affordable alternatives to inpatient detox. Outpatient programs allow those struggling with addiction to get the help they need while still allowing them the freedom to attend to their existing responsibilities. Patients still attend therapy sessions just like they would if they were enrolled in an inpatient program, but they can continue some semblance of their day-to-day lives while receiving help. For this reason, outpatient detox may be a preferable recovery alternative.
If you have made the decision to get help for your addiction and are considering outpatient treatment, there are a few things you must understand first. Though the benefits of this option are many, it is essential that you do your research and know what you’re getting into before you choose outpatient services over inpatient.
Not Everyone is a Good Candidate for Outpatient Programs
Though treatment centers are required to consider patients’ desires when determining placement, they are also obliged to adhere to the standards set forth by the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s (ASAM) Patient Placement Criteria, Second Edition
Revised (PPC-2R). This criterion requires medical professionals to evaluate six assessment dimensions when making placement decisions:
- Withdrawal Potential and/or Severity of Intoxication
- Potential Complications
- Willingness to Change
- Emotional, Behavioral, or Cognitive Complications or Conditions
- Prior Relapses and/or Continued Use
- Living Environment
If you opt for outpatient treatment, a licensed clinician will perform an assessment and determine what type of program is best for you. According to ASAM, there are five levels of adult detoxification. Outpatient, or ambulatory detox is Level II-D, reserved for those experiencing moderate withdrawal symptoms. It includes an all-day medically monitored supervision and is a better option when there is a supportive family or living situation.
Outpatient Detox Allows for a Longer Treatment Period
Most inpatient detox programs last 7-10 days and are sometimes followed by a residential treatment stay of 14-21 days. While effective, these programs are more of a cold-turkey approach, which can be hard on the mind and body. Additionally, studies show that patients who undergo longer treatment programs have better success with long-term sobriety.
Outpatient programs last, on average, 14 weeks. Over the course of treatment, patients go through a step-down period, starting with daily visits and transitioning to fewer days or hours as they progress. If you qualify for outpatient detox, you will continue to receive the care and support you need over an extended period and until you learn to live in recovery on your own.
Outpatient Programs Are Safe
Many families of struggling addicts are concerned about the safeness of outpatient detox programs. In an inpatient setting, individuals are under the watchful eye of trained medical professionals. This is comforting for two main reasons:
- It guarantees that their loved ones will not relapse.
- It makes it easier to manage and treat withdrawal symptoms, which can be life-threatening.
It is important to note that a licensed clinician would not recommend outpatient treatment if you demonstrated a severe withdrawal potential and/or a significant risk of relapsing during an initial assessment. Moreover, as an outpatient, you would still receive the same withdrawal-managing medications as inpatients. If you or your family are concerned about the safety of an outpatient detox program, talk to a trained clinician about the measures taken to help all patients detox in a safe and effective manner.
Outpatients Receive Comparable Services as Inpatients
As an outpatient client, you will still undergo intensive, medically monitored care and receive clinical treatment throughout the day. However, unlike inpatient clients, you will get to go home to your family in the evenings. Treatment starts off with a ten-hour-a-day commitment, Monday through Friday, and up to five hours on the weekends. As you progress, you may have the option to shorten therapy sessions or to eliminate days entirely. With an outpatient detox program, you will be privy to many of the same services as inpatient detox:
- Yoga, art therapy, pet therapy, and aromatherapy
- Board certified medical staff, including physicians, psychiatrists, and nurses
- Complimentary lunches
- Therapeutic interventions by licensed clinicians
- Weekly family sessions
Outpatient Treatment Achieves Comparable Results to Inpatient Programs
According to Motoi Hayashida, M.D., Sc.D’s An Overview of Outpatient and Inpatient Detoxification, outpatient detoxification is as safe and effective as inpatient detoxification, but far less costly and time-consuming. This is even the case for patients with mild-to-moderate withdrawal symptoms, characterized by perspiration, restlessness, hand tremors, heart palpitations, loss of appetite, upset stomach, and vomiting.
The author of the study goes on to attribute the success of outpatient detox to a couple of factors. One of them is the greater social support from friends, family members, and co-workers. The other is the ability to maintain some semblance of normalcy despite the significant changes going on within the body. Inpatients are forced to focus on recovery day and night, while outpatients can take their minds off their addiction thanks to outside factors such as work and maintaining or rebuilding relationships.
Of course, outpatient detoxification does not work for everyone. For those who it does work for, however, the results are more or less the same as inpatient detox.
The Success of Outpatient Detox Relies Heavily on You
All rehabilitation programs require a high level of participation from the patient to be successful. However, outpatient programs require more than engagement. They require mental strength and a genuine desire to get better. Without this sort of willpower and determination, patients may be unsuccessful in an outpatient detox program.
If you are approved for an outpatient program, it is because clinicians believe that you demonstrate the mental strength and stamina to succeed. More than that, though, it is important that you have the support from friends and family members necessary to maintain motivation.
Detox is not easy, and you may find yourself wanting to give up in the beginning. The right support system and your willpower will help you push through those tough times and continue along the path to recovery. If you suffer from substance abuse and want to regain control of your life, outpatient detox may be the right option for you.
Dan Gellman is the Director of High Focus Centers, a provider of outpatient substance abuse and psychiatric treatment programs in New Jersey.