Outpatient Addiction Treatment

An outpatient addiction treatment programme is typically more flexible in nature in comparison with an inpatient programme (also known as a residential treatment programme or rehab). If a person does not have a form of addiction that is actively preventing them from living their day-to-day life (i.e. they are still able to go to work and keep up with their other responsibilities), then an outpatient programme might be a more suitable option for them.

For instance, an individual might not require partial hospitalisation or they might not have the time or finances required to stay in a rehab centre. Therefore, an outpatient programme can enable them to still get the treatment that they require, on their terms, whilst also enabling them to keep up with their commitments in life. Outpatient programmes can also be offered as a form of treatment after an individual has received inpatient care via a residential facility. The purpose here being that they have access to a form of treatment that can slowly ease them back into regular life, whilst also monitoring their progress.

Types of Outpatient Programmes


Detoxification (or just simply detox) is the first step in the rehabilitation process. Patients engage in an extended period of care whereby they refrain from taking the drug they have become addicted to. They must endure the withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with the drug, but this is monitored and supported by healthcare professionals who provide access to necessary medication, as well as offering therapy and general support, to help people through the process.

NHS Programmes

The NHS (National Health Service) offers treatment programmes such as the ‘Outpatient Recovery and Transformation Programme’ for people suffering with addiction problems. A key benefit of using this service is the fact that the majority of NHS services are free, so individuals won’t accumulate huge medical debt as a result of seeking treatment (which can be a common problem in other countries).

Intensive Outpatient Programmes

Intensive outpatient programmes (or IOPs) are used to help people overcome drug addictions, substance abuse disorders, and mental health disorders. IOPs offer people the opportunity to gain access to group therapy sessions, as well as helping them build key life skills that they can use to prevent relapse and future potential addiction patterns. These types of programmes may be structured as 10-Step or more programmes that patients follow until they’ve completed the programme.

How Long do Outpatient Programmes Last?

This depends on several factors. Firstly, it may depend on the severity of the patient’s addiction to the drug. Secondly, it may also depend on how strong the particular drug is, and the potential hold it may have over the patient. Thirdly, factors such as weight and age may come into play. For instance, it might be more difficult for an older patient to overcome an opioid addiction, as the body might take longer to recover from the physical withdrawal symptoms.

All of these factors will be taken into consideration when deciding how long an outpatient programme lasts. The length might also depend on the doctor’s assessment, as they might deem it necessary for the programme to last longer, if they think that it would help to fully address the addiction, and further prevent the likelihood of relapse in the future.

Residential treatment programmes typically last for at least a month, but are known to last longer. Inpatient treatment will usually last between seven to ten days (and is usually for immediate care for overdoses, suicide attempts, and other situations that require immediate care and attention). The detox process will usually continue until the patient has overcome the withdrawal symptoms from the drug, after which they will typically agree to some form of outpatient treatment.

Benefits of Outpatient Care

Some of the benefits of outpatient care include the fact that outpatient programmes can often be more affordable in comparison with inpatient programmes. Moreover, certain inpatient programmes are not always covered by health insurance providers, whereas outpatient programmes are more likely to be covered. Elsewhere, the treatment process for outpatient care can last for longer-term periods, meaning that the patient will likely have a better chance of recovery, as well as access to varying levels of intensity for their individual treatment plan. The more time they have, the less pressure they may feel to get better quicker, and therefore, the better chance of a full recovery.

The Cons

Some of the cons of outpatient care may include the fact that medical detoxification may not be available via a basic outpatient treatment programme. This may differ according to the provider, but chances are patients may have to select a more costly level of care first in order to get through the detox process effectively.

Another potential problem associated with outpatient programmes is the need for the patient’s family to be involved in the process. This will, of course, depend on the patient’s age and circumstances, but this could present a conflict of interest in certain situations, and could have a negative impact on the recovery process.

Things to Consider when Choosing an Outpatient Programme

The key points of consideration when choosing an outpatient programme include the distance from your home residence and place of work to the location. It’s key to be able to travel easily to the location, and to not be tempted to skip sessions or parts of the treatment process. Being far away from the treatment facility may cause people to exhibit this behaviour.

Another point of consideration is where to undergo the detoxification programme. For instance, it could be carried out at a particular medical facility, or it could even be carried out at home, under careful medical supervision. The patient needs to decide where the best place would be for them, and this comes down to comfortability, ease of access to medical resources and support, as well as what works with their current life commitments (e.g. work, family etc).

Patients should also think about whether they wish to opt for a free programme offered by the NHS, or whether private healthcare might be a more viable option for their recovery process. It could be that certain things are only available via a private care option, and therefore, the patient will need to compare and contrast options in order to come to a decision that works best for them.