What is Outpatient Drug Detox? Finding the Right Programs and Centers

Last Updated: June 16, 2020

Many people want to quit drugs or alcohol but do not have the luxury of checking in to an inpatient facility for 30 days or more. Very often, recovering addicts need to keeping working and taking care of their family while trying to overcome a substance use disorder. Outpatient drug detoxification in a safe, effective, affordable way of getting on the path to recovery. Outpatient detox centers offer medically-assisted detoxification as the first step in drug and alcohol treatment. Read about outpatient detox and how it compares to inpatient treatment.

Outpatient Drug Detox: Flexible, Low-Cost Addiction Therapy

What is a detox program? Why is detox from substances important? Alcohol or drug detoxification is a supervised program consisting of medically-assisted addiction treatment to help people overcome physical and psychological dependence on illicit substances. It is often the first step in recovery for individuals with substance use disorders. During residential or non-residential detox for alcohol and drugs, recovering addicts are monitored and treated for withdrawal symptoms. Co-occurring medical and psychiatric issues are also addressed.

Non-residential detoxification programs allow recovering addicts to continue living at home and to maintain their daily routine while they receive care for addiction recovery.

In contrast, patients receiving residential care for drug detox are admitted to a hospital or rehab facility where they must remain for the duration of the treatment. Medically-monitored outpatient alcohol withdrawal or drug detox is one of the effective, safe, flexible, and affordable treatment options for addiction. Non-residential detox for alcohol and drugs is available at doctors’ offices, hospitals, and specialized best drug rehabilitation centers. It is also much more safe than the attempts to detox at home without medical supervision.

Inpatient versus Outpatient Detox Programs: What Are the Differences?

Medicla building with outpatient sign Should a recovering addict detox outpatient or inpatient? What are the advantages and disadvantages of outpatient detoxification programs?

For recovering addicts with mild-to-moderate substance use disorders, non-residential drug detox is as safe and effective as residential treatment, but far less time consuming and significantly less expensive. Studies have shown that intensive non-residential programs for substance abuse have comparable outcomes to residential detoxification. An added advantage is that recovering addicts may find there is a shorter waiting list or no waiting for non-residential detoxification programs compared to residential treatment. Moreover, during non-residential detoxification sessions, healthcare providers are more focused on the patient, and there is no rush to taper the drug quickly to shorten the stay at an expensive inpatient detox center.

Treatment at an outpatient detox center means the person can continue to live with their family and benefit from greater social support compared to people undergoing residential drug or alcohol detoxification. It also means patients can fulfill their work and family responsibilities, such as caring for young children or continuing to hold down a job. Following detoxification, recovering addicts may be able to attend a long-term drug rehab program in an outpatient setting at the same treatment facility to complete both phases of treatment and combine it with various natural detox programs.

In addition, non-residential detox programs have less strict policies about computer and cell phone use and may even permit someone to accompany the patient. Outpatient detox allows recovering addicts to maintain their privacy because they can keep up with their daily life without necessarily disclosing the detoxification to friends, family, and employers.

Besides, people receiving care in the outpatient setting are more likely to miss appointments or fail to complete treatment. In fact, studies show the completion rate for detox treatment is significantly higher in inpatients compared to outpatients. However, this does not mean that an inpatient detox guarantees a successful recovery from substance abuse. Many people who undergo inpatient detox quickly return to drug use or unhealthy drinking patterns once they complete the program. So, inpatient detoxification, which comes at a substantially higher cost, may simply postpone the chance of relapse.

What to Expect with Outpatient Alcohol Treatment and Drug Detox?

People who sign up for outpatient alcohol detox or drug withdrawal are expected to visit a hospital, clinic, or outpatient detox facility for the treatment sessions. The sessions are usually scheduled daily to begin with, during daytime or evening hours, depending on the type of outpatient detoxification program. Further along in the process, sessions may be conducted less frequently, such as 1-3 times a week.

The first visit to a non-residential detoxification facility typically lasts 1-2 hours. Medical professionals perform an initial assessment consisting of an intake medical history, drug abuse history, physical examination, and laboratory studies. A personalized detoxification plan is developed before initiating treatment. Subsequent sessions are shorter and usually range from 15 to 30 minutes, although some intensive outpatient programs may include longer sessions of several hours. Detoxing while pregnant may take more time due to metabolism changes.

The duration of non-residential drug detox and alcohol treatment is usually 3 to 14 days. One study found that the average period of outpatient alcohol detox is significantly shorter than inpatient treatment. The length of alcohol or drug detox depends on several factors, including:

  • Age and gender
  • Severity of addiction
  • Substances abused
  • Physical health
  • Co-occurring mental health conditions

During the initial sessions, acute withdrawal symptoms are assessed, monitored, and treated. Detox medications are prescribed to reduce withdrawal symptoms, which can range in severity from mild to severe. Education and counseling for long-term drug and alcohol rehab are started once the acute symptoms are under control. At the end of the detoxification program, recovering addicts make the transition to long-term drug rehab and relapse prevention programs.

What is the Cost of Outpatient Detoxification Programs

person on medically supervised detoxInpatient detoxification treatment includes room and board and 24-hour care from trained medical staff. So, it’s not surprising that it is an expensive proposition. It’s not unusual for inpatient detox to cost thousands of dollars.

One of the biggest advantages of outpatient detox programs is that they are significantly less expensive compared to inpatient care. Non-residential detoxification from drugs and alcohol frequently costs a fraction of residential treatment. One study found non-residential alcohol detox ranged in cost from about $175 to $400 while treatment received as an inpatient cost upwards of $3,000.

Not only is the cost of treatment lower, but outpatient detoxification also allows recovering addicts to continue living at home and working. This means they can continue earning and taking care of their family while they safely withdraw from drugs, thereby saving potential costs of childcare and lost work time. That’s why this approach is much safer than such practices as Thomas method.

Beating Addiction: Who Should Detox Outpatient?

Many people wonder – Is outpatient detox right for me? Does outpatient drug detoxification work? For individuals with mild-to-moderate addiction, outpatient detoxification programs are a safe, effective, and low-cost treatment option. Individuals who are employed with a stable home life, reliable housing and transportation, and a strong social support system are ideal candidates for outpatient detox.

Not everyone is a candidate for outpatient drug withdrawal, however. Some people need more intensive, supervised care and around-the-clock monitoring in an inpatient setting. For example, individuals with severe substance use disorders often need inpatient detoxification programs because such a setting removes access to drugs and alcohol and separates the patient from a substance-using environment. Examples of individuals for whom inpatient detoxification may be more appropriate include:

  • People with significant co-occurring medical or psychological conditions
  • Individuals with life-threatening complications of withdrawal symptoms
  • Addicts with severe substance use disorders
  • Addicts with multiple prior failed outpatient detox attempts
  • Individuals who are a suicidal or homicidal risk
  • Patients with disruptive family or work situations
  • People who do not have transport to travel to a treatment facility every day

Choosing a Program: Which is the Best Outpatient Drug Detox Near Me?

Medical detoxification is conducted in a supervised environment by trained healthcare personnel who monitor the patient during sessions. Many drugs require gradual, controlled weaning to taper the illicit substance out of the system slowly.

Some recovering addicts require medications to manage their cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Medically-assisted detox at specialized outpatient detoxification centers ensures the patient remains stable, and treatment is effective and safe. Rapid detox centers offer the fastest solutions that can also be considered.

Selecting the right detoxification program for addiction treatment can be overwhelming. It is a good idea to enroll at a facility that specializes in a specific type of substance, for example, detox from opiates or alcohol. Some non-residential detoxification facilities cater to people of a particular gender, culture, or faith. Receiving care at such centers can aid long-term recovery from substance abuse due to an enhanced comfort level and more meaningful engagement.

In addition to the type and duration of treatments offered, the location of the outpatient detox center is of great importance, especially if the transport is a consideration, in which case the nearest outpatient alcohol detox may be the most convenient option. Cost and insurance are other factors to consider.

Page Sources

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4152944/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2913493

Published on: August 10th, 2018

Updated on: June 16th, 2020


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