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Study: Intensive Outpatient Treatment as Effective as Inpatient Treatment

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Millions of Americans seek treatment for substance abuse each year, with a bulk checking into inpatient rehab facilities for around-the-clock care.

For a long time, residential inpatient programs were considered the better option for long-term results. But intensive outpatient programs (IOP), are gaining traction as a viable addiction treatment alternative.

According to a new study published in the October issue of Psychiatric News, intensive outpatient programs may be just as effective in helping people recover from addiction in the long term.

Evaluating Treatment Options

Naturally, there are pros and cons to inpatient rehab programs. They require a person to check into a residential facility and remain there for the duration of the program – typically 30 to 90 days, depending on the patient’s needs. If warranted, patients will go through a detoxification process upon admission.

Inpatient programs tend to offer patients respite from the pressures of daily life, while developing the tools to manage addictive tendencies without drugs or alcohol.

Inpatient treatment centers aren’t for everyone, however, as many people cannot afford to spend that much time away from their homes and/or jobs. In fact, up to 12 percent of people receiving addiction treatment are now opting for intensive outpatient treatment programs. These outpatient services involve visiting a treatment center where patients receive medication and counseling on a regular basis –without having to live at the rehab facility. Patients may spend between a few hours to a full day at the facility, depending on the level of care they need.

Outpatient Benefits

Compared to inpatient care, outpatient programs have two major benefits. They offer:

  • The opportunity for a longer treatment period, depending on the patient’s distinct circumstances and needs.
  • The unique ability to remain living at home, which gives patients more flexibility to maintain work and family responsibilities.

Comparing Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment Outcomes

According to the data, intensive inpatient and intensive outpatient treatment programs have “comparable outcomes,” at least when it comes to patients maintaining long-term sobriety.

Overall, between 50 and 70 percent of participants reported abstinence during follow-up visits, whether they had received inpatient or outpatient care. These are encouraging numbers, especially for those who don’t feel inpatient care is a viable option.

In 2009, 23.5 million teens and adults in the United States required treatment for a substance abuse problem, according to SAMHSA. Researchers urged insurance providers to include this form of treatment as a covered health benefit.
Additional Reading: Public and Private Rehab Facilities: What’s the Difference?