Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab: A Guide to Addiction Treatment Options

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When you or someone you love is confronting addiction, navigating the road to recovery can feel overwhelming. This struggle is far from uncommon. In fact, data from the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) suggests that 892,000 individuals aged 12 or older were classified as having a substance use disorder. Faced with these staggering numbers, the first crucial decision that often arises is about the nature of treatment: inpatient vs. outpatient rehab.1

The importance of understanding each treatment option's unique benefits and potential challenges cannot be understated, as it lays the groundwork for making an informed decision about recovery. This becomes especially crucial considering the data from the County of Los Angeles Public Health, which indicates that 1 in 4 people will experience a substance use disorder in their lifetime.2

What is Inpatient Treatment?

Residential inpatient treatment is an intensive, immersive form of therapy for substance abuse. In this setting, patients reside full-time within a treatment center. The primary purpose of inpatient rehab is to provide a highly structured, supportive environment free from triggers or distractions that may lead to substance use. This type of treatment is particularly critical, considering that only 11.2% of individuals who required treatment for substance abuse received it at a specialty facility.

During inpatient rehab, patients have access to 24/7 medical and emotional support. This continuous care is particularly vital for those battling severe addictions, as it offers the necessary supervision during the most vulnerable times. Inpatient programs are designed to entirely remove the patient from the environment that may have fostered or encouraged their substance misuse, allowing them to focus solely on recovery.

What is Outpatient Treatment?

Outpatient treatment provides another viable route to recovery, offering a more flexible approach compared to inpatient rehab. Instead of living within the treatment center, patients attend scheduled therapy sessions and return home afterward. This structure allows them to maintain certain daily routines and responsibilities, like work, school, or family obligations.

Outpatient programs are often better suited for individuals with less severe addictions or those who have completed an inpatient program and are in the transition phase of recovery. These programs allow patients to put into practice the skills they've learned during treatment in real-world settings while still having professional support available.

What to Expect from Inpatient Rehab

In inpatient rehab, the first phase often involves a carefully monitored detoxification process to rid the body of addictive substances. This initial detox phase is crucial, especially considering that it is reported by the American Academy of Family Physicians that only 10-20% of patients undergoing alcohol withdrawal receive the benefit of inpatient treatment, where the detox process can be closely supervised for safety and efficacy. 4

After detox, the treatment moves into the rehabilitation phase, which involves a blend of individual counseling, group therapy, medication-assisted treatment (if necessary), and wellness activities, such as yoga or mindfulness meditation.

A primary goal of inpatient treatment is to equip patients with the knowledge, skills, and coping mechanisms necessary for maintaining long-term sobriety. The typical length of stay in an inpatient rehab can vary greatly, ranging from a short-term program of 28 days to long-term residential treatment that may last several months. The duration depends on several factors, including the type and severity of addiction, co-occurring disorders, and the patient's progress in recovery. Visit our page on "How Long is Rehab for Alcoholism" to understand inpatient treatment length better.

What to Expect from Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient rehab involves many of the same components as inpatient rehab but requires fewer hours each week. Treatment usually includes various forms of therapy, both individual and group, educational programs on addiction, and medication-assisted treatment, if applicable.

Outpatient programs are designed to support recovery while allowing individuals to live at home and continue with daily responsibilities. The frequency and duration of therapy sessions vary widely, depending on the specific outpatient program and the patient's needs. Some programs may require daily attendance, while others may meet just a few times weekly.

If you’re looking for an outpatient program located in Glendora, CA, contact Pathways Wellness Center.

Differences Between Inpatient & Outpatient Treatment

The most significant difference between inpatient and outpatient treatment is the intensity and level of support provided. Inpatient rehab offers continuous, around-the-clock medical and emotional support and a substance-free environment. It's a more suitable choice for individuals with severe or long-term addictions, complex dual-diagnosis conditions, or those who have tried outpatient treatment without success.

In contrast to inpatient treatment, outpatient rehab provides more freedom and flexibility, making it an attractive option for those who cannot step away from their daily responsibilities or those with less severe addictions. Outpatient programs, typically less expensive than residential options, are also more accessible to many individuals. This accessibility is of the utmost importance when we consider national statistics such as those in a 2019 SAMHSA report, which stated that 20.4 million people aged 12 or older need substance use treatment.5

How to Choose Level of Treatment?

Deciding between inpatient and outpatient rehab should involve careful consideration of various factors. These include the severity and duration of the addiction, the type of substance involved, the patient's physical and mental health status, the stability of their home environment, and their ability to step away from work, school, or family responsibilities.

Discussing these factors with a healthcare professional or addiction specialist is essential to make an informed decision. Ultimately, the choice should reflect the individual's unique needs and circumstances, as this increases the chances of a successful, sustained recovery.

Pathways Recovery Center - Residential Inpatient Program for Addiction

At Pathways Recovery Center, we're proud to offer an outstanding inpatient treatment program with comprehensive addiction treatment. We follow an evidence-based approach, combining medical, psychological, and holistic therapies to create a thorough treatment plan. Our professional team is dedicated to providing compassionate, individualized care in a supportive environment. We are here to help our patients overcome addiction, rebuild their lives, and reclaim their futures.

Understanding the difference between inpatient vs. outpatient rehab is the first step in choosing a path to recovery. It's vital to remember that each individual's journey is unique, and the best treatment option is the one that aligns with their unique circumstances and needs. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, remember that help is available, and recovery is within reach. Reach out to Pathways Recovery Center today to learn more about our programs and begin your journey to recovery.


  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). 2017-2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Metro Brief Report - Los Angeles. Retrieved from NSDUH-Metro-Los-Angeles.pdf
  2. Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. (n.d.). Primary Care Brief: Substance Use and Mental Health Among Los Angeles County Adults. Retrieved from PrimaryCareBrief.pdf
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Treatment Statistics. Retrieved from
  4. Fiore, M. C., Jaén, C. R., Baker, T. B., et al. (2004). Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update. American Family Physician, 69(6), 1443-1444. Retrieved from
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Retrieved from

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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