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Detox, Inpatient, Outpatient and Day-Night Treatment: What’s the Difference?

If you or someone you love is struggling to overcome drug addiction or alcoholism, determining what type of treatment to seek can be a difficult task. Drug and alcohol abuse is such a significant human problem that there are many different types of programs and treatment modalities available and each serves its own distinct purpose. Sorting through a myriad of scientific terms and industry jargon can be extremely challenging during a time of crisis, so understanding the basic differences between the main types of addiction treatment programs can prove exceptionally helpful in choosing the program that is right for you or your loved one.

*Drug Detox

Before any long term drug treatment programs can begin, an addict must detox from the drugs that are in their system. Detox is the body’s natural way of ridding itself of chemicals that it has been exposed to. When an addicted individual suddenly stops taking drugs, the physiological process of the body normalizing itself can result in uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous symptoms that must be managed in a medical setting. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, detox is only the beginning:

” is often the first step in a drug treatment program and should be followed by treatment with a behavioral-based therapy and/or a medication, if available. Detox alone with no follow-up is not treatment.” (1)

*Residential Inpatient Treatment

For most addicts the security, supervision and intensity of treatment and therapies at an inpatient treatment center offers the best chance of lasting recovery from addiction. Patients in a residential inpatient program live in the same supervised facility where they receive therapies. Treatment plans are developed on an individualized basis and the duration of a program may vary considerably:

“Inpatient rehab may last for several weeks or several months, depending on the type of addiction, its duration and severity, as well as other factors including the patient’s overall health, other complicating factors, co-occurring addictions or mental health disorders.” (2)

*Day/Night Treatment

In many cases a recovering addict that has recently completed an inpatient program may “step down” to a day/night program – also referred to as a partial hospitalization program. During this type of program a patient will attend various addiction and other therapies during the day and then receive transportation to a clean and sober living facility in the evenings. Like inpatient treatment, the duration of a day/night treatment program varies according to the individual.


For people who have recently relapsed or completed a more intensive type of treatment, an outpatient treatment program may be the best choice. Addicts attending an outpatient program will receive intensive therapies during the day – sometimes as many as 6 or 7 days per week. In the evening patients return to their residences or other living arrangements.

Regardless of the type of drug rehab program, the therapies used are generally the same. These include reality therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, biofeedback, and individual, group and family therapy sessions. To learn how these therapies can help you or someone you care about defeat an addiction right now, all you need to do is call the number at the top of your screen.

(1) National Institute on Drug Abuse Frequently Asked Questions: What is Detoxification, or “Detox?”
Accessed 10/14/2011

(2) Drug Rehab Wiki Inpatient Rehab
Accessed 10/14/2011

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