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Are Outpatient Drug Rehab Centers Effective?

    Rehabilitation centers in Dallas are diverse and approaches can be dramatically different from one facility to another. Having a good selection of approaches can be critical to the success of any attempt to recover from substance addiction. At the end of the day, however, most people who decide to get help for substance use will need to choose between inpatient or outpatient drug treatment programs.


    What are outpatient programs?

    In contrast to inpatient programs which require treated individuals to stay in a special facility, outpatient programs allow recovering individuals to go home after their treatments. Rather than staying at a facility full-time, they only need to be at the treatment center for a few hours a week for counseling and therapeutic interventions. 


    In Dallas and the rest of North Texas, outpatient drug treatment programs have increased in popularity over the recent years, thanks largely to the much higher cost of equivalent inpatient programs. 


    Aside from the cost, outpatient programs offer several other advantages. Patients can maintain a more or less normal routine and they can have access to friends and family during their recovery period. They also only tend to involve 8-12 hours a week of a patient’s time. However, all things considered, they are far less effective than inpatient programs.


    Outpatient programs have, over the years, come to be criticized for high relapse rates compared to inpatient equivalents. That often leads recovering individuals and their families to question if they’re any good for treating addiction.

    Are outpatient drug treatment programs any good?

    To immediately answer the question: they can be — for the right people


    The problem lies in the very nature of outpatient programs and of addiction, or “substance use disorder” as the disease is more properly called. Regardless of whether someone is hooked on caffeine or opioids, the very nature of an addictive substance makes it so that the individual taking them is strongly compelled to keep consuming them.


    Outpatient programs, generally speaking, have no control of a patient’s activities after they’ve left the premises. This means they are not especially effective for moderate to severe substance use disorders, as the patient’s drug-seeking behavior will typically be very strong and difficult to address if they can freely leave the facility.


    It is mainly for this reason that inpatient programs are most often recommended for people with substance use disorders. The longer the better


    Who can benefit from outpatient drug treatment programs?

    However, lower relative success rates do not mean outpatient drug rehabilitation centers are useless. For some recovering individuals, they may be the best available option. 

    Outpatient programs may be beneficial for the following:


    1.) Patients with a mild substance use disorder

    Milder substance use disorders can usually be effectively treated through an outpatient program. If the disease is caught early or does not cause strong compulsive behavior, an outpatient treatment program can be all that is needed for recovery.


    2.) Patients that have completed a long-term residential program

    Patients that have recently completed a long-term residential rehab program (lasting at least 90 days) are good candidates for outpatient treatment. Typically, they will have had sufficient progress in managing their cravings and are more likely to make the most out of an outpatient treatment setup. 


    Individuals that have only done a medical detox without additional therapy and those that have spent less time in a residential setting may not be a good fit for outpatient programs. In these situations, a longer residential program or a sober house or clean-living community may be better alternatives.


    3.) Individuals that can easily avoid relapse triggers

    For instance, some people, particularly teens and young adults, are particularly vulnerable to negative peer pressure. If they are in the same area as peers that continue to use drugs or alcohol, an outpatient program may not be the right choice. However, if they relocate to a different area, they may find it easier to avoid negative influences and find that a local outpatient program might be sufficient.


    4.) The recovering individual requires discreet treatment

    Many people recovering from drug or alcohol use disorders fear consequences to their personal or professional life if it’s found out that they’ve had previous drug use. This may still be the case even if they seek treatment. While being upfront about drug use and recovery is usually recommended, it’s understandable that many people would rather avoid bringing it up.


    While generally more effective, inpatient drug treatments will often require an extended leave of absence which may require disclosure or deception on the part of the individual. Because outpatient programs are flexible and only require a few hours of commitment a week, they are the obvious choice in these circumstances. 


    5.) The individual needs to keep earning an income

    Entry into an inpatient program typically makes it difficult or impossible to continue working. Communication with the outside world is restricted and patients are usually given a busy schedule to keep them focused on recovery. This may not be practical for recovering individuals that need to provide for family members. Outpatient programs, on the other hand, will allow patients to continue working and earning an income.



    Outpatient programs are not just cost-effective alternatives. In many cases, they can be the best choice for treatment. It all depends on the severity of the substance use disorder and the individual circumstances.


    However, not all outpatient programs are alike. It may be difficult to find the right treatment center for you or your loved one. If you’re in North Texas, directory services such as Dallas Drug Treatment Centers can provide a comprehensive listing of outpatient programs offering different approaches.