3 MIN READ | Health Psychology

Tommy Williamson

6 Reasons to Consider Outpatient Drug Treatment

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Tommy Williamson, (2021, February 24). 6 Reasons to Consider Outpatient Drug Treatment. Psychreg on Health Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/outpatient-drug-treatment/
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Here in Boston, we’re fortunate enough to have easy access to some of the world’s best drug rehab centres. Given that Massachusetts is home to some of the world’s foremost medical research centres, drug rehabs in Boston are often among the first to try out new techniques and therapeutic interventions for substance use disorders.

Greater Boston has been particularly hard hit by the opioid crisis that has been sweeping the US. This combined with an increasing cost of living in the state and stagnant incomes have led to a re-examination of outpatient rehabs.

Traditionally, long-term residential drug rehab programs were and still are seen as more effective for treating substance use disorders. This makes sense, as residential treatment greatly minimises the number of potential relapse triggers that could be experienced by a patient. However, residential treatment is invariably a more expensive option compared to outpatient alternatives.

However, recovery rates only tell a part of the story. Not all cases of addiction (now properly called ‘substance use disorder‘) are alike. In most cases, people who relapse after entering an outpatient programme would have been better served by a long-term residential alternative, to begin with. Many people turn to outpatient programmes purely because they cannot afford to enter a long-term residential rehab.

There are also many scenarios where outpatient drug treatment can be considered to be a better choice. These don’t always have anything to do with the lower cost of outpatient treatments either.

Here are some reasons to consider outpatient drug treatment:

1. It can usually be covered by insurance

Many people struggling with substance use disorders also have problems with their income, which makes finding treatment problematic, to begin with. But if they have even basic insurance, there’s a good chance they could get drug treatments covered. Medicare and Medicaid can cover most outpatient drug treatments, as do most other health insurance plans in Massachusetts.

2. Outpatient treatment can be effective for mild cases

Mild substance use disorder cases don’t normally exhibit drug-seeking behaviour to the same degree as moderate or severe cases. A patient with a mild alcohol or drug use disorder will not have too many problems avoiding relapse triggers by continuing life as normal on top of their outpatient treatments. This means that having to stay in a special facility for 24/7 monitoring is probably not necessary.

3. Learnings in rehab can be applied immediately

Individuals that get outpatient therapy and counselling are immediately able to apply their newly-learned coping skills in the real world. While there are certainly shorter programmes, residential drug treatment programmes tend to last at least 90 days, or for about as long as it takes for the patient to make progress. Occasionally, this means patients forget some of their easier learnings before they have the chance to apply it in the real world, rather than in the rehab centre.

4. Outpatient treatments today are diverse

It’s important for any person recovering from a mental health issue to have a variety of mainstream and supplemental therapies available. In recent years, many features of effective drug treatment that used to be more common in residential programmes can now be easily had on an outpatient basis. Whether it’s family counselling, cognitive-behavioural therapy, yoga, or any of the approaches and treatments that are commonly used in residential rehabs, chances are there are outpatient options as well.

5. Recovering individuals won’t have to drop out of normal life entirely

Outpatient drug rehab only takes a few hours a week and can usually be done in the evenings and on weekends. This allows patients to continue responsibilities such as working, going to school, raising their family, and other normal day-to-day activities. By contrast, residential drug treatment may require weeks or months of a person’s time, during which, their career, studies, and personal life may be effectively put on hold.

6. Outpatient treatments can be discreet

While honesty is desirable when seeking treatment for drug or alcohol problems, it’s understandable that many patients would like to keep things private in the meantime. Outpatient treatments offer the best chance for this, as treated individuals can usually keep living their normal lives without having to divulge their illness to others.

Conclusion

It should be noted that residential programmes are still likely to be the best choice for treating moderate or severe substance use disorders. However, they are not by any means the only choice available.

People who cannot afford a disruption in their income, those raising children, and those that have previously completed a residential programme will often find that outpatient treatments offer the most flexibility during their recovery, making them a more realistic choice.

In many cases, outpatient treatments may even be a better option for recovering individuals, even taking cost into account. For the right people, outpatient programmes offer the right combination of affordability, effectiveness, diversity, and discretion needed for many situations.


Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.


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