Although inpatient services are often perceived as the only option for people struggling with addiction, outpatient treatment is a more viable option for many patients. Outpatient treatment combines proven medical practices and therapeutic interventions to allow patients to maintain their everyday lives while on the path to recovery.
Severe addictions may still need to start with inpatient treatment, as patients’ medical needs may be higher if they are struggling with severe withdrawal symptoms. However, most patients can either use outpatient treatment from the start or use it after they complete an initial inpatient treatment program.
Outpatient treatment options vary based on the patient’s needs and schedule. However, the core concepts are the same for every patient.
Opioid Addiction Treatment
Opioid addiction treatment starts with buprenorphine, an opioid that is used to wean the patient off of their other opioids while avoiding withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine can either be taken by itself or as a combination called Suboxone, which includes naloxone to block the opioid receptors in the brain.
These drugs are used under a doctor’s careful supervision, requiring daily visits to a clinic. The doctor can adjust the dosages or prescribe additional medications, such as antidepressants, as needed. The treatment team also works to minimize potential side effects and may drug test the patient as needed to ensure that he or she is complying with treatment.
Some outpatient treatment programs take up multiple hours per day, limiting a patient’s ability to work. However, most take up less than 15 hours per week and can be built around the patient’s work schedule.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Alcohol addiction treatment may be less dependent on medications, but some medications can still be used to treat discomfort and reduce cravings. Doctors may also prescribe antidepressants and other medications to help with long-term mental health needs.
Depending on the severity of the addiction, alcohol addiction may require less direct medical care than opioid addiction. However, because of the prevalence of alcohol in society, patients may need more counseling, including group therapy, to maintain sobriety. Alcohol addiction recovery may still require up to 15 hours a week, and sometimes more if needed to address underlying mental health needs.
Like all forms of addiction, recovery from alcohol addiction may include relapses, especially if there is still alcohol present inside the patient’s home. Having a supportive network of family and close friends, in addition to your outpatient care professionals, can help prevent relapses.
Counseling and Art Therapy
Both alcohol and opioid addiction programs incorporate therapy. Depending on the patient’s needs, therapy can be provided in either a group or individual setting. Although group therapy can seem intimidating, it helps patients understand they are not alone, and there is no shame in seeking help.
Individual therapy may be used in cases where the patient has underlying mental health needs. Therapists who are trained in the intricacies of substance abuse can use cognitive behavioral therapy and other methods to help the patient develop better coping mechanisms.
Art therapy is another effective method of treatment. Many people develop substance abuse issues because of another issue in their life. Art therapy helps patients work through their problems in a healthy way, providing an outlet they can continue to use.
Length of Treatment
Most outpatient addiction treatment programs last at least three months to give patients enough time with therapists. However, programs may last much longer, depending on the patient’s progress and ongoing mental health needs. Some patients take a full year in outpatient treatment and continue therapy or medications such as antidepressants for much longer.
Longer treatment programs are not a sign of failure. In fact, they show you are dedicated to maintaining sobriety and doing what’s best for your future. By staying committed to a program for as long as you need to, you can take charge of your health and avoid relapses.
Medical insurance, including Virginia Medicaid, covers most of the cost of outpatient treatment at our Virginia locations. The exact coverage varies, but as a general rule, physician consultations and medications are covered just like any other medical needs.
This keeps the out-of-pocket cost as low as possible for patients and their families. No matter what outpatient treatment plan you pursue, you can rest assured that your financial and medical health can be maintained.
Maintaining Daily Life
Inpatient treatment programs disrupt patients’ daily lives, but outpatient programs allow patients to maintain their usual bonds with friends and family. As long as the patient avoids certain situations or individuals who use or abuse drugs or alcohol, the patient can lean on healthy relationships to support them during their recovery.
Inpatient treatment programs shield patients from the outside world, which is not always necessary in cases where a supportive family surrounds them. Outpatient therapy can train patients to make choices that support their recovery, even as they continue their everyday lives.
Outpatient programs also allow patients to maintain their careers. Although most employers are legally obligated to let patients take time off for inpatient care, some patients may feel uncomfortable doing so or may be unable to afford unpaid leave. Outpatient addiction treatment options allow patients to deal with their medical issues privately and without disrupting their work.
Facing the Future
Outpatient treatment is not easy, but it’s far easier than continuing to struggle with an addiction to medications, alcohol, or opioids. It allows you to maintain a balance of work, family, and healthcare needs while investing in your future.
By choosing an outpatient treatment option, you can meet your obligations to your family and minimize disruption in your life. Having a team of medical professionals and licensed therapists on your side can give you the tools you need to stay sober and move on with your life.
Whether you’re struggling with a relapse or are confronting your addiction for the first time, get help as soon as possible. Outpatient programs can restore balance to your life and give you the strength you need to face the future without drugs and alcohol.
Native of Moldova, Dr. Zhitar is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine as well as Internal Medicine and completed his training at UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, PA in 2000.