Drug Addiction Outpatient Treatment Services | Treatment Solutions

Drug Addiction Outpatient Treatment

Drug addiction is a complex disease that involves uncontrolled use of illicit drugs, despite adverse effects. People who are troubled by this issue focus on the use of illegal drugs, to the point that their capacity to function in everyday life becomes impaired.1

People with a drug use disorder may have distorted thought patterns. Changes in the structure and functioning of the brain lead individuals to experience extreme cravings, behavioral changes, unusual movements, and other behaviors. Studies of brain imaging show changes in the areas of the brain that relate to judgment, decision-making, learning, memory, and behavioral control.1

However, recovery is not out of reach and change may be possible with the right treatment and support. Change is always possible with the right treatment and support. Outpatient addiction treatment is one of the available options for individuals struggling with drug abuse.

What Outpatient Addiction Treatment Entails

Outpatient treatment for substance abuse and addiction involves an individual attending treatment sessions in a facility, specialized center, or hospital, and then returning home to their everyday lives, after their involvement in treatment sessions. Severe drug addiction is usually best treated in an inpatient facility, in order for better management of detoxification and withdrawal. However, a mild sug addiction problem caught in the early phases can often be successfully treated in an outpatient treatment program.2

An outpatient recovery system includes outpatient meetings and treatment for alcohol abuse and drug addiction that can be arranged during different times of the week. This schedule allows patients to continue with their daily duties and to continue living at home, but they are expected to check into treatment at their appointments for counseling and medication. Outpatient programs come in a number of types, varying intensity levels and provide a variety of services. However, the general emphasis is on counseling, education, and a network of support.2

Outpatient programs vary in time requirements and how they are organized, depending on where the person seeks treatment and whether the program is self-appointed or involuntary. For example, if a person is imprisoned for drug abuse, the court might mandate an intensive outpatient program that includes meetings for several hours a day, three days a week, because the primary focus of the individual is their treatment.3

Voluntary programs, however, can include a broader variety of structures. Some states prescribe states that outpatient services may either be half-day (2-4 hours) or full-day (over four hours). A duration of a half-day outpatient program involves either:3

  • Meeting for at least 25 minutes on a one-on-one basis with a counselor.
  • One hour of counseling in group therapy.

Since the users of addiction treatment outpatient services continue to live at home during outpatient care, a large portion of counseling may be devoted to discussing the outside world’s temptations. In order to thrive in outpatient addiction care, it is important that patients have a good support system at home and a drug-free home environment.3

drug addiction treatment outpatient services

Who Benefits From Outpatient Addiction Treatment?

Outpatient addiction treatment is a great option for people with drug problems that are milder, where they have not become dependent on drugs, but know they have a growing problem. Outpatient care is also a great choice for patients who transition from inpatient rehabilitation, to continue their recovery. Either way, there is unprecedented convenience and versatility in outpatient care.2

Some of the biggest reasons for considering outpatient rehab include:2

  • Affordability: Since patients can live at home during outpatient treatment, they don’t have to pay the cost of staying in an inpatient facility, which is why outpatient treatment is more affordable than an inpatient.
  • Flexibility: Usually, outpatient addiction treatment programs can work around a patient’s schedule. This is helpful for those who feel like they are unable to leave their work or family for an extended period of time.
  • Access to family: Family involvement and support is stressed throughout the outpatient treatment program, as family members may encourage their loved one to remain on their path to recovery.

Addiction Treatment: Outpatient Services

Outpatient treatment programs offer the full spectrum of recovery services offered by residential treatment centers. However, there are a few exceptions such as particular forms of medical treatment and for situations where people need to be supervised around the clock.4

The services may include:4

  • Many medically supported treatment programs and pharmacotherapies. Most of the medically assisted therapies prescribed for drug addiction treatment may be provided on an outpatient basis. Individuals may also be prescribed medicines during recovery and take them on an outpatient basis.
  • All types of psychosocial interventions. Generally, there are certain types of therapy, support group involvement, complementary, and alternative care which can only be provided on an inpatient basis. Individuals may undergo these treatment programs as users of outpatient treatment. It all depends on the offerings from the selected recovery program.
  • Psychoeducational services provide different types of lectures and workshops for skill-building. These can be provided as easily on an outpatient basis as they can be provided on an inpatient basis.
  • Support services consist of a variety of non-therapeutic services offered to individuals in need of specific support during rehabilitation. These may include, most often, transportation services to recovery centers, mentoring services, educational and occupational supports, etc.
  • Case management refers to particular services that help people with special needs. Often, these programs are not directly provided by recovery teams. They can include helping a person find a job or job training, an affordable place to live, a doctor that specializes in their requirements, and others.
  • In addition to the benefits of direct intervention, such as receiving medications, undergoing treatment, and engaging in support groups, people may benefit from additional addiction outpatient treatment benefits, such as forming social bonds, enjoying peer support, and seeking personal motivation and feelings of purpose.

How Outpatient Addiction Treatment Centers Work

Once the patients start outpatient treatment, they undergo a thorough biopsychosocial and medical assessment. The purpose of this is for the facility staff to find the best type of clinical care for every patient. Treatment facilities may provide the following within an outpatient program:5

  • Individual therapy sessions that assist patients to explore the roots of the problem that may be causing their addiction and set them up for success as recovery progresses.
  • Group therapy that enables patients to share their experiences with their peers about their struggle with addiction and helps them learn they are not alone. It is important to create a supportive community that aids personal recovery.
  • Family therapy sessions tackle a range of influences on the abuse patterns of a patient and are intended to promote the general functioning of the family. Working with one’s family helps fix damage while reinforcing a person’s foundation of recovery.
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may be offered as a part of treatment when it’s clinically appropriate and if available at a facility.
  • 12-Step fellowship, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA). While attending outpatient meetings and performing 12-step work with a sponsor, patients may improve their possibility of

achieving long-term recovery success, gain freedom from active addiction, assist others to achieve sobriety, and build a sober support network.



Frequently Asked Questions

  • Outpatient addiction treatment can be provided in hospitals, care facilities, and recovery centers. In order to find the most suitable option for yourself or your loved one, contact a specialist or take advantage of online or local resources. It is important to look for an accredited, reputable facility that has multidisciplinary medical professionals and a variety of treatment programs.

  • No two programs for addiction treatment are exactly alike and each program should be adapted to fit the circumstances and needs of the individual. In general, inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment programs should last at least 90 days, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).6

    A longer duration of treatment will give the brain time to recover from drug dependency, time to exercise newly acquired skills, and time to develop healthier behaviors. A habit can take between three weeks and three months to form, indicating that a longer duration of therapy can provide a stronger foundation.6

    Although there is no fixed period of length of outpatient addiction treatment, those who stay longer in treatment benefit more. Patients should expect to stay in outpatient care for at least three months, although it is common for outpatient programs to last a year or even longer.6

  • When searching for addiction outpatient treatment, it would be best to learn as much as possible about this type of care in order to find the most suitable one. In general, it is important to look for an outpatient facility that:

    • Has full-time staff with addiction counseling credentials.
    • Has staff equipped to handle co-occurring disorders.
    • Treats detox medically.
    • Practices evidence-based treatment methods.
    • Includes family as part of the recovery process.



1. American Psychiatric Association. (2020). What Is a Substance Use Disorder?

2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018).Types of Treatment Programs.

3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2004). Approaches to Therapy.

4. Forcehimes, A.A., Miller, W.R., Zweben, A. (2011). Treating Addiction: A Guide for Professionals

5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts.

6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Effective Treatment.