Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Treatment

Treatment settings include two categories: inpatient and outpatient. An inpatient setting provides all services in the facility, and clients stay there overnight. Outpatient provides some rehab services, but clients do not live at the facility. Inpatient is considered best for those with severe addictions that need intensive treatment in an environment where temptation and triggers are reduced or eliminated.

According to Jeremy Barnett, Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor, “Inpatient treatment is a great option for those who would be unable to function on a daily basis in their home environment without the use of substances and/or are at high risk for severe withdrawal symptoms from their drug(s) of abuse. Inpatient treatment provides the opportunity to learn skills and connect with others in a highly-controlled and safe environment for an extended period of time without the concern of users struggling to cope with a triggering home or work environment. Inpatient treatment also provides an opportunity to obtain physical and psychological stability before engaging in outpatient treatment.”

Both inpatient and outpatient facilities treat almost all drug addictions, and they both use similar therapy techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Contingency Management. If you would like more information about outpatient treatment, read our guide to outpatient rehab.

Overview of Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment Programs
Inpatient Outpatient
Duration Usually 30-90 days, longer for long-term treatment Usually 3-4 months, longer for support groups
Time Commitment 24 hours, 7 days per week 1-9 hours per week
Level of Addiction Moderate to Severe Mild to Moderate
Cost $5,000-$20,000 per month Free to $3,000 per month
Insurance Insurance covers treatment but usually not room or board Insurance covers most services
Medication Available At most facilities At some facilities

Rehab Basics

The Rehab Process

Regardless of the location, setting, or drug being treated, complete rehabilitation includes the following four stages – stopping after just one or two puts you at a much higher risk for relapse.

Description of the Four Steps of the Rehab Process

Inpatient programs provide each rehab stage in one location

Inpatient programs are intensive, meaning they provide full-time care and services for the people who enter them. Assuming you go to an inpatient facility for at least a month, not just for detox, you will stay for each of the first three stages of rehab as well as aftercare preparation.

To learn more, read our guide on The Rehabilitation Process.

Rehab Statistics

Each year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration surveys rehab programs to provide a comprehensive picture of what services are being provided and for whom. The 2016 version of the N-SSATS had a 91% response rate from treatment centers in the U.S., including over 14,500 facilities. Of all those facilities:

  • 99% provided assessment and pre-treatment services
  • 89% provided drug testing services
  • 57% offered at least one pharmacotherapy or medication for treatment

Most rehabs are outpatient, but inpatient rehab numbers are slowly increasing

In 2016 there were over 1,150,000 people in treatment, and 8.1% of those people are in residential inpatient programs. Of the total rehab facilities, 24.1% of them are residential inpatient compared to more than 80% that are outpatient rehabs. Some rehabs provide both inpatient and outpatient services, which accounts for the overlap in percentages.

The number of inpatient rehab facilities is rising. Many of the residential inpatient rehabs are private for-profit entities, which increased from 28% to 35% between 2006 to 2016 (including inpatient and outpatient). Out of the inpatient facilities surveyed:

  • 80.9% offer long-term treatment (more than 30 days)
  • 52.3% offer short-term treatment (30 days or fewer)
  • 30.8% offer detox medications

Most rehabs will not accept every form of insurance

Out of 14,500 facilities (inpatient and outpatient):

  • 89% accepted cash or self-payment
  • 68% accepted private health insurance
  • 62% accepted Medicaid
  • 46% accepted state-financed health insurance
  • 34% accepted Medicare
  • 33% accepted federal military insurance (TRICARE)

Types of Inpatient Programs

Inpatient programs only differ in treatment duration and amenities offered. For each residential inpatient option listed below, clients stay in the facility full-time, and pricing includes room, board, and treatment services. Each center has an average of 18 clients, less than half of the average number in outpatient.

Not all residential programs provide detox medications

While many facilities offer medications to assist with detox, not all of them do. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s survey, only 30.8% of inpatient programs offer detox medications. You can use our database (below) to filter for facilities that offer medications for detox. It’s also wise to double check with your chosen program before starting rehab.

Long-Term Residential Inpatient

Long-term residential treatment includes two types of facilities: those that use short-term residential practices but accept longer stays and therapeutic communities (TC). Both programs are very costly and are not as common as short-term programs.

TCs focus on resocializing patients by creating an environment where everyone (both patients and the staff) participates in creating a positive and therapeutic community. The treatment is very structured and focuses on helping patients recognize damaging behaviors and relationships in order to move forward. Aside from traditional rehab environments, TC’s are also used in prisons and other non-traditional rehabilitation locations.

Most TCs and long-term residential rehabs offer medical services on-site

Many long-term residential programs have medically trained professionals and offer medical services on-site. Most TCs rely on personal improvement and determination as the main route to a sober lifestyle, but recent developments and scientific understandings have led them to embrace medical advances to help their patients as well.

Long-term treatment usually lasts 6-12 months

All residential inpatient programs have a full-time commitment, but the duration of stay varies. Long-term residential treatment often lasts 6-12 months, but the stays can be shorter. Most experts strongly recommend at least a 3-month commitment for the best treatment outcomes, 6 months if possible.

Monthly costs are less than short-term treatment, but they add up over time

Weekly costs for long-term residential inpatient facilities commonly range from $2,500 to $5,000 a month, while short-term rehabs typically cost between $5,000 and $20,000 a month.

Short-Term Residential Inpatient

Short-term residential inpatient programs are much more common than long-term treatment, and their daily structure is similar. The goal of short-term rehab is to stabilize each patient, help them detox, and prepare them to return to less-intensive services at home.

Like other inpatient facilities, many have medical staff and medications available

Many short-term residential inpatient facilities provide medication-assisted detoxification services. These programs monitor each patient’s progress and, when appropriate, give medication to help individuals manage withdrawal symptoms. People who have severe addictions or are struggling with withdrawal can find round the clock care at these facilities.

Treatment duration varies, but it usually lasts 30-90 days

Short-term treatment usually lasts from 30-90 days; however, if someone is only going to an inpatient center to detox, they could be there for as little as a week or two. When detoxing, some residential treatment centers require patients to stay longer so that personnel can monitor the patient and help them set up an aftercare plan for when they leave the facility.

Short-term residential treatment has one of the highest monthly costs

For the average 30-day treatment, treatment costs can range from $5,000 – $20,000. While insurance can be used to reduce the high cost of treatment, many plans don’t cover the cost for room and board. Find out more about paying for rehab on our guide to The Cost of Rehab.

Luxury and Executive Residential Inpatient

Luxury and executive residential inpatient care is very similar to short-term residential treatment, but the cost is higher due to the amenities provided. Luxury inpatient is best for those who want a very comfortable stay with plenty of additional services, while executive inpatient is focused on allowing busy professionals to keep up with work responsibilities in a luxurious, full-service facility. Amenities and additional services sometimes include:

  • Private suites (instead of dorm-style rooms)
  • Gourmet meals
  • Office spaces
  • Fitness centers
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Equine therapy
  • Neurofeedback

Luxury and executive inpatient programs are typically short-term

Similar to short-term residential, the average stay at luxury inpatient centers ranges from 14-90 days, depending on the needs of the client.

Executive and luxury residential inpatient facilities are the most expensive rehab option

Due to their amenities and level of medical care (including the availability of medications), these facilities cost more than any other type of rehab program. For a 30-day stay, luxury and executive rehabs cost $30,000 – $100,000+.

Overview of Inpatient Programs
Description Time Commitment Duration
Long-Term Residential Intensive treatment in a non-hospital setting, most often a therapeutic community facility with other patients. Therapies offered are extensive. Medical treatment is available to those who qualify. Hours per Day: 24 3-12 months
Days per Week: 7
Short-Term Residential Intensive treatment, sometimes in a hospital setting. Therapies offered are extensive. Medical treatment is available to those who qualify. Hours per Day: 24 14-90 days
Days per Week: 7
Luxury and Executive Residential Inpatient Intensive treatment in a luxurious environment that also provides amenities and services not typically found in short-term residential settings. Therapies offered are extensive. Medical treatment is available to those who qualify. Hours per Day: 24 14-90 days
Days per Week: 7

Benefits and Drawbacks of Inpatient Programs

Long-Term Residential Inpatient or Therapeutic Communities

The best inpatient program is based on many personal factors, such as your level of addiction and your time and financial constraints. For a full look at all of the considerations, read our guide on “Choosing the Right Rehab.”

The benefits of Long-Term Residential Programs are:

  • Most staff have certificates for counseling, bachelor’s degrees, or master’s degrees
  • Excellent outcomes for people who enter treatment with severe addictions and additional problems.

The drawbacks of Long-Term Residential Programs are:

  • Some programs’ staff lack certification
  • There’s a high cost associated with staying in rehab for a long period of time, and patients aren’t typically able to work

Short-Term Residential Inpatient

The benefits of Short-Term Residential Programs are:

  • A higher completion rate with 56% of patients completing their programs versus 45% for long-term residential treatment, 37% for traditional outpatient treatment, and 32% for intensive outpatient treatment
  • Shorter lengths of treatment are more likely to be covered by insurance policies than longer residential treatment

The drawbacks of Short-Term Residential Programs are:

Luxury or Executive Inpatient

The benefits of Luxury and Executive Inpatient are:

  • Luxury and executive rehabs offer comforts and amenities that make staying in rehab and completing treatment more attractive
  • Holistic and alternative treatment methods (such as acupuncture and massage therapy) are often offered which may be helpful for some

The drawbacks of Luxury and Executive Inpatient are:

  • The cost is typically triple that of traditional short-term rehab
  • Doesn’t provide any evidence-based therapy that isn’t available elsewhere
Inpatient Program Comparison
Short-Term Inpatient Luxury or Executive Inpatient Long-Term Inpatient
Slight addiction
Moderate addiction
Severe addiction
Substances with severe physical withdrawal symptoms
Patients with dual diagnosis and previous rehab experience
Affordable inpatient option
Patients with family or work obligations
Highly-structured schedule
Alternative therapies and amenities provided
Includes all stages of rehab process

Finding Residential Inpatient Programs

After determining what type of inpatient program is appropriate, you can use our directory to locate rehab programs and facilities around the U.S.

Our directory of rehab programs includes a comprehensive list of available treatment centers and programs as provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In the directory, you will find tools to filter the programs by setting, price, and location.

Take Action

Researching rehab options is overwhelming, and it has high stakes – making the wrong program choice could result in relapse, wasting time and money. If you are looking for a rehab center, read our guide for Choosing the Right Rehab or learn more about what happens during rehab in our guide to the addiction rehabilitation process.

If you aren’t sure that inpatient rehabilitation is right for you, read our guide to outpatient rehabilitation programs to learn more about your other options.

Disclaimer: The information contained on is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be relied upon for any medical or diagnostic purpose. The information on should not be used for the treatment of any condition or symptom. None of the material or information provided on is not intended to serve as a substitute for consultation, diagnosis, and/or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.