Opioid Addiction Treatment: Inpatient & Outpatient Options

With so many rehab options available, finding the right program for opioid addiction treatment can feel overwhelming. Choosing appropriate treatment that meets your specific needs is an important first step on the path to long-term sobriety.

In This Article:

Signs You May Need Opioid Addiction Treatment

Clinician managing opioid addiction treatment

Your treatment plan will depend on a number of personal factors, such as addiction severity.

How do you know if you need treatment for an opioid addiction? The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), outlines the criteria clinicians use to diagnose an opioid addiction, known clinically as an opioid use disorder (OUD). An OUD can range from mild to severe, depending on how many symptoms a person has.1,2

Symptoms of opioid addiction include: 1

  • Taking opioids in larger amounts or for a longer period than prescribed
  • Experiencing strong urges and cravings to use opioids
  • Wanting to cut down on opioid usage or stop it altogether to no avail
  • Not being able to focus at home, work, or school due to opioid usage
  • Continuing opioid usage, even though it is causing relationship problems
  • Avoiding recreational, social, and occupational activities due to opioid usage
  • Using opioids repeatedly in potentially dangerous situations
  • Continuing to use opioids even though you have a psychological or physical problem that was potentially caused or worsened by the drug
  • Relying on more opioids to get the desired effect (i.e., developing tolerance)
  • Developing symptoms of withdrawal that are relieved by using more opioids

If you identify with any of the above-mentioned signs or symptoms of addiction, you may benefit from a professional assessment from an addictions specialist. Call 800-934-1582(Who Answers?) to explore your options.

Opioid Addiction Detox

Treating an opioid addiction is a process that involves multiple phases, beginning with detox, which is offered at most addiction treatment centers.3

With detox, you will begin your recovery process by abstaining from all opioid and other drug use. The detox phase is also known as “withdrawal” as your body, brain, and nervous system adjust to no longer having opioids in your system. Detox allows the body to begin the healing process.3

Depending on your level of addiction, you may be able to complete the detox phase at home. However, people with longstanding opioid dependence, mental health conditions, or other health concerns may be advised by their doctor to have medical oversight during detox.3  “Medical detoxification” can help you get through detox safely while managing withdrawal symptoms.

Medical detox can be done in two different scenarios. One scenario is to complete your withdrawal process in a hospital and then transfer to a residential drug rehab treatment program upon completion of your detox.3

The other scenario is to detox in a residential treatment drug rehab facility. With this option, you can continue your opioid addiction treatment in the same facility after going through withdrawal. This is an ideal option for some people as it eliminates the need to transfer to another facility for ongoing recovery.3

With either detox scenario, you will receive medical oversight that will likely include the involvement of nursing staff, medical doctors, and a psychiatrist. Clinicians will monitor your health, watch for any side effects that may need treatment, and offer supportive care during the detox process.

Medical support often includes prescription medications to help minimize the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal.3

Inpatient Opioid Rehab

Inpatient residential treatment is the next step after detox. If you have completed detox in the same facility where you will receive ongoing addiction treatment, you will go through what’s called a “step-down process.” This means you will transfer to a different area of the same facility to complete your inpatient rehab.3

If you have chosen to do your medical detox in a hospital, you will need to be transferred to an inpatient drug rehab facility.

Inpatient rehab traditionally lasts from 30 to 60 days, during which time you will live in a community with others who are also receiving addiction treatment. Some residential treatment programs specialize in a specific type of addiction, such as opioid use disorder or alcohol addiction.3

Elements of residential treatment that remain consistent across all addiction treatment facilities include:3

  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Family counseling
  • Introduction to 12-step meetings
  • Relapse prevention

During your residential stay, you will be offered a wide variety of counseling, also known as “talk therapy.” Behavioral therapy is a proven way to begin building a foundation for long-term sobriety. With therapy, you will learn to better understand yourself and any possible contributing factors to your addiction.3

Individual Counseling

Individual counseling will offer you the opportunity to explore yourself and your life with a trained addictions counselor. During counseling, you will be given privacy and support as you process emotions during recovery.3 Counseling will also help you understand any unresolved trauma or family conflict that may have contributed to your addiction.3 Your counselor also will work with you to address any other contributing factors to your addiction, including personality traits, dysfunctional thinking patterns, or other possible mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety.3

Group Counseling

Group counseling offers you the opportunity to develop peer support by getting to know others involved in long-term recovery. In group therapy, you can learn and grow with your peers as you begin applying recovery strategies to your life.3

Family Counseling

Family counseling is offered in residential treatment to help those close to you understand how they can best support you during your recovery process.4

Family counseling also offers you the opportunity to express your thoughts and feelings around your addiction to those close to you and share with them your motivation for change.4

12-Step Meetings

Many opioid addiction treatment centers offer 12-step meetings or other recovery support groups that can provide peer support and guidance for your recovery. The 12-step model has proven effective for generations of people in recovery from addiction.5 Examples include Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Celebrate Recovery.3

Relapse Prevention

During treatment, you will develop a relapse prevention plan to help you maintain long-term sobriety.3 A relapse prevention plan identifies triggers that may have contributed to the start and continuation of your opioid addiction. You will also learn coping skills to help prevent relapse if those triggers occur again.3

The relapse prevention plan developed in residential treatment mostly focuses on cravings and triggers that you experienced before entering treatment. When you begin the next phase, outpatient treatment, you may identify new triggers that arise while living in the community.

Outpatient Rehab

Apart from residential rehab, outpatient rehab is the other main path for opioid addiction treatment. Outpatient treatment can be either a person’s first step in recovery or the next step in a person’s recovery following a residential stay.3

Outpatient rehab is very similar to inpatient treatment, but rather than living in a residential-type setting, you live at home during recovery.3 Outpatient treatment supports you as you become immersed back into society, equipped with new coping skills and strategies to avoid relapse.3

Several different outpatient rehab treatment options are available. Each option offers therapy and medication management but may differ in terms of frequency of visits or duration of treatment.

Partial Hospitalization

Partial hospitalization is a type of outpatient treatment appropriate for people who do not necessarily require residential treatment but may benefit from strong therapeutic oversight. With a partial hospitalization program, you meet 4 days a week for 3-4 hours a day.6 You receive similar types of treatment as in residential treatment, including individual therapy, group counseling, and access to 12-step meetings.3

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Intensive outpatient rehab treatment is delivered in a similar format to a partial hospitalization program with less frequent meetings. This level of treatment is suitable for people who do not need the more intensive support of partial hospitalization.3 Intensive outpatient treatment programs typically meet 2-3 days a week for about 2-3 a day.6

Intensive outpatient programs also include individual and group counseling, and access to 12-step meetings. Throughout treatment, you continue discussing and processing any new cravings and triggers you experience from living back in the community. You also focus on building a recovery support network.3

Intensive outpatient rehab can last from one month to several months, depending on your needs.

Therapies for Opioid Addiction Treatment

Types of talk therapy that you can expect to receive in individual, group, and family counseling include:3

These therapy techniques differ slightly but focus on similar goals, such as developing the motivation to maintain long-term sobriety and building the mental tools necessary for recovery.3

In addition to these types of behavioral therapy, people seeking treatment for opioid addiction often receive medication to help manage their recovery. The most common prescription medications used in opioid rehab are:7

You can discuss with your medical provider whether these medications are appropriate options for your recovery needs.7

Holistic Interventions

Some opiate rehab centers now offer holistic interventions to address a person’s emotional, mental, and physical health.

Holistic interventions include:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Acupuncture
  • Music therapy
  • Equine therapy

These holistic interventions are meant to complement other therapeutic interventions, such as talk therapy and medication. Supplementary therapies can provide a more comprehensive treatment experience to benefit your body, mind, and spirit.

Aftercare Support for Long-term Sobriety

After completing treatment, aftercare helps you stay focused on maintaining long-term sobriety, applying the knowledge and skills you gained during treatment.

When entering this stage of recovery, you have shown that you can manage triggers in a healthy manner and apply strategies to avoid a relapse.3

During long-term recovery, most people participate in 12-step meetings such as Narcotics Anonymous. Others may choose to continue individual counseling for support. Many people also continue to receive medication.5

Your continued sobriety will require a network of support. Continued aftercare is essential for lifelong sobriety, as recovery is a daily mindset that benefits most from support.3

For more information about available types of opioid rehab, call 800-934-1582(Who Answers?) to speak with an addiction treatment specialist.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
  2. McLellan, A. T. (2017). Substance Misuse and Substance use Disorders: Why do they Matter in healthcare? Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, 128:112-130.
  3. Volkow, N. D. (2011). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (2nd Ed.). DIANE Publishing Company.
  4. Beattie, M. (1986). Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself. Hazelden Publishing Company.
  5. Bogenschutz, M. P., Geppert, C. M., & George, J. (2006). The role of twelve-step approaches in dual diagnosis treatment and recovery. The American Journal on Addictions, 15(1), 50-60.
  6. Allison, M., & Hubbard, R.L. (1985). Drug Abuse Treatment Process: A Review of the Literature, International Journal of the Addictions, 20:9, 1321-1345.
  7. Quest, T. L., Merrill, J. O., Roll, J., Saxon, A. J., & Rosenblatt, R. A. (2012). Buprenorphine therapy for opioid addiction in rural Washington: the experience of the early adopters. Journal of Opioid Management, 8(1), 29-38.

the Take-Away

Severe opioid addiction treatment is best done in a residential rehab center with continual medical oversight. Less severe addictions may be treated through outpatient rehab.