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Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment for Substance Use Disorder

Overview

If you have substance use disorder, your doctor may suggest treatment at an inpatient or outpatient facility. At inpatient facilities, you stay overnight. At outpatient facilities, you come only during the day. How long you stay varies among programs.

There are many options for inpatient and outpatient treatment programs. Treatment may include group therapy, one-on-one counselling, drug and alcohol education, medical care, and family therapy. A combination of these treatments may be used in both inpatient and outpatient programs. You may be able to do outpatient treatment online. Talk to your doctor or counsellor to find out about online options.

Your doctor or counsellor will help you decide whether you should have inpatient or outpatient treatment. The choice may depend on:

  • How severe the substance use disorder is.
  • Your mental health.
  • What kind of support you have.
  • Your work and living situation.
  • How the treatment will be paid for.

The Government of Canada's web page on substance use can help you find treatment programs. Search online at www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/get-help-with-substance-use.html to find programs in your area.

Inpatient treatment

Inpatient treatment may be part of a hospital program or found in special clinics. You'll sleep at the facility and get therapy in the day or evening.

Inpatient treatment may be a good option if:

  • You've tried outpatient treatment, but it didn't work.
  • You have other physical or mental health conditions.
  • Your home situation makes it hard to stay away from drugs or alcohol.
  • You don't live near an outpatient treatment clinic.

You may stay for several weeks, depending on how your recovery is going. After inpatient treatment, you should go to outpatient treatment for more counselling and group therapy. Inpatient treatment also may be residential, which means you stay at the facility for months.

Outpatient treatment

Outpatient treatment happens in mental health clinics, counsellors' offices, hospital clinics, or local health unit offices. Unlike inpatient treatment, you don't stay overnight.

Outpatient programs can be a challenge because you may continue to face problems at work and home. But it will help you build the skills you need to handle everyday problems.

In standard outpatient treatment, you may have 1 or 2 group therapy sessions a week. Treatment may go on for a year or more. Sessions may be in the evening or on weekends so you can go to work. You may be able to do outpatient treatment online. Ask your doctor or counsellor about online options.

Outpatient treatment may be a good option if:

  • You can't or don't want to quit work or take a leave of absence.
  • You want to be close to friends or family.
  • You can stay away from drugs or alcohol where you live.
  • Inpatient treatment is too expensive.

For outpatient treatment to work well for you, it's important to go to your sessions regularly and also get other support, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, LifeRing, or Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Having support from friends or family, good transportation, and a stable place to live also are important.

It's important to stay committed to a drug-free or sober lifestyle. With treatment, you can make healthy changes and keep drugs or alcohol out of your life.

Questions to ask

When visiting a treatment centre to see whether the program offered there meets your needs, ask these questions.

  • Are the counsellors certified addiction counsellors? Counsellors who are certified have special training in counselling people who have substance use disorders.
  • Are any medical doctors associated with the program? If so, are they certified by the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM)? Doctors who are certified have special training in treating people who have substance use disorders.
  • What treatment therapies are used in the program? Is it a peer support program (12-step programs, SMART Recovery, LifeRing) alone or does the program contain cognitive therapy and/or medicine therapy?
  • How much time do you spend in the program a day? How many weeks or months does the program last? Does the program have aftercare?
  • What has been the success rate for people going through the program? How has success been evaluated (number completing the program, years not drinking)?
  • Does the treatment program address any special concerns that a person from a certain culture or religious background might have?
  • Does the program evaluate and treat people who also have other conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or long-term pain disorders?
  • Are family members involved in the program? In what ways are they involved?
  • What is the cost of treatment? Will your provincial health plan or private health insurance cover the cost?

Credits

Current as of: November 15, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

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