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A study was done examining the impact residential versus outpatient treatment programs have on drug abusers being treated in terms of treatment completion. The study further looked at how this might vary according to demographic characteristics and choice of drugs. The analysis was done looking at a nationwide sample of substance abuse programs offered in the U.S. that are publicly funded.

The data derived for this study came from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the 2011 Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS-D). The data involved 318,924 cases, which were all analyzed in an effort to compare the completion rates of those in residential versus outpatient treatment settings.

The completion rate reported by residential programs was 65% as opposed to 52% reported for outpatient treatment settings. This result was not shown to be significantly affected by gender, but it apparently was for race/ethnicity, drug of choice and age.

Residential as opposed to outpatient treatment improved the chances of completion more for older patients, opioid abusers, and Caucasians, as opposed to younger patients, people of color, and those who primarily use alcohol and other substances, respectively. In terms of residential versus outpatient treatment settings, patients who are older, Caucasian, and abused opioids were more apt to complete treatment. And marijuana users were less apt to derive benefits from residential versus outpatient treatment.

Since treatment completion was apparently influenced by age, race/ethnicity, and choice of drug, these findings might actually be attributable to socio-economic class factors, people more apt to have the means to pay for residential versus outpatient treatment. It might also be possible that for people abusing opioids, as opposed to people abusing other types of drugs, a residential treatment program offers more protection from social and environmental triggers that lead to relapse and dropping out of treatment. Increasing the use and availability of inpatient versus outpatient treatment programs should be looked at, especially for those severely addicted opioid users.

However, another study sponsored by SAMHSA showed that intensive outpatient programs are just as effective as residential and inpatient treatment programs. The study showed equivalent reductions in the number of days patients remained abstinent as well as equivalent measures of the severity of problems between those who got intensive outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment or residential care. Furthermore, it was noted that intensive outpatient treatment allows patients to avoid or gradually step down from residential or inpatient treatment.

To explain their results, the researchers to the conclusions reached by the American Society for Addiction Medicine (ASAM), which stated that less-intensive treatment, like intensive outpatient programs, might be more beneficial than brief, more intensive interventions, such as hospitalization. The main factor seems to be that in intensive outpatient people receive  treatment for a longer duration as an outpatient, as opposed to spending less time in a very intense treatment facility.

For the most part, most research studies showed that substance use treatment outcomes are pretty much the same for inpatient versus outpatient settings, showing that approximately 50% to 70% of subjects reported they were abstinent at follow-up. The conclusions of the SAMHSA study were that cost, duration of treatment, and being able to live within their community should be the factors compared when looking at inpatient vs. intensive outpatient treatment services for people with substance use and abuse disorders.

If you are trying to decide between residential and outpatient substance abuse treatment, you should consider where you are in the addiction process and what level of care would work best for you. Next, as you review programs that provide that level of care, consider other important factors such as their proven treatment effectiveness and client satisfaction specifically for that level of care.  If you would believe that you are ready for an intensive outpatient program in Memphis, TN, please call us now!

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