24/7 National Substance Abuse Hotline
National Hotline
Free & Confidential 24/7

Is Outpatient Detox Necessary for Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal?

One of the first steps in overcoming addiction is to get through withdrawal symptoms, which can be uncomfortable, and in some cases dangerous. Detoxification, or detox, is a medically-supervised process that keeps patients safe and comfortable. Outpatient detox is when detox is completed by a patient who is not residing at the treatment facility, but rather staying elsewhere and coming in for treatment.

9 Minute Read | Published Oct 05 2023 | Updated Oct 05 2023

While inpatient detox is preferable in many circumstances, outpatient detox is an excellent alternative for many patients. However, the only way to know which treatment option is right for you is to consult with a treatment professional. At BetterAddictionCare we work with a national network of outpatient detox programs, and can help you find the right fit for you.

Inpatient detoxification involves medically supervised treatment to ensure patient safety and comfort. At BetterAddictionCare, we work with a nationwide network of inpatient detox centers and can help you get on the road to recovery.

How Does Outpatient Drug Detox Work?

An outpatient drug detox program is designed to keep clients comfortable and safe as the body returns to normal functioning after drug or alcohol use ceases. Outpatient detox programs typically meet for a short period each day, or maybe a few times a week.

While every individual’s experience and plan will be different, there are some general similarities that are typically the case. Upon initial arrival at an outpatient center, the patient will be evaluated and prescribed medication to help them taper off of the substance and ease any discomfort. The time required to complete detox will vary according to the addiction history and physical makeup of each individual, but with care and dedication, this transition to sobriety can form the basis for a healthy future.

What Is WIthdrawal?

When someone is dependent on a substance, their body has become so accustomed to its presence that it will no longer function “normally” without it. When the dependent individual stops or reduces use of the substance, they begin to experience a set of symptoms that are collectively known as withdrawal.

While every patient will experience a unique set of withdrawal symptoms, some of the most common include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Heat complications
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Profuse sweating
  • Shakes and twitches
  • Short temper

Outpatient detox programs are primarily designed to treat these common symptoms of withdrawal, and often to an excellent job. However, they are generally not equipped to help patients with more serious or dangerous withdrawal symptoms, which should always be treated in an inpatient setting.

When Is Withdrawal Dangerous?

Some withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, even deadly. This is especially true of alcohol, benzodiazepine, or barbiturate withdrawal. In cases where dangerous withdrawal symptoms may be present, outpatient detox is not recommended.

WIthdrawal symptoms that can be dangerous include:

  • Death
  • Dehydration
  • Delirium tremens
  • Injury
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Stroke

Why Is Outpatient Detox Necessary?

Outpatient detox programs are designed to achieve two goals, to keep patients comfortable and safe. Patients who have completed a medically-supervised outpatient detox program generally have a much less negative withdrawal experience than patients who have not gone through detox. This means that they enter treatment in a much better mental state and see significantly better treatment outcomes.

Is Outpatient Rehab Right for Me?

Only an assessment completed by a trained addiction professional will let you know for sure whether outpatient rehab is right for you. However, some factors that influence whether outpatient rehab is a good choice include:

  • What substances were abused – outpatient detox is not recommended for alcohol, benzodiazepine, or barbiturate withdrawal.
  • The severity of the addiction – outpatient detox is a better fit for patients whose addictions have lasted less time and who used less of their substance(s) of choice.
  • The patient’s financial situation – outpatient detox is typically less expensive than inpatient detox.
  • The patient’s life commitments – outpatient detox allows patients to maintain their personal commitments such as childcare or work.

What Happens After Outpatient Detox

Outpatient detox is only the beginning of recovery. Patients are generally advised to attend a treatment program and then ongoing counseling and support groups. Choosing the right detox program is the best way to give yourself or your loved one the best chance at achieving lasting sobriety.

At BetterAddictionCare, we’re dedicated to helping every client find the right rehab program for them. Our nationwide recovery network includes some of the country’s top outpatient facilities, and our pre-screening assessment can help determine the best treatment center match for you in our network. Our team of client care specialists can work with you to coordinate any transportation and public or private insurance requirements, and after treatment ends, patients can call upon our post-rehab support services for further aid in recovery.

If you’re ready to find an outpatient detox center and start healing, call today or fill out our contact form.



bullet Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006).
"Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment: A Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45."
Retrieved on September 09, 2020
bullet National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018).
"Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)."
Retrieved on September 09, 2020
bullet Kosten, T. R., & O’Connor, P. G. (2003).
"Management of Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal. New England Journal of Medicine, 348(18), 1786-1795. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra020617"
Retrieved on September 09, 2020
bullet American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2015).
"The ASAM National Practice Guideline for the Use of Medications in the Treatment of Addiction Involving Opioid Use."
Retrieved on September 09, 2020
bullet Swift, R. M. (1999).
"Drug Therapy for Alcohol Dependence. New England Journal of Medicine, 340(19), 1482-1490. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199905133401907"
Retrieved on September 09, 2020
bullet National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019).
"Types of Treatment Programs."
Retrieved on September 09, 2020
bullet Gowing, L. R., Ali, R., & White, J. M. (2004).
"Opioid Antagonists with Minimal Sedation for Opioid Withdrawal. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (4), CD002021. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD002021.pub2"
Retrieved on September 09, 2020
bullet Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2008).
"Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45."
Retrieved on September 09, 2020
bullet Mee-Lee, D., Shulman, G. D., Fishman, M. J., Gastfriend, D. R., & Miller, M. M. (Eds.). (2013).
"The ASAM Criteria: Treatment Criteria for Addictive, Substance-Related, and Co-Occurring Conditions. American Society of Addiction Medicine."
Retrieved on September 09, 2020
bullet National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021).
"Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction."
Retrieved on September 09, 2020

Part of Rehab Guide

Drug Rehabs that Accept Medicare As the elderly are one of the most vulnerable populations when it comes to addiction, more seniors are finding themselves in the position of...
28-Day Drug and Alcohol Rehab Programs Today, drug and alcohol addiction sufferers have many types if inpatient programs to choose from when they are pursuing addiction recovery. One of the most...
30-Day Drug and Alcohol Rehab Programs When addicts and friends and family of addicts are looking into addiction recovery options, they are usually faced with a number of different program lengths...