Detox can be an important first step in the path to recovery from alcohol addiction. It can help you (or someone you care about) more safely and comfortably manage alcohol withdrawal, prevent complications, become medically stable, and set the stage for further treatment.1

If you’re interested in outpatient detox near you, you should know that it may be a more affordable option than inpatient detox. It has also been shown to be just as effective as inpatient detox for many people with mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms.1

What Is Outpatient Detox?

Detox offers support, medicines, and other interventions to keep you as safe and comfortable as possible while your body withdraws from alcohol and other substances.2,3 Knowing what outpatient detox is can help you understand what to expect if you are considering outpatient detoxification.

Outpatient alcohol detox means that you live at home and travel to a center for detox services, usually on a daily basis.3 It may be useful for managing mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which can be unpleasant and uncomfortable; these symptoms usually include anxiety, irritability, trouble sleeping, and decreased appetite.1

Outpatient detox programs differ from inpatient detox because you can live at home and attend to your daily life, work, and other responsibilities.1,3 Outpatient detox offers increased freedom to continue your usual activities, often at a lower cost than inpatient detox.3 Although inpatient alcohol detox can have many benefits, it requires you to live on-site, which may not always be a feasible option. It can also have a higher price tag.3

However, outpatient detox may not be the right choice for everyone. An outpatient detox center does not offer 24-hour, immediate care in case of severe medical issues. It can also carry a higher risk of relapse if you have easy access to alcohol, and you can more easily decide to skip or cancel appointments.3 Outpatient detox may not be a good fit for:3

  • People at risk for possibly life-threatening withdrawal complications, such as delirium tremens.
  • Those with certain unmanaged medical conditions, such as pancreatitis, gastrointestinal bleeding, or cirrhosis.
  • People with suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
  • Those with a history of complicated withdrawal.
  • People without supportive family or home situations.
  • People without reliable transportation.

What Happens During Outpatient Detox?

During your first session at an outpatient detox for alcohol, your care team will conduct a detailed assessment of your physical and mental health and other factors to help inform your treatment schedule and necessary interventions.3 You will then attend set appointments on a fixed schedule and leave the center afterward, so you can sleep at home and attend to other responsibilities.3

Detox center staff will work with you to create a customized detox and treatment plan that is right for your needs. They may take different factors into account, such as:1,3,4

  • Your risk of complicated withdrawal.
  • Whether you use other substances.
  • Your age.
  • Your medical and mental health history and current medical or mental health problems.
  • Your job and home situation.
  • Your access to reliable transportation.
  • Your willingness to travel to daily appointments.
  • Whether you’ve been through withdrawal before and if so, what it was like for you.
  • Your previous experience with treatment.

Medicines Used in Outpatient Alcohol Detox

Medication is often used in alcohol detox to manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.3 These medicines may include:1,3

  • Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam, chlordiazepoxide, oxazepam, or lorazepam. These medicines help reduce withdrawal symptoms and the risk of withdrawal seizures.
  • Blood pressure medicines such as clonidine. These medicines may ease certain withdrawal symptoms, such as tachycardia (fast heartbeat) or hypertension (high blood pressure).
  • Antipsychotics such as haloperidol. These can help people suffering from extreme agitation, hallucinations, delusions, and delirium. Still, due to the severity of these symptoms, it is more likely that you would receive these medicines in an inpatient setting under close supervision.

How Long Does Outpatient Detox Last?

There isn’t a set time frame for outpatient detox, as the withdrawal timeline can vary from person to person. Generally speaking, outpatient detox can last from 3 to 14 days.3 Factors that can influence the length of detox may include:1,5

  • The amount of alcohol you typically drink and how long you’ve been using it.
  • Other substances you use.
  • Your overall health.
  • Your age.
  • Any co-occurring medical or mental health problems you may have.
  • Your history of previous withdrawal.

What Happens after Outpatient Detox?

Detox is very helpful for managing withdrawal, but it is often only the first step in the recovery process.5 Many people continue treatment after detox to address the underlying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that led to alcohol use. During detox, your care team will help connect you to the right post-detox rehab for your needs.1

Potential options include:5

  • Inpatient rehab. You live on-site, receive round-the-clock care, and participate in different types of individual and group therapies. Inpatient rehab can range in intensity levels depending on your needs, from highly supportive, medically managed hospital-based settings to clinically managed residential settings outside of a hospital.
  • Outpatient rehab. You live at home, travel to a treatment center on a set schedule, and receive different therapies. Outpatient rehab can vary in intensity, ranging from partial hospitalization programs or intensive outpatient programs that provide a high level of support and structure to standard outpatient programs that provide therapy and behavioral interventions on a less intense scale. They may require attendance during the day, before or after school, in the evenings, or on weekends.

Is Outpatient Detox Right for Me?

Only you and your doctor or a qualified addiction healthcare specialist can decide whether outpatient detox is a good fit for you. It’s important to remember that outpatient detox may not be the best setting if you have a risk of complicated withdrawal, have certain medical or mental health conditions, lack support, or do not have reliable transportation.3

If you’re ready to seek treatment, we’re here to help. American Addiction Centers (AAC) is one of the nation’s leading providers of alcohol detox. Our treatment centers offer both detox and comprehensive rehab treatment so you can start the path to recovery. Call us at 1-888-685-5770 or get a text to learn more about your alcohol detox and treatment options.

Sources
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  1. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2015). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. Treatment improvement protocol (TIP) series, No. 45. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4131. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, October). Step by step guides to finding treatment for drug use disorders.
  3. Hayashida, M. (1998). An overview of outpatient and inpatient detoxification. Alcohol health and research world, 22(1), 44–46.
  4. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2020, January 23). The ASAM clinical practice guideline on alcohol withdrawal management. Rockville, MD: American Society of Addiction Medicine.
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Surgeon General. (2016, November). Facing addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s report on alcohol, drugs, and health. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.