Is 100% Drug-Free Outpatient Rehab Possible?

Is Drug-Free Outpatient Rehab Possible

What Is Outpatient Drug Free Treatment?

A drug addiction treatment program that doesn’t require patients to stay in a facility is known as an outpatient treatment. People who care for family members may find this sort of treatment helpful because it allows them to go on with their normal lives while receiving treatment.

The outpatient drug treatment frequently involves support groups, education about addiction and relapse prevention, counseling and therapy sessions, as well as medical supervision. For people with less severe addictions or those who have successfully finished a more extensive form of treatment, such as inpatient rehab, this can be an effective alternative.

Outpatient treatment can be effective when it’s highly customized and when the client is engaged in the process. The modern outpatient treatment center takes care in understanding the individual’s needs, addiction history and motivations. 

Some addicted individuals use outpatient treatment because they suffer from mild substance abuse. Others, meanwhile, may turn to outpatient addiction treatment as a continuation of treatment from inpatient care.

Outpatient Treatment: More Effective Than You Think

Outpatient treatment gives patients the freedom to work, spend time with family and pursue life goals. 

A severe addiction to specific substances, like oxycodone or heroin, is typically treated in an inpatient treatment program—so as to help patients manage withdrawal and detoxification.

Meanwhile, mild abuse problems—caught early on—are completely manageable in outpatient settings. 

Sadly, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that approximately 90 percent of people who need rehabilitation never receive it.

The fear of treatment—and lacking options—contributes to this statistic. A lot of outpatient alcohol & drug rehab centers are simply never contacted. 

Similarly, individuals with budding addictions may not consider outpatient addiction treatment to be effective. About 114 people die drug-related deaths per day—per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Rehab Is Rehab—No Matter the Setting

Outpatient substance abuse recovery is typically similar, though less intensive, than inpatient recovery. While its fundamental components are different, recovery approaches rely on the same psychology. 

Addicted individuals can be treated, and they can be treated in multiple ways. According to Time magazine, no standard definition of “rehab” exists. 

Thus, the metric of rehabilitation center success doesn’t exist typically either. While some facilities measure the number of patients who complete their programs, others conduct follow-up tests to gauge sobriety and relapse potential.

It isn’t rare to see an outpatient treatment center supporting individuals with substance abuse before they ever engage an inpatient center. 

Similarly, some use outpatient treatment to circumnavigate the lengthy process of inpatient recovery. Every individual’s case is different—and so is every inpatient and outpatient program.

Is Lack of Medication Tied To Relapse?

Outpatient treatment programs can be 100 percent drug-free and not every patient needs medication. 

While this is less common in modern times, many argue that over-medication is often a much bigger problem than not enough. 

In some cases, a medication-free environment can even be beneficial to patients because there is more motivation to deal with problems than to take a pill to fix the issues.

Outpatient alcohol and drug rehab relies on the individual’s inner strength, external support and frequent visits. Relapse isn’t necessarily tied to lack of medication. 

Rather, it’s tied to a lack of formalized treatment programs. Scientific American covers this phenomenon, citing that medicines should only be involved in treatment if they’re helpful.

While some consider that medication may make therapy more effective, it isn’t necessarily needed and is often used as a crutch. 

The Journal of Studies on Alcohol studied chronic drinkers who were capable of walking away from addiction due to willpower alone. 

These individuals were capable of developing physical aversions to alcohol, navigating life-changing experiences alongside outpatient substance abuse recovery resources.

Spontaneous Recovery and Outpatient Treatment

Recent studies on addiction, meanwhile, suggest that addiction has “tiers,” wherein some cases may be less serious than others. 

While willpower certainly plays a role in outpatient alcohol rehab—as well as in outpatient drug rehab centers—other factors play a role.

“Spontaneous recovery,” or an individual’s ability to overcome addiction via their own willpower, is more complicated than it seems. 

Unfortunately, many addicted individuals resort to “do-it-yourself” cures, only to relapse months later. Here, outpatient rehab centers are incredible resources. 

Those who use outpatient treatment have a higher rate of recovery than those who don’t. Studies additionally suggest that the greatest amount of personal change occurs within early treatment stages. 

More importantly: Those who have a successful rehabilitation don’t use one-size-fits-all treatments. Rather, they engage a treatment that fits their own needs.

Evidence-Based Addiction Treatments

The reason medication-free outpatient treatment programs can work is due to the growing prevalence of evidence-based treatments, or EBTs. 

Facilities which use research-based therapies have higher recovery success rates than their counterparts who rely on traditional approaches, like medication assisted treatment.

Many outpatient treatment programs have adopted evidence-based treatments as well, combating the dangers of relapse with scientifically proven approaches to recovery. 

Sometimes, these approaches don’t include the use of drugs. In mild addictions—and in some substance abuse cases—medication doesn’t have much of an impact.

Assessment and Addiction Medicine

Addicted individuals lucky enough to find an outpatient treatment center which uses EBTs must be assessed, first, before they begin treatment. Even outpatient alcohol rehab requires such testing. 

An assessment can be received from a healthcare professional trained in addiction medicine. A big change in medication approach comes from the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which describes an addiction diagnosis as either “substance abuse” or “substance dependence.” 

While the former may be treated with non-drug-related intervention, the latter is more likely to require the presence of medication.

Substitute Medications Aren’t the Only Answer

Before we cover the many non drug-related treatment options patients can turn to, we’d like to nod to Columbia’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, which recommends a careful approach to substance use and addiction problems. 

Constantly calling for revised substance abuse approaches, CASA has repeatedly promoted treatment systems which are “drug flexible,” or programs which don’t rely on medication to cure addiction and prevent relapse.

What Other Treatment Options Do I Have?

Natural addiction recovery options do exist—and they’re rather popular, too. Many outpatient rehab centers understand their use, and they’ve incorporated them into effective, long-term treatment plans.

Any successful recovery process has four key ingredients:

  • motivation
  • humility
  • sustained effort
  • restoration of purpose

While medication can be seen as a tool in combating addiction, anxiety, and depression, you can still beat addiction without them and don’t have to worry about becoming dependent on them. 

Outpatient drug rehab, first and foremost, is about harnessing one’s inner potential. Many addicts have found effective alternatives to overcome addiction—and many programs have studied these alternatives to offer full support.

The Role of Exercise In Substance Abuse Treatment 

Science thoroughly supports exercise as an effective addiction treatment method

CNN, for example, reports an animal study in which lab animals exposed to exercise wheels were less likely to consume cocaine. Other studies have found similar results, helping patients understand exercise’s many benefits on the brain, cognitive function, emotion and addiction recovery.

Humans are hard-wired to depend on routines. Abusing alcohol or drugs reduces this function, but physical fitness can replace it. Regular exercise also increases dopamine—a brain chemical which is commonly sought by addicted individuals.

Exercise’s “natural high” greatly reduces stress and anxiety, too, reducing the need for isolation—and, thus, the possibility of relapse. 

Outpatient substance abuse recovery often involves running, swimming, hiking, weightlifting and team-oriented sports. Leading outpatient rehab centers connect patients, creating a proactive network of recovering individuals to exercise with.

Some exercises, like long-distance running and yoga, help recovering individuals achieve mindfulness. Clinical psychologist Dr. Sarah Bowen at The Huffington Post has recorded the high capacity of mindfulness exercises. 

Rather than reaching for substances, an individual can learn to focus on the moment, overriding the mental processes involved in addiction.

The Importance of Nutrition

While nutrition may not offer the same chemical responses as pharmaceutical substances, it helps recovering individuals get the most out of their exercise. It can also balance the body, reducing fatigue, depression and anxiety while increasing one’s confidence.

In most cases, addicts use drugs to help themselves cope. As destructive as they are, substances serve a purpose to the addicted individual. It’s important that suffering addicts understand this—and it’s even more important that they understand how to reverse the cycle.

Finding a Brighter Future

At the end of the day, it’s important to acknowledge your personal needs. If you suffer from substance dependency, a comprehensive outpatient treatment program can help, and it will likely be effective. 

Plenty of rest, exercise, a healthy diet and socializing can also aid recovery.

Your future is a bright one, but it requires inner strength, acknowledgment of past mistakes and a healthy approach to recovery. 

If you or a loved one suffers from addiction, and if you fear you need chemical assistance to aid your recovery, absolutely contact a professional for assistance.

If you want to avoid medication, however, you can still find help. Outpatient addiction recovery programs can assist you with therapy, mental health exercises, accountability partners and more. 

Many outpatient rehab centers also offer support group assistance. By connecting with like-minded individuals, you can circumnavigate the dangers of relapse.

Only You Can Prevent Addiction From Taking Over 

Your life’s choices are yours. While professional help is available, your decision to overcome addiction matters the most. Talking with a trusted professional is the first step. 

By seeing things in a new perspective, you can increase your resistance to addiction. Make routine appointments, and make sure you’re constantly held accountable for your choices during recovery.

Meanwhile, engage hobbies which excite you. The road to recovery is long, but it’s easier to travel if you engage the things you love. 

Focus on what fulfills you, and remove the chance to think—and act—on your addiction. As you begin to feel better about yourself, you’ll further increase your resistance to addiction.

It’s never too late to ask for help. If you’re struggling with the first steps, contact a professional today. Sometimes, the first step needs a little help. 

In most cases, you’ll have a choice to use medication. Medication isn’t the only way—and it shouldn’t be proposed as such.

Form a close bond with your addiction recovery team, and give them as much information as possible about your particular case. 

By nurturing healthy relationships, you can build your energy, resistance and motivation. Step by step, you can recreate your life for the better.

Tim Sinnot Medical Review
Medically reviewed by
Tim Sinnott, LMFT LAADC

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Is an accredited drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, that believes addiction treatment should not just address “how to stay sober” but needs to transform the life of the addict and empower him or her to create a more meaningful and positive life. We are dedicated to transforming the despair of addiction into a purposeful life of confidence, self-respect and happiness. We want to give recovering addicts the tools to return to the outside world completely substance-free and successful.
elevate addiction services logo
Is an accredited drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, that believes addiction treatment should not just address “how to stay sober” but needs to transform the life of the addict and empower him or her to create a more meaningful and positive life. We are dedicated to transforming the despair of addiction into a purposeful life of confidence, self-respect and happiness. We want to give recovering addicts the tools to return to the outside world completely substance-free and successful.