Outpatient alcohol detox programs offer a flexible, low-intensity treatment option for people with alcohol dependence who are trying to stop drinking alcohol.
Outpatient alcohol detox may not be right for everyone. While this type of program can have its advantages, this may not be suitable for people who are at risk of severe withdrawal.
Here you’ll find more information about what outpatient alcohol detox is, pros and cons of outpatient detox, and how to find alcohol detox options at a rehab center near you.
What Is Outpatient Alcohol Detox?
Outpatient detox is a type of detox program that is offered on an outpatient basis. That is, you do not stay in a detox facility or treatment center overnight for care.
What outpatient detox may involve:
- an initial intake to assess your eligibility for outpatient detox
- creating an initial treatment plan
- traveling to a detox facility each day for monitoring
- checking in with a medical doctor daily
- receiving medication for moderate withdrawal symptoms
- following up with an alcohol treatment provider
Outpatient detox centers may not accept patients who have severe alcohol dependence, or those who are at risk for severe alcohol withdrawal during the detoxification process.
Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which can develop within the first 48 hours of detox, can be life-threatening and should be treated by medical professionals in an inpatient setting.
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Is Outpatient Alcohol Detox Safe?
Outpatient detox can be safe and effective for people with mild alcohol dependence who have a robust support system and who are fully committed to getting sober.
Outpatient detox may not be safe for people who:
- have been drinking alcohol heavily for years
- drink an excessive amount of alcohol each day
- have a history of substance abuse
- are taking other drugs (i.e. opioids, heroin, cocaine)
- have certain mental health or medical conditions
- have experienced past complications during alcohol detox (e.g. delirium tremens)
- do not have a strong support system in place at home
Severe alcohol withdrawal, which can develop in people with certain risk factors, has the potential to cause life-threatening seizures and other severe side effects of detox.
For this reason, those at risk for severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms are generally redirected to a higher level of care, such as an inpatient detoxification center.
Advantages Of Outpatient Alcohol Detox
Outpatient treatment programs may offer certain benefits and advantages for people with mild alcohol dependence who need a flexible option for quitting alcohol.
Advantages of outpatient detox include:
- ability to detox from the comfort of your home
- typically less expensive than an inpatient program
- flexible for working professionals
- not having to leave family or children
Like a medical detox program, outpatient detox programs will typically offer medical care and may prescribe medications for mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms.
Disadvantages Of Outpatient Alcohol Detox
Detoxing from alcohol through an outpatient program isn’t for everyone. While it can be beneficial or suitable for some, others may require a higher level of care.
Disadvantages of outpatient alcohol detox include:
- requires a high level of accountability for staying sober
- cannot offer treatment in emergency situations (e.g. if seizures occur)
- carries a higher risk for relapse
- doesn’t offer around-the-clock medical supervision
- can be dangerous for those at high risk for severe alcohol withdrawal
People who don’t have a strong support system at home, or live around others who frequently drink or use drugs, may have a more difficult time detoxing outside of an inpatient center.
Furthermore, it can be a challenge to stay away from alcohol when you’re detoxing from home, due to the fact that it is easier to access than if you’re staying in a detox facility.
Alternatives To Outpatient Alcohol Detox
Quitting alcohol can be challenging, and it can also be dangerous. For those who are at risk for severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, alternative options to outpatient detox exist.
Medical detox is the number one alternative to an outpatient detox program. This is a type of acute, inpatient program that involves staying in a detox facility for 24-hour care.
What medical detox can offer:
- 24-hour medical supervision
- treatment for moderate to severe withdrawal
- medicine for symptoms
- an alcohol-free environment
- a quiet detox setting
- referral for alcohol abuse rehab
Medical detox programs can help prevent severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as hallucinations, seizures, and high blood pressure.
Medical staff within these detox programs can treat severe symptoms of alcohol detox when and if they do develop.
Outpatient Alcohol Detox FAQs
Find answers to frequently asked questions about outpatient alcohol detox and alcohol addiction treatment options.
❓ What Is The Difference Between Inpatient And Outpatient Alcohol Detox?
✔️ The primary difference between an inpatient program and outpatient alcohol detox is that inpatient detox requires staying in a detox center overnight. Outpatient detox does not.
Within an outpatient detox program, individuals travel to a treatment facility for one or more hours a day to check in with a health care provider, and then can return home or to work after.
❓ What Is The Goal Of Outpatient Alcohol Detox?
✔️ The first goal of outpatient alcohol detox is for a person to get sober. This requires forgoing alcohol and allowing your body to fully process the alcohol out of your system.
Specific treatment goals can vary from one person to the next. If someone has an alcohol use disorder, their goal may be to maintain sobriety or prepare for an inpatient rehab program.
❓ How Long Does Outpatient Alcohol Detox Last?
✔️ Outpatient detox programs can last anywhere from three days to one week. This will depend on the severity of your alcohol dependence and the duration of withdrawal.
If you’re tapering off alcohol, this may take longer. Acute alcohol withdrawal generally doesn’t last longer than one week.
❓ Is It Safe To Detox From Alcohol At Home?
✔️ Detoxing from alcohol at home comes with certain risks. Very serious side effects such as seizures and delirium can occur within the first 48 hours of alcohol withdrawal.
For this reason, it’s important to seek medical advice before trying to quit alcohol on your own if you drink a significant amount of alcohol on a regular basis.
❓ What Comes After Outpatient Detox?
✔️ When it comes to overcoming alcohol addiction, detox is just the first step. After this, it’s common for people to enter an inpatient treatment center or residential rehab for treatment.
Treatment programs for alcohol abuse may offer:
- individual and group counseling
- behavioral therapy
- support groups
- medication-assisted treatment
- job or housing assistance
- relapse prevention planning
- aftercare support
Alcohol rehab centers can differ in what they offer. But for many, entering a rehab program can be a crucial step in the early healing process.
Find An Outpatient Alcohol Detox Program Near You
Finding a detox program is, for many, the first step in overcoming an addiction to alcohol and beginning the lifelong road to recovery.
Don’t wait. Call us today to learn more about alcohol detox options and to find an alcohol detox program for yourself or a loved one at a treatment facility near you.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- American Family Physician — Outpatient Management of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Alcohol withdrawal
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Delirium Tremens
- U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) — Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help