Outpatient Opioid Rehab: Pros and Cons

Learn more about the benefits of outpatient opioid treatment and how to find the help you need in this comprehensive article.

How Black Horse Health and Our Comprehensive Outpatient Opioid Treatment Can Help

At Black Horse Health, we know how overwhelming the effects of opioid addiction can be.

Our team of skilled and compassionate specialists have over 100 years of combined experience, and we are committed to helping you or your loved one get the outpatient opioid treatment you need.

With holistic and evidence-based wellness services like medication-assisted treatment, dual diagnosis treatment, and SMART Recovery, we will create a treatment plan that best meets your unique set of symptoms.

Recovery From Opioid Addiction With Black Horse Health

Learn more about our opioid outpatient programs, other treatment opportunities, and how our Black Horse Health team of specialists can help you heal in this comprehensive article. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for more information or to begin your path to wellness today.

outpatient opioid treatment

Outpatient Opioid Treatment

Outpatient opioid treatment helps people overcome addiction to substances like prescription painkillers or heroin. Treatment programs use a combination of therapies to address all aspects of addiction.
At Black Horse Health, the goal is to equip patients with the tools for long-term recovery and a healthier, drug-free life. In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of outpatient opioid rehab.

What are Opioids?

Opioids include a range of substances such as:
  • Heroin
  • Prescription pain medications like oxycodone and hydrocodone
  • Synthetic opioids like fentanyl

What is Opioid Use Disorder?

Opioid use disorder (OUD) is characterized by continuing to use opioids despite the use causing significant impairment or distress. It gets diagnosed based on specific criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).1

Symptoms and Criteria for OUD

The criteria for OUD include a range of symptoms that show continued use of opioids despite significant problems related to the use. The diagnosis can be mild, moderate, or severe. This categorization depends on the number of symptoms present over 12 months.
The symptoms and criteria for OUD include:2
  • Taking opioids in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended
  • Unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control use
  • A great deal of time spent getting, using, or recovering from the effects of opioids
  • Craving or a strong desire to use opioids
  • Failing to fulfill major obligations due to opioid use
  • Continued use despite interpersonal problems caused or worsened by opioid use
  • Giving up or reducing activities because of opioid use
  • Using in situations where it’s physically hazardous
  • Continued use despite it causing or worsening physical or psychological problems
  • Tolerance
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms or using to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms

OUD Treatment

Treatment for OUD often involves a combination of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and behavioral therapies. Because of the complex nature of addiction, it’s important to find an approach that involves a multidisciplinary team of professional and social support.

Who is at Risk for Developing an Opioid Use Disorder?

No specific type of person is more or less at risk for developing an opioid use disorder. But, some risk factors may make a person more at risk.
These risk factors can include:3
  • A history of substance abuse or other mental health issues
  • Chronic pain conditions
  • Easy access to opioids
  • A lack of education about the risks associated with these drugs
  • Peer pressure
  • Family history of addiction
Opioid addiction is a complex issue with many contributing elements. Those with a combination of these risk factors are often more likely to develop an opioid use disorder.

What is Outpatient Opioid Treatment?

Outpatient opioid treatment offers support and services while allowing patients to live at home. Unlike inpatient treatment, outpatient allows people to maintain many everyday responsibilities.
Treatment often involves medication-assisted treatment using medications like:
  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone

Who Benefits from Outpatient Opioid Treatment

Outpatient opioid treatment offers the structure of inpatient care but is less intense. The type of care a person needs depends on various factors, including:
For some people, outpatient treatment may serve as a transition from more intense care. For others, it may be the starting point for addressing their opioid use disorder.

Making Treatment More Accessible

The flexibility of this treatment makes it more accessible for those unable to take time away from their daily lives.
But, these programs often need a strong support system and a high level of commitment from the participant. This is because the person will still be exposed to environmental triggers that may increase the chance of relapse.
Outpatient opioid treatment is an important option that can be tailored to meet individual needs. It provides an approach to help people manage opioid use disorders.

Primary Goals of Outpatient Opioid Treatment

The primary goal of outpatient opioid treatment is to help people manage their opioid use in more effective ways.

Stabilization and Harm Reduction

Stabilization occurs through detox by reducing or eliminating the use of opioids. During this stabilization, medication-assisted treatment is used to help ease withdrawal symptoms.
Harm reduction strategies may be part of the program to reduce the risks associated with opioid use. These strategies may include providing access to clean syringes.4
Once programs reduce the harm of opioid use, participants can engage in counseling to understand the aspects of addiction. Approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing are often used.

Relapse Prevention and Education

Another goal of treatment is to equip patients with skills to manage stress and cope with triggers. They’re also provided education about the risks of opioid use and the benefits of treatment. If a person experiences a mental health issue, they’re educated on how to manage those symptoms.

Long-Term Success

The ultimate goals of outpatient opioid treatment include:
  • Building up social support
  • Developing long-term recovery plans
  • Improving quality of life 
By addressing these objectives, outpatient opioid treatment programs offer an individualized approach that allows patients to combat addiction while still taking part in daily life activities.

How Does Outpatient Opioid Treatment Address Opioid Addiction?

Outpatient opioid treatment addresses the symptoms of opioid addiction using a combination of approaches. These approaches address both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction. Here’s how different parts of addiction are addressed:

Medical Stabilization and MAT (Medication-Assisted Treatment)

Medications like methadone or naltrexone are often prescribed to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.5 These medications can stabilize the person’s physical state and reduce the immediate harm caused by opioid use.

Behavioral Therapies and Counseling

Psychological treatments aim to change harmful beliefs and behaviors related to opioid use. These therapies can help people identify triggers and develop coping skills for stress and cravings.
Having regular counseling sessions provides participants with emotional support and guidance. Counselors work with patients to develop strategies for avoiding relapse and addressing underlying issues that may contribute to addiction.

Monitoring and Accountability

Outpatient opioid treatment uses regular check-ins and drug tests to help keep track of patient progress. This can serve as a deterrent against relapse and help to adjust treatment plans as needed.

Education and Skill-Building

Participants get education about:
  • The risks associated with opioid use
  • The nature of addiction
  • Coping strategies
This education empowers people to make informed decisions about treatment and recovery. Many outpatient programs also include life skills training to help people navigate challenges without using opioids. These skills may include stress management and decision-making.

Family and Peer Support

Support from family and friends is often crucial for recovery.6 Many outpatient programs encourage family involvement and may offer family counseling sessions. Support groups like Narcotics Anonymous can also play a role.

Long-Term Planning

Outpatient treatment also involves long-term recovery planning. This planning includes strategies for maintaining sobriety after the formal treatment has ended. Using these approaches, outpatient opioid treatment aims to help people transition into a more stable and healthier life.

Medication-Assisted Treatment and Its Use in Treating Opioid Addiction

Medication-assisted treatment is a comprehensive approach to treating opioid use disorders. It combines the use of medications with counseling and behavioral therapies.
MAT has been shown to:7
  • Improve survival rates
  • Increase retention in treatment
  • Decrease illicit opioid use and other criminal activities
  • Increase the ability to gain and maintain employment
The key components of MAT within outpatient opioid treatment include:


Below are some medications often utilized during MAT:
  • Methadone: Methadone is a long-acting opioid agonist that’s administered under medical supervision. Methadone helps to suppress opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It’s often given out in specialized clinics.8
  • Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. It helps to ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms without producing the “high” associated with opioid misuse. A doctor can prescribe buprenorphine. This makes it more accessible than methadone for some.9
  • Naltrexone: Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist. This means it blocks the effects of opioids. Unlike methadone and buprenorphine, naltrexone can only be administered after full detox. It’s often used for those who have already been stabilized.10

Counseling and Behavioral Therapies

Most outpatient opioid treatments include individual counseling. These one-on-one sessions focus on addressing the emotional aspects of addiction.
Group therapy also offers a supportive environment for people to share experiences and coping strategies. Many programs also include family therapy in the treatment process to build a support network.

Support Services

MAT includes support services like case management and peer support. Coordinating these support services aims to treat addiction and other aspects of the person’s life that may contribute to substance use disorder. Peer support can also provide support from those with similar experiences.


The use of MAT requires regular drug tests and check-ins. This helps providers assess the effectiveness of the treatment and adjust dosages as needed.
MAT in an outpatient setting offers a flexible and safe approach to treating opioid use disorders. This allows participants to engage in daily life activities while in recovery.

Ideal Candidates for Outpatient Opioid Treatment

Not everyone is ideal for outpatient treatment. Some people may need a higher level of care, such as inpatient treatment. This could be due to a variety of factors including the severity of addiction and living situation.
An ideal candidate for outpatient opioid treatment is someone who:
  • Has a mild to moderate addiction
  • Is medically stable
  • Has a supportive environment
  • Is committed to recovery
  • Can maintain daily responsibilities
  • Has access to reliable transportation
  • Lacks severe mental health disorders
  • Is not at high risk for serious withdrawal 
  • Is willing to follow program requirements

Individualized Care

Though these factors might make someone an “ideal” candidate, addiction treatment is individualized. What might work for one person may not work for another.
Just because someone may have a more severe addiction or co-occurring mental health condition does not mean they would not be appropriate for outpatient.
Outpatient treatment can be adjusted to suit someone’s specific needs. Many programs can accommodate people who only meet some of these criteria. Consultation with healthcare professionals is crucial for assessing the most appropriate treatment setting.

Common Therapeutic Approaches in Outpatient Opioid Treatment

Various approaches are used in the treatment of opioid addiction. These therapeutic techniques help address the psychological and behavioral factors contributing to the disorder.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps patients identify negative thought patterns and behaviors contributing to their addiction. By changing these thoughts and behaviors, they can better manage triggers and cravings.

Contingency Management

This approach uses rewards or incentives to reinforce positive behaviors, such as remaining drug-free.11 Vouchers, privileges, or small cash rewards may be given for negative drug tests.

Motivational Interviewing

This approach focuses on enhancing internal motivation to change by resolving indecision. Therapists help people communicate their reasons for change and plan for achieving their goals.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT teaches coping skills to:
  • Manage stress
  • Control emotions
  • Improve relationships 
It benefits those with co-occurring mental health disorders like borderline personality disorder.

12-Step Facilitation Therapy

This approach aims to encourage participation in 12-Step programs offering peer support for recovery. 12-Step programs include Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

Mindfulness-Based Approaches

These approaches teach mindfulness techniques to help people understand their thoughts and actions. This helps them make more conscious choices, which can reduce the risk of relapse.
These therapeutic approaches are used in various combinations and settings, including inpatient and outpatient programs. The combination of techniques can depend on the person’s needs. Working with healthcare providers can determine the most appropriate approach for each individual.

Relapse Prevention and Harm Reduction in Outpatient Opioid Treatment

Outpatient opioid treatment programs use many strategies to address issues related to relapse prevention and harm reduction. Here’s how outpatient treatment approaches these aspects:

Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention is a vital part of opioid addiction recovery. It combines several different approaches to keep patients on the right track.

Combining the education and skills learned in treatment provides a foundation for preventing relapse. Long-term planning ensures you know what to do if a relapse happens. All the elements of treatment work together to help patients stay on the path to recovery.

Harm Reduction

Harm reduction plays a big role in some opioid treatments. This might occur when abstinence isn’t immediately achievable.

Safer Drug Use

First off, participants might learn about safer drug use to reduce immediate risks.
If quitting right away isn’t an option, access to clean syringes can help avoid diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. Outpatient programs may also teach people about places where they can use drugs more safely under medical supervision.

Sexual Education

Beyond drug use, harm reduction can cover sexual health. Programs may offer resources to prevent STIs. Regular health check-ups are also part of the mix, letting doctors catch and treat related health issues early on.
By incorporating these elements into treatment plans, outpatient opioid treatment helps to reduce the immediate risks associated with opioid use. Programs also equip people with the skills and support to maintain long-term recovery.

Overcoming Barriers to Outpatient Opioid Treatment

Attending outpatient opioid treatment can come with many different barriers from financial difficulties to accessibility. Many programs will work with people to find solutions for overcoming these challenges.
Below are some of the barriers to treatment and how they can be overcome.

Financial Concerns

Sometimes, the cost of treatment can be a big hurdle. Many people may need help with how to pay for their treatment. Some programs offer payment plans or fees that depend on the person’s income. Always ask the program how to make it more affordable, if needed.

Getting There

Another issue might be how to get to the treatment center. For those who don’t have a car, this can be difficult. Some places have shuttles that can pick up participants. If that’s not an option, contact friends or family for help.

Busy Lives

Juggling treatment with work or family can seem overwhelming. Many programs have various times to help fit schedules for different people. Some programs even have weekend or evening hours.

Addiction Stigma

Sometimes people feel embarrassed or scared to get help because of what others might think. But, treatment is private and confidential. Taking steps to get help is something to be proud of, not ashamed of.

Living in Remote Areas

Finding a treatment center nearby can be challenging for those who live far from a city. For those unable to attend in-person, online treatment might be the answer.

Combining Outpatient Opioid Treatment with Holistic Approaches

Outpatient opioid treatment can work well alongside other types of care. This creates a well-rounded recovery plan focused on each person’s needs and challenges. Combining the traditional approaches with alternative approaches can improve recovery outcomes.12

Some outpatient programs combine these approaches to boost recovery. Combining different types of care can give you a more complete set of tools to help you get better.

outpatient opioid treatment

Pros and Cons of Outpatient Opioid Treatment

Outpatient opioid treatment can be a crucial step in addressing opioid use disorder, but like any treatment option, it has pros and cons. What might work for one person may not work for another. It’s essential to consider an outpatient program’s positives and negatives when deciding.


Outpatient opioid treatment has several advantages, making it a popular choice. One of the biggest pros is the flexibility it offers. People can continue to work and maintain commitments while receiving treatment. Outpatient is often less expensive than inpatient rehab. This makes it more accessible.

Outpatient care also allows participants to use the coping skills and strategies learned in therapy in everyday life. These programs provide support from both professionals and peers without a major disruption to daily routines.


Unlike inpatient treatment, patients aren’t in a completely controlled environment. This increases the risk of encountering triggers or having easy access to opioids. If the home environment isn’t supportive or is a source of stress, it can make outpatient care less effective.

Because it’s less intensive than inpatient care, it might not be enough for those with severe opioid use disorders. Some people find that without constant supervision in an inpatient setting, it’s easier to skip sessions or not fully commit to recovery.

It’s important to consider individual needs and circumstances. Discussing these with healthcare providers can help determine if outpatient treatment is the right choice.

How Can Black Horse Health Help?

Outpatient opioid treatment with Black Horse Health offers a flexible yet structured approach to tackling opioid addiction. Our Houston-based programs include a range of evidence-based therapies with whole-person, integrative methods to help people regain control over their lives.
By focusing on client care and a healing environment, Black Horse Health not only aids in immediate recovery but also equips people with the tools needed for long-term success.

Contact Black Horse Health Today

Outpatient care can be a crucial step to a healthier, drug-free life. For more information about outpatient opioid treatment, call us at 713-574-2333. We’re here to help you heal.