Studies are mixed as to whether inpatient or outpatient is better. As years have gone by that data indicates that they are fairly equivalent.
Inpatient is probably better suited, or is suited, for those that do not have a good support system and that are in the throes of an addiction that is out-of-control. That is addiction that has escalated in terms of amount used and money spent and social costs such as job loss.
If the candidate has resources to buy their drug of choice and has overwhelming cravings outpatient rehab will be a challenge.
Inpatient rehab provides a secure safe situation in which one can give themselves over to being monitored. The person is saying “I need help” in a very empathic way. “I cannot do this on my own.”
Outpatient rhab should be applicable to the majority of people that have a problem. The biggest stumbling block is for anyone to admit to having a problem and that they need help. A good outpatient program should have the majority of the components of an inpatient program.
The advantage is that one continues to live in the community and they do not have to be absent from the job and they can be with their support system of friends and family.
In the case of opiate addiction with inpatient or outpatient treatment we have the great advance of using the drug buprenorphine (Trade names, Suboxone, Zubslv and Bunavail) if one choses this route. This formulation, in almost all patients, serves to stabilize ones mood and stop cravings. It always needs to be appreciated that it is an opiate type drug and you will be medically addicted to it.
Ref: Inpatient or outpatient: http://psychcentral.com/lib/differences-between-outpatient-and-inpatient-treatment-programs/0007531
Ref: Buprenorphine: http://buprenorphine.samhsa.gov/about.html