Drug & Alcohol Detox

Treating drug addiction can be difficult, and it often is for many people. As the first step in treating a substance abuse disorder, medical detoxification, more commonly known as detox, is essential in the recovery process. The main purpose of detox is to remove any and all substance residue or toxins from past addictions and abuse before continuing treatment. 

Carefully administered and monitored by medical experts, medical detox ensures that the patient’s withdrawal symptoms are in check as the substance is removed from the body. However, detox is much more than just “quitting.”

Why Detox?

Unfortunately, many people that abuse a substance on a daily basis do not take into consideration the negative long-term effects of chronic drug use. Daily use easily leads to a dependency and ultimately addiction, which can be very difficult to treat in some cases. When someone does get the motivation to quit, they will more than likely undergo uncomfortable physical and mental consequences.

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Those suffering from these consequences are strongly encouraged to partake in a medical detoxification program. The period of these severe, uncomfortable side effects is known as withdrawal, and the severity heavily depends on the length of the victim’s addiction. While all drugs are different, there are many withdrawal symptoms that are common among addictive substances. Those that are in the withdrawal phase commonly exhibit flu-like symptoms such as:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Aching muscles
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose

While these withdrawal symptoms may cause minor discomfort in a victim, they do not seem more than slight inconveniences. However, in the cases of more severe addictions such as opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol, withdrawal symptoms can include seizures, hallucinations, and delirium tremens that can prove to be fatal.

drug withdrawal symptoms

Many people, in attempt to self-detox at home, will consider going cold turkey. What the term “cold turkey” refers to is the immediate cessation of a drug as a way to detox. While it sounds good on paper, quitting cold turkey is strongly advised against and may lead to severe withdrawal symptoms.

Even in cases of mild, shorter-term addictions, suddenly quitting a drug that your body is dependent on can lead to not only injury but the severe withdrawal symptoms may push someone to relapse and even to pick up their addiction again. A medically-supervised detox program is the best course of action to curb withdrawal symptoms and to ensure that relapse is prevented.

With detox being the initial treatment process, it is important that you follow up your detox with some form of drug treatment such as an inpatient or outpatient program. As soon as the patient’s body is cleared of any residue and toxins, they can more easily participate in therapy sessions to treat the psychological effects of addiction. Included in treatment are methods such as intensive behavioral therapy, counseling, and therapy sessions (both individual and group).

Medications Used In Detox

During detox, there are many medications that are commonly used to enhance the comfort of treatment for a patient. From treating withdrawals to replacing an abused substance to allow for tapering, medications are one of the best tools that treatment centers have to treat a patient during detox.

Some medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are effective in treating specific withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, there are no FDA-approved drugs that fully treat benzodiazepine or stimulant withdrawal, but some medications can be used during detox to ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings.


  • Methadone
  • Suboxone
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety medications


  • Naltrexone
  • Benzodiazepines (such as diazepam)
  • Disulfiram
  • Anti-nausea medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Anticonvulsants (used to treat the potentially fatal seizures and delirium tremens associated with alcohol withdrawal)


  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics (used to deal with the psychosis associated with stimulant withdrawal)
  • Benzodiazepines (such as diazepam)


  • Benzodiazepines (such as diazepam, which can act as a short-term substitute for an abused, long-term substance)
  • Melatonin (as a sleep aid used to treat insomnia associated with sedative withdrawal)


Hospitalization, or hospital detox, is commonly associated with an institutional approach to treatment. When a patient is hospitalized, they are put in a lockdown setting where they have access to only a certain part of the hospital or institution. While engaging in hospital detox, many patients will be prohibited from contacting any friends or family outside of the facility. Commonly restricted in hospitalization are things such as personal belongings, electronics, and anything else that can be plugged into a wall.

The point of hospitalization sounds contradictory, but it makes sense; the institution does not want the patient to be too comfortable while recovering. Hospitalization is viewed as the polar opposite of residential. The idea behind intentionally making the patient feel slightly uncomfortable is to act as a sort of negative reinforcement; the less comfortable you are, the more likely it is that you will not return to drug addiction.

Similar to other forms of detox, hospitalization may consist of the expertly-administered use of medications listed above. Medication in conjunction with the commonly used “12-Step Program” can be extremely effective in rehab settings, and even more so in hospital detox. To avoid any negative results, it is important to realize and understand the vast difference between hospitalization and other forms of detox.

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The Safety of Detox at Rehab Centers

In detoxing at a treatment center or hospital, a client will best receive the treatment they need to endure the withdrawal symptoms. In case of emergencies, doctors and nurses provide 24-7 medical support that you would not receive if you were to self-detox at home. Treatment center detox provides the patient the proper resources they need to not only get sober but also to stay sober.

Although it may seem like a cheaper, more convenient way to go about drug detox, at-home kits and cold turkey methods are highly ineffective and do not take into consideration the patient’s safety and well-being.  By participating in treatment at a medical detox facility, a patient will be well-monitored by trained, expert professionals and thus receives the best treatment possible.

The Three-Step Process of Detox

While all addictions are different and should thus be treated as such, medical detox generally follows a working process. The steps of drug detox are as follows: the first is an evaluation, the second is stabilization, and the third is entering treatment.


In this stage, doctors conduct information-gathering tests for the following reasons:

  • To check how much and what substances are present in someone’s body and to measure the concentration to best determine the overall severity of their addiction
  • To check for dual diagnosis or co-occurring mental and physical conditions and disorders
  • To check a client’s physical and mental condition overall and their social life. Determining which treatment is best suited for an individual involves careful consideration. For example, someone working a full-time job with two children would benefit much more from an outpatient treatment program than a residential treatment program.


In the stage of stabilization, patients will:

  • Receive the resources they need to best combat their withdrawal symptoms and to be considered medically stable
  • Be introduced to the types of therapy and treatment they will be undergoing while they participate in a recovery program
  • If necessary, be administered the proper medications that correspond to their addiction


In the fostering process of a patient from detox into treatment, clients will:

  • Be given a general briefing about what to expect in treatment
  • Be given the additional supportive “push” they need to remain sober through treatment
  • Be provided their treatment plan, and what options are available to them before making a choice

Detoxing with Arete Recovery

At Arete Recovery, we understand how difficult seeking addiction treatment can be, and with the ongoing opioid epidemic, drug addiction rates have skyrocketed. The longer someone waits before seeking addiction treatment, the harder and less pleasant treatment will eventually be in the long run. We provide a unique “client-first” approach to treatment in which the safety and comfort of the client are held above anything else, and our team of nurses, case managers, therapists, and doctors are ready to supply you with the around-the-clock support you need to treat your addiction.

Call us today at (855) 781-9939 or contact us online and start going toward the path of sobriety. We are proud to be a part of your unique recovery story, and we vow to help you take back your life the right way; the Arete way.