The National Institute on Drug Abuse, (NIDA) estimated that about 115 Americans die every day as a result of an opioid overdose. It’s of paramount importance to get help when struggling with addiction.

In the past, the stigma surrounding mental health and substance abuse was keeping people from admitting they had a problem and seeking help to overcome their addiction. The negative connotation people had with those struggling with addiction made people feel unable to be open and honest about their situation.

However, in the past decade, our culture has developed a deeper understanding of the disease of addiction and all that it entails. New evidence-based treatment practices have become available, and those struggling with an alcohol or substance use disorder have a much better prognosis in regard to their substance use disorder.

The first step in receiving proper addiction treatment is getting medically stabilized. This is achieved by attending a detox. Much like other aspects of addiction treatment, different routes can be taken when tackling this important step.

If you or a loved one is currently struggling with an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, you may be wondering whether detox hospitalization or private detox is the right step for you. Read more to learn the differences between the two before packing your bags and heading off to detox.

What is a Substance Use Disorder?

Addiction, or diagnostically referred to as a substance use disorder, is a chronic condition currently affecting tens of millions of people in the United States alone. NIDA estimates that 22.7 million Americans needed treatment for a problem related to drugs or alcohol.

That said, a substance or alcohol use disorder is a recognized medical condition by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Or DSM-V. An individual must meet certain criteria set forth by the DSM-V to receive their diagnosis. Some of the criteria surrounding a substance use disorder (SUD) diagnosis is:

  • Taking a substance in a larger amount and for longer than intended
  • Wanting to cut down or quit but not being able to do it
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining the substance
  • Craving or a strong desire to use the substance
  • Repeatedly unable to carry out major obligations at work, school, or home due to substance use
  • Continued use despite persistent or recurring social or interpersonal problems caused or made worse by substance use
  • Stopping or reducing important social, occupational, or recreational activities due to substance use
  • Recurrent use of the substance in physically hazardous situations
  • Consistent use of the substance despite acknowledgment of persistent or recurrent physical or psychological difficulties from using the substance
  • Tolerance as defined by either a need for a markedly increased amount to achieve intoxication or desired effect or considerably diminished effect with continued use of the same amount
  • Withdrawal manifesting as either characteristic syndrome or the substance is used to avoid withdrawal

If an individual meets a minimum of two to three of the above-listed criteria, they will receive a substance use disorder diagnosis. It can range from mild, moderate, or severe in severity. A proper diagnosis is given by a mental health professional or physician.

Addiction is a unique disorder in the sense that it does not necessarily manifest in the same way for every person abusing it. Addiction may appear as “normal” substance use (also known as “functioning substance abuse”), but it is indicative of a major medical problem.

Upon receiving an official diagnosis, it’s important to take immediate action in seeking out addiction treatment to manage the condition. The first step of addiction treatment is always becoming medically stabilized through a detox program.

What is Detox?

Detox is a key step in the journey from addiction to recovery. Since most substances, both illicit and prescription, present a possibility of causing physical dependence, it can lead to uncomfortable side effects if attempting to stop using.

Withdrawal is the term used to describe the onset of uncomfortable symptoms or side effects, both physical and psychological, as the brain and body attempt to regulate themselves after prolonged substance use.

Since drugs and alcohol alter the internal chemistry of the brain and body, it can take some time for the body to return to normal after abusing drugs and alcohol. This adjustment period can last for days, weeks, months, and in the most severe cases, years. This is what makes detox so crucial to your success in long-term recovery, as well as your physical safety during this time.

Depending on the type of substance or substances used, detox can look a little bit different. Drugs such as alcohol or benzodiazepines present a unique impact on the body. By changing the brain’s natural production of certain neurotransmitters, these drugs require a specific approach during detox.

Withdrawal symptoms associated with these specific substances can have dangerous outcomes for patients, as people have reported having seizures and hallucinations during the withdrawal process.

Detox aims to medically stabilize you, quickly and safely, following prolonged use of drugs and alcohol. By implementing different detox medications, individualized detox treatment plans, close medical surveillance, and clinical techniques, the goal is to safely transition you off from your drug of choice and into sobriety.

Once you have become medically stabilized and ready to take on the therapeutic aspects of addiction treatment, you can move on to the more involved portion of treatment.

Private Detox vs. Detox Hospitalization

The next question is the difference between private detox and detox hospitalization. Both have their positives and negatives, and weighing your options is important. Detox is the first step in addiction treatment, so making the right decision regarding detox sets the course for the remainder of treatment. An unsuccessful detox can lead to relapse and even overdose.

Detox hospitalization refers to detoxing in a hospital. Instead of going to a private facility, the actual detox occurs within a hospital. A private detox is a facility separate from any government facility or hospital. It offers its own detox program and provides all services in-house.

Private Detox

A private detox usually has a host of different amenities when compared to detox hospitalization. Private detoxes will usually offer private or semi-private rooms, which adds to the comfort of the entire process. Since withdrawals usually have unpleasant symptoms, it helps to have your own space to relax and unwind.

Private detoxes receive their funding from private sources and are typically operated by private companies or individuals. They work to make a profit from providing their services. The prices are associated with treatment and therapy costs.

While private detox facilities often cost more, private health insurance companies usually will cover most if not all the charges associated with treatment. The fact that they do cost money also helps out the patient, because that means there is more money to delegate to treatment and amenities.

Hiring the best medical and clinical team, having more comfortable facilities, and providing clients access to higher quality addiction therapy techniques are a few of the benefits from attending private detox over detoxing in a hospital.

The entire facility is dedicated to addiction treatment as well. Hospital detox is merely a portion of a whole hospital designated for detox patients. The hospital does not specialize in addiction treatment in the way that a private detox would.

The goal of private detox facilities is to make the detox process as comfortable and easy for the patient as possible. Providing comfort and safety is the goal of private facilities, as well as a more individualized approach to addiction treatment.

Detox Hospitalization

Detox hospitalization, on the other hand, is quite different in their approach toward addiction treatment. Taking a more “institutionalized” approach toward detox, hospital detox occurs in the psychiatric department of a hospital. Typically operated much like the regular psychiatric department, patients are in a lockdown setting.

Outside communication is usually severely limited or prohibited altogether throughout the detox hospitalization process. This means that you cannot call family or friends during your stay. Certain hospital detox programs offer detox medications to ease the pains of withdrawal, while others do not. This varies on a case-by-case basis.

As opposed to offering varied treatment program options like most private detox facilities, detoxing in a hospital setting usually limits you to 12-step program meetings and treatment techniques. This limits the opportunities to try different addiction treatment therapies, which you may find more helpful than just the typical 12-step approach.

Since funding for detox hospitalization is far more limited than that of the private sector, the amenities, including addiction treatment therapy techniques, will be restricted. You will not have access to any personal items, and recreation is usually limited to one hour outside and a TV only in the community room.

Detox hospitalization will ensure you detox safely and as comfortably as possible with a medication regimen, but there will be no other amenities to be enjoyed. The idea is to detox patients as opposed to providing an enjoyable and relaxing detox experience. This can adversely impact patients as it may discourage people from seeking the help they so desperately need.

Do I Need Detox?

If you’ve noticed that you might have a substance use disorder that should be addressed, how do you know whether or not detox is necessary? Different drugs will cause different symptoms when you stop using them. Plus, your history with the drug will determine the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

For instance, the size of your normal dose, the size of your last dose, the amount of time you were dependent on the drug, and whether or not you used other drugs with your drug of choice can all play a role in your withdrawal. In general, someone dependent on a high dose for a long time will experience more intense and immediate withdrawal symptoms than someone who has been using for a short time.

The type of drug used is a major determining factor in the need for detox. Some drugs can potentially cause deadly withdrawal symptoms that need to be treated in a medical setting. Other drugs may only cause mild symptoms. Here is how each of the major drug categories might affect you during withdrawal:


Central nervous system depressants like alcohol, benzodiazepines, and other sleep-aids, are the most dangerous class of drug during withdrawal. Depressants slow down your nervous system. As you become dependent on them, your brain starts to produce more exciting chemicals to counteract the depressant.

When you stop using depressants, your nervous system will become overactive. This can cause anxiety, panic, irritability, insomnia, and restlessness. In severe cases, it can cause seizures, extreme confusion, and a condition called delirium tremens, which can be deadly without treatment. If you are dependent on a depressant, speak to a medical professional before quitting cold turkey.


Opioids like oxycodone and heroin, are sometimes grouped in with depressants. However, they work in the brain in a way that’s different from most depressants, and they have different effects during withdrawal. Opioids can cause extremely unpleasant, flu-like symptoms.

In some cases, it’s so uncomfortable it prevents people from achieving sobriety for a long time. Opioids aren’t usually deadly during withdrawal, but they can be life-threatening in rare situations. Dangerous complications include the aspiration of vomit or dehydration. Beyond that, you’re more likely to relapse if you go through withdrawal on your own, which can also be dangerous.


Stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines affect the central nervous system which affects the dopamine in your brain that’s tied to mood, reward, and motivation. Besides extreme fatigue, stimulant withdrawal typically manifests in psychological symptoms like depression, anxiety, apathy, and a lack of motivation.

In some cases, especially when it comes to meth withdrawal, depression can be extreme, leading to suicidal ideation or actions. Detox can help stimulant withdrawal, and it might be necessary to speak to a professional if you have severe depression.

Psychedelics and Marijuana

Psychedelics like LSD and mescaline, along with marijuana, aren’t known to cause chemical dependence. For that reason, they don’t cause withdrawal symptoms because of chemical imbalance. It is possible for you to become psychologically addicted to drugs like marijuana.

In cases of psychological addiction, you may feel some mild depression or anxiety, during times you are craving the drug. For instance, you may smoke when you get home. When you quit, not smoking when you get home may make you uncomfortable or anxious.

Addiction treatment specialists, therapists, and clinicians are trained to get people the help they need based on their circumstances. If you are unsure, it’s best to speak to a professional.

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