Outside of residential treatment facility buildingDetox can help people break physical dependency on addictive substances, but withdrawal symptoms must be managed safely. Some people experiencing addiction detox before entering rehab; however, detoxing before rehab is not always necessary.

Why Do Only Some Programs Require Detox Before Entry?

While it is possible to stop using drugs, alcohol, or other addictive substances at home, it is often much safer to undergo detox at a professional treatment center. Medically supervised detox can prevent fatal side effects and reduce the intensity of severe withdrawal symptoms.

Detox is important because it can help individuals maintain focus during rehab while maximizing the benefits of treatment. However, detox is not required for some addictive substances, including marijuana, nicotine, and cocaine. Because addiction to these substances is often more psychological than physiological, withdrawal symptoms are typically minimal to nonexistent. While persistent use of these drugs can damage the lungs, heart, or brain, they do not have a high risk of physical dependency. 

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Outpatient detox can work for people who have important responsibilities at home or in the workplace. However, there are situations when medically supervised detox is recommended even for substances with low risk of physical dependency. For example, people who have relapsed in the past may benefit from 24-hour care. Individuals with comorbid mental health concerns, such as severe depression or anxiety, are also encouraged to seek professional assistance during detox, as they may be at higher risk for suicide after stopping drug use.

People can also experience what is often termed addiction to specific behaviors such as gambling, shopping, internet use, exercise, or sex. In cases where no addictive substance is ingested, detox is not necessary before entering rehab.

Addictions That Require Detox

People who use physically addictive drugs may need to complete detox before going to rehab, as these drugs often target pleasure receptors in the brain. 

While these substances can be also psychologically addictive, many people are unable to cope with the physical symptoms of withdrawal even if they are psychologically prepared to quit. The intensity of withdrawal symptoms depends on factors such as the type of substance used, the length of time the substance was abused, how the substance was taken, as well as the individual’s medical and family history, genetics, and mental health.

During withdrawal, individuals can experience cravings for the addictive substance. It is often the inability to resist these cravings that leads to relapse.

Who Should Choose to Detox in Rehab?

Every person's experience with addiction is different. If you are unsure whether you need to do detox first, it could help to find a rehab center in your area and explore their treatment options. Rehab centers have experienced addiction specialists who can help you choose the best course of treatment.

Can I Be Forced to Do Detox?

If a rehab center demands detox before providing treatment, you may want to reconsider attending that program. While the center’s staff members may want you to overcome your addiction or be eager to help, it is inappropriate to force a person to undergo a health treatment, especially on their own. No facility should force you to undergo detox, especially if you do not need it to treat your specific addiction issues. However, some states allow family members to legally force someone into rehab if they can prove that the individual has lost control and is likely to harm themselves or another person if action is not taken to prevent it.


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  2. Cocaine detox: The critical initial step to recovery. (n.d.). Addiction Resource. Retrieved from https://addictionresource.com/drugs/cocaine-and-crack/cocaine-detox
  3. How long does cocaine stay in your system. (n.d.). Addictions. Retrieved from https://www.addictions.com/cocaine/how-long-does-cocaine-stay-in-your-system
  4. Is detox always required before inpatient treatment? (2016, February 26). Retrieved from http://www.turningpointtreatment.org/blog/is-detox-always-required-before-inpatient-treatment