Woman stretching arms behind back in yoga classDetoxification, or “detox,” refers to the chemical withdrawal that takes place when a person with addiction stops using the addictive substance. Here, this process does not refer to a form of mental health treatment. Detox is often the first step to recovery from addiction. Some treatment centers offer detox and rehab programs in the same facility. If you are ready to break an addiction to alcohol or drugs, it may be helpful to find a treatment center in your area and enroll in a comprehensive detox program. 

The support provided by qualified health care professionals in detox programs is crucial to maintaining long-term health. While some people in detox experience mild withdrawal symptoms, others face more serious issues. Withdrawal symptoms often experienced during detox include:

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The intensity and type of withdrawal symptoms experienced depend on many factors, including age, general health, the specific substance taken, and an individual's history of using that substance. Detox programs have well-trained health care teams to provide treatment for severe withdrawal symptoms and reduce the likelihood of death if a person suddenly stops taking an addictive substance.

How to Tell You Need Detox

You may benefit from detox if you rely on alcohol, drugs, or other addictive substances to function each day. Completing a detox program is often challenging, but support is provided to help you cope with the effects of withdrawal. 

Some individuals do not complete detox on their first attempt. You may need multiple attempts to overcome relapses and reach long-term sobriety.

What to Expect During Detox

Detox has three basic components:

  • Evaluation: A comprehensive exam is administered to find out what type of support is needed. This could include discussing medical history, physical health, mental health, and drinking habits. Tests examining physical health, mental health, and blood may also be conducted.
  • Stabilization: Medical staff provide assistance to the individual going through the detox process. Withdrawal symptoms and other issues are addressed as they arise. The goal is to help the person experiencing detox achieve physical and mental stability.
  • Preparing to begin treatment: The individual is encouraged and prepared to enter therapy. Therapy can help people learn skills to overcome addiction. Those who receive no additional treatment after completing detox are more likely to resume drug or alcohol use.

How Long Does Detox Last?

Detox lasts until withdrawal symptoms fade and a person gains physical and mental stability. In many cases, this can take a week or more. The most severe symptoms may be experienced within the first two days of detox.

Types of Detox Programs

Detox is offered in two main settings: outpatient and inpatient.

  • Outpatient detox programs allow individuals to live at home and visit the detox center for medication, counseling, or regular checkups. While this form of treatment is rarely recommended, it may be suitable in cases where addiction is less severe. It is also an option if someone has relatively good health, a stable home environment, financial issues, or an urgent need to go to work or remain at home.
  • Inpatient detox programs are typically costly compared to outpatient programs, but offer more health services. Professional support is available around the clock. To benefit from this form of treatment, a person must live at the detox center to complete the process. 

How to Choose the Best Detox Program for You

Consider how the services a program offers fits your specific needs. If you have co-occurring issues such as depression or anxiety in addition to chemical dependence, you may need medical or mental health services to address those concerns. If you live alone or do not have a reliable support network, you could benefit from the 24-hour care an inpatient detox program offers.

If several programs provide the services you need, you can consider additional factors such as cost, quality of health care staff, success rate, and location. Contacting the most promising programs to ask questions about how their staff members are trained, what insurance plans they accept, what a typical treatment plan is like, how they handle emergency situations, and your options for follow-up care can also help with the decision. 


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