Drug and Alcohol Medical Detoxification

Detoxification may be intimidating for someone who is living with an alcohol or drug addiction. This page will discuss the detoxification process and what to expect.
What Is Medical Detox?

When someone chronically uses a substance or substances for extended periods (weeks, months, years) they may develop a physiological dependence, meaning that when they quit or reduce their use, withdrawal symptoms emerge. In other words, the person feels like they need this drug to feel and function normally. With significant levels of physiological dependence, a person may continue to compulsively drink or use drugs to avoid unwanted withdrawal symptoms.1

Medical detox is a process in which someone can get past the acute phase of withdrawal under medical supervision. Detoxification is often the first stage of addiction treatment.2

Detox can happen in a variety of settings, ranging from outpatient visits at pre-determined intervals to 24/7 hospital-based care. The level of detox someone enters can depend on several factors, including the substance(s) used and the severity of someone’s dependence.2

While detox is a crucial phase of treatment for many people, most need continued help afterward to remain in long-term recovery.2

How Does Medical Detox Work?

The medical detox process has 3 fundamental elements:2

  1. Evaluation
  2. Stabilization
  3. Fostering entry into continued treatment

The evaluation stage of detox involves an assessment when the patient first enters treatment in order to establish the following:2

  • The concentration of drugs or alcohol in the patient’s bloodstream.
  • The patient’s medical and psychological history.
  • Whether they have any co-occurring mental health disorders.
  • The patient’s social situation and living environment.

This information will inform treatment approaches in detoxification and in continued treatment.2

Stabilization is the process of supervising and monitoring the patient until their body safely reaches a substance-free state. The stabilization stage may be aided by medications to mitigate dangerous symptoms, reduce cravings, and make the patient more comfortable.2

The final pillar of effective detox—”fostering entry into continued treatment”—prepares the patient for the rest of their treatment (e.g., rehab, peer support programs) stressing the importance of following through with subsequent care and facilitating enrollment into the next stages of treatment.2

Withdrawal Symptoms During Medical Detox

Quitting drugs or alcohol may lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.3 Often, withdrawal symptoms are the opposite of the substance’s desired effects. For example, people addicted to stimulant drugs may experience intense fatigue and hypersomnia after they quit.2

Depending on the substance used and the patient’s general health, withdrawal symptoms may be dangerous, and even life-threatening without medical support. Withdrawal symptoms from the following substances can be particularly unpleasant and dangerous, often—but not always—necessitating inpatient medical detox:2

It is less common for patients who are addicted to stimulants, cannabis, or hallucinogens to need inpatient detox. Often, outpatient medical detox or beginning with rehabilitation treatment will suffice.2

What Is a Rapid Detox?

Rapid detox is meant to make the opioid detox process shorter and easier, which is an appealing idea. However, there is little data showing its effectiveness.2

Rapid detox uses a narcotic antagonist, like naloxone and others alike to block the opioids from binding to receptors, precipitating quicker withdrawal. Opioid antagonists are then quickly followed by other medications to manage the resulting severe withdrawal symptoms.2

Despite several studies on rapid detoxification, the process is still unproven and controversial today.2

Medical Detox and Drug Addiction Treatment in Texas

Greenhouse Treatment Center offers both inpatient rehab near Dallas and outpatient services that can help you or your loved one get sober and remain in recovery. Aside from managing withdrawal symptoms, addiction treatment often involves behavioral therapies, peer support, psychoeducation, and treatment for co-occurring disorders.4

Greenhouse provides multiple levels of addiction treatment including:

Whether you are using insurance to pay for rehab or looking for other ways to cover the cost of treatment, our admissions navigators at can guide you through the process. You can also verify your insurance coverage using the confidential . Take your first step to recovery and start the admissions process today.

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