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What is the Process for Drug Detox?

Drug detox is the process of eradicating all traces of drugs from the body so that an individual can begin recovery.

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What Is Drug Detox?

When addicted to drugs, one may need to undergo a drug detoxification treatment as the first stage of recovery. The goal of detox is to address the physical aspects of addiction as the first step in order to prepare patients to deal with the psychological aspects of their addiction. This forms the basis for an addiction recovery program.
Drug detox is the process of getting rid of all traces of drugs from the body. It is often the first step in any substance abuse disorder recovery program, and will allow the patient to complete the rest of recovery more safely. Detox can also be used to appropriately treat drug withdrawal symptoms.1

How Long Does Drug Detox Take?

Detox time varies depending on several circumstances. For example, withdrawal symptoms from alcohol may subside within a week. If users attempt to quit drinking alone, especially after heavy use, they may face serious health risks, one of which is death. This is why it’s important to undergo detox at a medical facility or detox center. Other medications, such as benzodiazepines, may need a lengthier detox schedule, lasting up to ten days or more.2

Drug Detox
However, in almost every case, making long-term changes is just as important as the initial detox. This ensures that the user does not relapse and that recurring risks can be managed effectively. Both outpatient and inpatient drug addiction rehab can assist those struggling with problematic drug use. Patients will learn new coping strategies to help them weather any unpleasant mental or physical withdrawal symptoms that may arise later on. Thorough treatment is one of the most effective ways to break the cycle permanently.

Drug Detox Symptoms

Undergoing drug detox also will cause some side effects, some of which include intense cravings, insomnia, and anxiety or depression. There are physical symptoms that can arise as well, like trouble breathing.

What is the Process for Drug Detox?

The drug detox process varies depending on each individual’s needs and the substance they abused, but it generally consists of three steps.

Medical Assessment

Patients will be assessed for physical and mental health issues by a doctor. Doctors use blood tests to determine the drug concentration level in a patient’s system, which will help determine if medication is necessary.
A thorough examination of drug, medical, and psychiatric histories is also done. This data serves as the origin of the patient’s long-term treatment plan.

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal can cause a variety of psychological and physical symptoms. Some common physical symptoms include:
  • Extreme heat and chills
  • A runny nose
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Shivering and shaking
  • Muscle and bone ache
  • Stomach cramps
  • Sweating
  • Intense and unpleasant dreams
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Exhaustion
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations or delirium

Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms

The psychological withdrawal symptoms often include:
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Severe cravings for the abused drug
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia


Following the withdrawal stage, the patient will generally start therapy and medication if needed. The goal of stabilization is to keep the patient safe from future harm. Physicians can propose addiction treatment medications to avert complications and lessen withdrawal symptoms.

Different Types of Drug Detox

Drug detox programs can occur in various treatment settings with varying levels of care. Your preliminary assessment will help the treatment staff determine the best level of care for drug detox treatment for you. Below are some of the types of drug detox:

Medically Managed Inpatient Detox

This is the most intensive level of care of drug detoxification programs. It provides patients with around-the-clock supervision and attention.3

Medically Monitored Inpatient Detox

Medically monitored inpatient detox programs are an excellent level of care for people who are presently intoxicated or are at high risk of suffering severe withdrawal symptoms. Medically supervised inpatient detox programs offer medical care, monitoring, and access to lifesaving devices around the clock. This is the highest level of care and is provided in a hospital setting.

Clinically Managed Residential Detox

Clinically managed residential detox occurs in residential facilities where clinical staff monitor individuals. These facilities and staff offer various services, including daily living support, structure, and behavioral therapy.
Medications are frequently administered in these settings to help with withdrawal symptoms. Acutely ill patients at risk of life-threatening withdrawals are commonly admitted to medically monitored inpatient detoxification, however. Residential detox alleviates withdrawal symptoms by providing support, observation, and supervision.

Ambulatory Detox With Extended Onsite Monitoring

This level of care is a structured outpatient service that requires the presence of credentialed nurses who monitor patients daily.

Ambulatory Detox Without Extended Onsite Monitoring

This type of drug detoxification is similar to the placement level of care described above but is monitored at regular intervals. This type of detoxification may occur in a doctor’s office or under the supervision of a home health care agency.

Drug Detox Side Effects and Risks

Drug detox can be both painful and hazardous, which is why doing it in a medical setting is essential. Under medical supervision, patients can detox in a safe and comfortable environment. Although medical drug detox reduces withdrawal symptoms, some are unavoidable.
The following are some of the most frequent side effects:
  • Body discomfort
  • Insomnia
  • Poor sleep
  • Nausea

Drug Detox During Pregnancy

Using drugs while pregnant can harm the mother and the fetus, as these substances can access the placenta. However, detox, particularly if done “cold turkey,” can cause fetal stress, such as preterm labor.
Pregnant women must detox under medical supervision because withdrawal symptoms can harm the fetus as well as the mother. The goal of pregnancy detox is to manage pain and prevent relapse.

Drug Detox While Breastfeeding

Babies born to mothers with a substance abuse disorder might be at risk for developing neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). This type of withdrawal necessitates medical intervention to keep the child safe. However, most infants’ NAS symptoms resolve within one week of birth. Unfortunately, some long-term health consequences, including mental and behavioral harm, may persist.
Except for some types of detox that involve medication-assisted treatment (MAT), a woman who detoxes after the birth of her child is unlikely to endanger her child. Both buprenorphine and methadone, which are substances prescribed to help with the detox process, can pass into breast milk and impact the child’s development.4
However, if an infant is exposed to opioids in utero, they can be given tiny, measured doses of buprenorphine or methadone after birth to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Physical touch, gentle rocking, and other types of comfort are beneficial for babies suffering from NAS symptoms. Women suffering from opioid addiction also benefit emotionally from nursing.

Quitting Cold Turkey

Quitting one or more drugs “cold turkey,” or all at once, can be hazardous. Although suddenly discontinuing opioids is seldom lethal, it can induce highly unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, flu-like symptoms, and more. Drug cravings are common in moderate to severe opiate drug withdrawal.
It’s a good idea to consult your doctor before discontinuing any medication cold turkey. Contacting a drug detox center may also be beneficial in determining whether a medically controlled detox program is correct for you.

Drug Detox at Home

Detoxing at home is unsafe and risky. Trying to abstain may be more challenging for individuals in their home environment, where exposure to specific people or things may cause a relapse. In rare situations, drug withdrawal can result in stroke, heart attack, and death if not addressed. Drug detox is often performed at a hospital or detox facility for these reasons. It is up to you to ensure your detox experience is as safe and comfortable as possible.

Rapid Drug Detox Risks

Rapid detox is a process of eliminating toxins from the body more quickly than conventional detox. Rapid detox advocates argue that it is faster to get drugs out of the body while avoiding severe withdrawal symptoms. However, rapid detoxification can be both harmful and costly.
This therapy was initially designed for people addicted to opiates such as heroin and pain relievers. Keep in mind, however, that its cons frequently outweigh the pros. Rapid detox can result in:
  • Heart attacks
  • Infection
  • Death
  • Paranoia
  • Vomiting
  • High body temperature

Other Side Effects

Other side effects of drug detox can include:
  • Mood swings
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating

Medical Drug Detox Services at Boardwalk Recovery

With many years of experience, Boardwalk Recovery offers lifesaving addiction and behavioral healthcare treatment. Boardwalk Recovery’s center offers community and increased support for you or your loved one. We also offer pre- and post-treatment services if needed. Boardwalk Recovery has the most extensive range of care available, including care for teens, adults, and older dependents.

How Can Our Detox Center Help?

Boardwalk Recovery’s outcomes-driven treatment care plans are tailored to meet the wishes of families and individuals. We also offer a pioneering approach to continuing recovery care for all patients with numerous media platforms and resources made available.

Drug Detox

Life After Detox

Drug detoxification is only the first step in addiction therapy and is typically insufficient for a full recovery. Individuals needing addiction therapy must address the psychological aspect of their addiction as well. Counseling, support groups, or an inpatient treatment program can help them do this. Reach out today if you or your loved one want to begin recovery.
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