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How to Detox Safely

Medical detox keeps you safe and comfortable as drugs and alcohol leave your system. It's nothing like doing it on your own. Medications and 24/7 attention keep withdrawal symptoms fully manageable.

Who needs medical detox?

Not everyone needs medical detox. After you explain what's going on, we'll make a personal recommendation. With alcohol or benzo abuse (Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, etc.), you'll need medical detox because withdrawal symptoms can be deadly.

How long does medical detox last?

Typically lasting 3-10 days, the beginning is the most intense. You don't have to have the drugs all the way out of your system to move on, but you need to feel good enough to focus on therapy.

Why can't I be done after detox?

Medical detox is a first step, not treatment. While you're physically free from drugs and alcohol, you're still mentally addicted. The obsession needs to be addressed or the cycle will continue.

What is medical detox like?

Many people picture a hospital, but medical detox often looks more like a private bedroom. Nurses and therapists check-in regularly to ensure you feel as good as possible — including managing your medications, food, hydration and comfort.

If you had a bad experience detoxing on your own before, know that medical detox is not like that. The medications counteract any severe symptoms. You're more likely to describe the worst part as a "fog."

You're also surrounded by people going through the same thing. As cliché as it sounds, realizing you're not alone in the struggle and having someone to talk to makes a big difference.

You may have forgotten what it’s like to feel okay without using or drinking. Once you start to feel better physically, it’s much easier to imagine a life without addiction holding you back. With medical detox, you leave wanting to continue the process of treatment to stay sober for good.

More Answers

When drugs and alcohol are suddenly stopped, your brain and body get confused. Withdrawal is uncomfortable but certainly more pleasant than a life chasing drugs or alcohol.

Common symptoms included:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Dysphoria (feeling down or depressed)
  • Cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle cramps
  • Seizures
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Hallucinations

How “bad” the symptoms get depend on the:

  • Length of addiction
  • Type/mixture of drugs abused
  • Amount and frequency
  • Co-occurring disorders (like anxiety)
  • Overall physical health

With medical detox, symptoms always stay at a manageable level. Most people describe the most intense part as a fog.

One of the most universally dangerous symptoms is cravings. The body has become dependent on drugs and alcohol and will send unbearable signals for more. Relapse becomes hard to resist and you run a high risk of overdosing to get rid of the sickness if you don’t have anti-craving medications and therapists to step in.

Certain drugs are also directly fatal. For example, when stopping alcohol abruptly, a withdrawal symptom called delirium tremens can impact breathing and blood pressure to the point of death. These types of risks are eliminated when under the supervision of medical detox.

To ease withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings and prevent complications, physicians prescribe medication with similar properties as the abused drug in tapering doses.

While these medications are much safer alternatives, some can be addictive and are always used in minimum amounts. Throughout medical detox, your medications are updated when you’re too lethargic, in too much discomfort or starting to feel better.

Here are some specific examples:

  • Alcohol: Campral® (generic name acamprosate); Vivitrol®, Revia®, Depade® (generic name naltrexone naltrexone); Antabuse® (generic name disulfiram)
  • Opioids: Vivitrol®, Revia®, Depade® (generic name naltrexone); Suboxone® (generic name buprenorphine + naloxone); buprenorphine; Subutex® (generic name buprenorphine)

Medications for seizures and other mental health issues are also used on a case-by-case basis to further balance the body and brain.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to come in knowing what medications will be best. That’s the physician’s job.

If you’re using private insurance, probably not. Many plans have a set maximum amount you will pay for healthcare for the year. You’ll likely hit this amount being in care for over a month. So, while you may pay the medical detox facility, you end up paying less or even nothing for treatment after that. There’s no reason to suffer through detox on your own when you will owe the same amount either way.

We’ll call your insurance company to break down the costs of your specific policy, so you can make an informed decision about medical detox.

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Reviews

When I entered sobriety, my biggest fear was withdrawal. I had been using for 15 years. By some miracle, I ended up here where they gave me medication and I always had someone to talk to. Looking back, detox wasn't bad at all. The real work began after.
June 2
Sam T.
Detox for me was one big haze. The only symptom I remember clearly is restless legs. That was so much more annoying than it sounds. I constantly had to keep moving. But...I was expecting way, way worse considering how bad I felt when I'd go just a few hours without a hit. I wish I would have known how easy it would be before.
February 12
Lauren I.
Withdrawal made me feel trapped and destined to remain in addiction forever. I heard horror stories about what detox is like before going. But, both times my experience was mostly resting with some anxiety. After the first time, I convinced myself that I was feeling better and "good to go." I used that same day for a few weeks before going back and actually going to treatment after. I've been sober two years since.
May 3
Matty L.
If you’re worried about withdrawals, all I can say is that it putting it off only makes it worse. If I had done it earlier, I could've saved myself a lot of problems. I mean, what other choice do you have, really? Detox is your only sane option.
September 12
Brian F.
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