People facing drug and alcohol addiction sometimes need to begin their recovery journey with drug and alcohol detox.
Medical supervision during the withdrawal process helps ensure safety and success. Medical detox is especially beneficial for people with severe alcohol abuse or opiate or opioid addictions.
If you need drug or alcohol treatment but are worried about what withdrawal may entail for you, take a moment to review the FAQs about detox below.
How Long Does Drug Detox Take?
Detoxification from physical dependence on drugs lasts a few days to a few weeks, depending on how severe your substance use disorder (SUD) is.
It also depends on the drug you are using and the method of detox. Medical detox programs are generally shorter than social detox programs, with most lasting five to 10 days.
Learn more about how long drug detox takes.
How Long Does Alcohol Detox Take?
Alcohol detox has a similar time frame as drug detox, also lasting about five to 10 days.
However, the severity of the alcohol use disorder (AUD), the person’s general health, and other factors can affect how long the withdrawal process will take.
Learn more about how long alcohol detox takes.
What Medications Are Used During Alcohol Detox?
Medical detox for people with AUD may involve the use of medications to help with difficult or even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
This may include the use of a benzodiazepine medication to address the risk of seizures and delirium tremens (DTs) during withdrawal from severe AUD.
A detox center for alcohol may also use thiamine supplements, because people with severe AUD often have depleted thiamine.
Other medications include naltrexone, acamprosate, and baclofen.
Find out more about what medications are used during alcohol detox.
What Medications Are Used During Drug Detox?
Medications used during drug detox will depend on the drug the person is withdrawing from. For example, there are no specific recommendations for medications for detox from stimulants or cannabis.
Some medications may be used to provide relief from stimulant withdrawal symptoms, including those that affect GABA receptors in the brain and the non-amphetamine stimulant modafinil.
For opioid or opiate addiction, there are several medications that engage or block opioid receptors, reducing the symptoms of withdrawal as well as cravings. These medications include methadone, buprenorphine, Suboxone, and naltrexone.
Discover more about what medications are used during drug detox.
Is It Safe To Detox From Home?
In general, it is not safe to detox at home. Medical care is often required for two types of risks: severe withdrawal symptoms and health complications from withdrawal.
Complications such as dehydration or aspirated pneumonia can be as dangerous as severe withdrawal symptoms.
However, not all detox programs happen at the inpatient level. Some programs offer outpatient detox services so that you can receive care and support while living at home.
Learn more about detoxing safely.
What Happens On The First Day Of Detox?
On the first day of detox, you can expect to receive a psychosocial and biomedical assessment to determine the best course of addiction treatment.
This may include a mental health screening, drug toxicology, and determination of blood alcohol levels. These assessments may also rule out risks of life-threatening complications or withdrawal symptoms.
Finally, these assessments may determine your ability to manage medication and treatment at home, making a referral to inpatient care if necessary. You will also likely begin the detox process.
Find out more about what happens on the first day of detox.
What Happens If I Leave Detox Early?
Leaving any addiction treatment program early can be harmful to your recovery. Ending the detoxification process early may result in experiencing the continuation of drug or alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
You may also experience medical complications from side effects that could have been avoided if you had stayed.
It’s also important to remember that detox is only the beginning of substance abuse treatment. Lasting addiction recovery requires additional care, such as residential treatment or outpatient services.
Discover more about what happens if you leave detox early.
Can I Bring My Prescribed Medications To Detox?
During your assessment, medical professionals will ask about any health conditions you are being treated for so that they can ensure your health and safety during detox.
This includes avoiding medication interactions, but it also may involve replacing a prescription, such as a narcotic painkiller, with a safer alternative.
Learn more about bringing prescription medications to detox.
Do I Need A Referral From A Doctor To Enter A Detox Program?
No, you don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should not see your doctor before entering a treatment facility for detox.
Some experts recommend seeing your doctor to get a recommendation for where to begin your treatment. For example, your doctor can help determine whether or not you need medical detox.
Find out more about getting a referral from a doctor for a detox program.
Are There Different Levels Of Care In Detox?
Yes, there are different levels of care in drug and alcohol detox. This may include standard addiction treatment levels of care, such as inpatient treatment, as well as specific approaches to detox.
The levels of care are:
- inpatient detox
- outpatient detox
- medical detox
- social detox
Social (or non-medical) detox and medical detox occur at both the inpatient and outpatient levels of care.
Discover more about the different levels of care in detox.
What Should I Bring To Detox?
Every alcohol and drug rehab program will have slightly different rules and recommendations for what you are allowed to bring and what you are encouraged to bring.
Bring comfortable clothing and personal items such as a journal, letter-writing materials, or a book that is approved by the facility. If you have prescription medications, bring them in their original prescription bottle.
Find out more about what you should bring to detox.
Can I Use My Phone During Detox?
Different drug and alcohol detox programs will have different policies regarding cell phone use. On the one hand, cell phones allow clients to stay in contact with their support system at home.
On the other, cell phones can be a means of contact with people who are still engaged in drug or alcohol use. Access to social media can be detrimental to the recovery process as well.
Learn more about cell phone use during a detox program.
Can I Have Visitors At Detox?
Once again, it depends on the facility. Generally speaking, clients in this stage of recovery often feel vulnerable. Some visitors may help by providing emotional support, while others can make the situation worse.
Most rehab centers will screen visitors to make sure that they support your recovery. They will also have visiting hours and other rules to follow.
Find out more about visitation rules during detoxification.
Does Drug Detox Include Therapy?
Drug and alcohol detox usually includes some form of therapy, but not always. Often these sessions provide more of an introduction to therapy, which can continue through further addiction treatment.
However, you may be introduced to group and individual therapy and different types of behavioral therapy approaches, as well as to peer support groups such as 12-step recovery groups.
Discover more about what therapies you experience in a detox program.
Is Drug And Alcohol Detox Confidential?
Yes, it is. Clients can expect to have their care given the same level of confidentiality as other medical and mental health care.
Keeping treatment confidential may be particularly important to people who have careers where they may face unfair judgment, such as healthcare professionals, lawyers, or pilots.
Learn more about confidentiality in a detox program.
What Happens During Drug Detox?
During medical drug detox, clients receive care that addresses withdrawal symptoms either by treating the source of the symptoms or by treating the symptoms themselves.
For opioid withdrawal, medications such as buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone can reduce withdrawal symptoms, including drug cravings.
Clients may also begin the therapeutic part of their treatment plan through individual and group therapy or self-help groups, such as those provided via the 12-step approach or SMART Recovery.
Discover more about what happens during a drug detox program.
Are There Any Risks With Alcohol Detox?
Yes, there are risks associated with alcohol withdrawal, especially for people with severe AUD, that a quality detox program can address.
Complications of alcohol withdrawal can include:
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
- delirium tremens
The advantage of medical detox programs is that medical professionals monitor your progress, evaluating you for complications as you go through the withdrawal process.
Learn more about the potential risks involved with alcohol withdrawal and detox.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your System?
The answer to this depends generally on how much alcohol you have consumed, but genetics, body weight, and other factors can also influence the length of time alcohol stays in your system.
About 20% of the alcohol you consume is absorbed through the stomach, and about 80% in the small intestine. This can happen relatively quickly depending on whether you have eaten something.
From there, it is processed or metabolized by the liver into acetaldehyde at a rate of about one standard drink per hour. The liver can not metabolize alcohol any faster, so any excess alcohol that builds up in your system causes intoxication.
Learn more about the length of time alcohol stays in your system.
How Long Do Drugs Stay In Your System?
Drug metabolites, or what is left in your system after the drug has been metabolized, stay in your system at varying lengths depending on the type of substance that you have consumed.
Drug types and the lengths of time they stay in your system include:
- methamphetamines (and amphetamines) = two to four days
- benzodiazepines = three to 30 days
- opioids = one to three days
- cannabinoids = one to 30 days
- cocaine = one to three days
Discover more about the length of time drugs stay in your system.
Find Addiction Treatment Today
If you or a loved one is facing drug or alcohol withdrawal, you can find detox services today. Call us to learn more about your treatment options and how to get started.Article Sources
- Alcohol Beverage Control - Alcohol Facts
- British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology - Pharmacological strategies for detoxification
- National Center for Biotechnology Information - Alcohol Withdrawal
- National Center for Biotechnology Information - Appendix B. Urine Collection and Testing Procedures and Alternative Methods for Monitoring Drug Use
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Alcohol's Effects on Health
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment