What Happens If I Leave Detox Early?

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The addiction detox process is mentally and physically challenging. People who leave detox early are at risk for relapse and a number of other impediments to sobriety.

What Happens If I Leave Detox Early?

Detoxification is clearing the body of harmful toxins while managing the uncomfortable symptoms of addiction withdrawal. Depending on several factors, the detox process can last up to a week or longer.

Some people may opt to leave detox early for many reasons. This decision can have a profoundly negative effect on a person’s recovery journey, leading to relapse and other adverse outcomes.

How The Detoxification Process Works

When you or a loved one enter a drug and alcohol detox program, you will first be assessed by a medical professional to determine the severity of your substance use disorder, any underlying mental or physical health conditions, and your personal history with addiction.

After the assessment, you will be ushered into a hospital room-like setting where the amount of alcohol or drugs in your system will be gradually reduced. It is at this time that you will likely begin to experience withdrawal symptoms.

Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • muscle aches
  • anxiety
  • mood swings
  • insomnia
  • high temperature or chills
  • sweating
  • vivid nightmares
  • depression
  • paranoia
  • intense cravings

The withdrawal experience will be different for everybody, but it is an essential step in preparing you for further substance use treatment.

Reasons People Leave A Detox Program

There are several reasons you may feel a strong urge to leave your detox program prematurely.

Withdrawal Discomfort

Even though detox programs try to make the process as comfortable as possible, the discomfort of withdrawal can be overwhelming to some people.

When more intense and painful withdrawal symptoms arise, you may feel the need to get immediate relief by turning back to substance use.

Addiction Stigma

The stigma associated with drug and alcohol addiction is real, and it can influence someone’s decision not to get the help they need.

Diminishing the stigma of addiction in society will help make treatment more palatable for people facing drug and alcohol abuse.

Treatment Wasn’t Your Idea In The First Place

Some people may enter a detox program feeling that they haven’t done so voluntarily. This may be a result of a court order to avoid going to jail, a probationary condition, or other circumstances.

When feeling forced to be there, a person may not be motivated enough to push through the discomfort and complete the program.

Impulsive Emotions

Detoxification will bring out emotions that have been buried under drug and alcohol use. These feelings can be overwhelming, and many people would rather leave the program than face the raw emotions of sobriety.

What Happens When You Leave Detox Early

Everybody who is mentally competent has the right to leave their detox program at any time. Leaving detox against medical advice can have serious consequences for both physical and mental well-being.

Abruptly stopping detox can lead to unresolved withdrawal symptoms and a higher risk for relapse. In some cases, withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening, particularly when detoxing from alcohol use disorder.

Leaving detox before you have learned the discipline and coping mechanisms to abstain from substance use will leave you more vulnerable to triggers and unmanageable cravings.

Ways To Keep People In Detox

Support and encouragement play an important role in helping people stay committed to detox. Below are some of the ways to encourage people to complete their detox program.

Contacting Loved Ones

Getting in touch with a client’s loved ones can be a powerful tool in getting them to stay. This gives the person’s support system a chance to reaffirm their expectations and love for the person in detox, and can oftentimes convince someone to finish treatment.

24-Hour Rule

Some rehab facilities will adhere to a 24-hour rule, which recommends that people stay in detox for at least a full day to reap the benefits of treatment.

If a person can be convinced to stay for at least 24 hours for the initial stabilization and medical evaluation phase, the chances of continuing treatment are much higher.

What Happens After Detox

Upon completing detox, many people will be transitioned into a residential or outpatient rehab center where they will continue the recovery process through various types of behavioral health treatment.

Treatment options may include:

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