By Becca Owens

What Is Detox?

Detoxification, or detox, is a period of time that the body has been given to allow all foreign substances to exit while also managing withdrawal symptoms. On its own, detox is not drug treatment. However, it is the necessary first step in any recovery program before a patient can move into talk-based therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).1

Do I Need Detox?

When dealing with addiction, it’s important to understand the difference between tolerance and dependence. As people get used to the good feelings drugs produce, the body begins to require more and more of the drug to create the same feelings. This is tolerance. Dependence, however, is the point in which the body requires the drug to function normally—or for someone to feel normal.

If you feel withdrawal symptoms when you do not have a certain drug in your body, then you likely have developed a dependence on it. For those who are in a drug-dependent situation, detox is needed to begin the healing process.2 Although it may be scary to think about quitting  and the side-effects that come along with withdrawal, there is help available.

Withdrawal symptoms vary between substances, and each patient is unique. Because of this, it is always safest to undergo detox in a medically-managed environment than to go it alone. With the care of medical professionals and the option for medicinal interventions, the detox and withdrawal processes can be much more manageable and also more successful.3

What Is Detox Like?

When entering a treatment program and beginning the detox process, it is natural to be anxious about what you will feel and experience. But remember, rehab centers and hospitals exist to promote health and well-being. The staff wants to help you heal and is equipped to make the experience as beneficial as possible for you. Detox and withdrawal often look different for each patient depending on a number a factors, including the following:

  • Drug of choice – Whether you’re addicted to alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs will affect how your body reacts to the adjustment of functioning without the substance.
  • Length of time addicted – The longer a person has been taking drugs or drinking alcohol, the more the body will feel the effects of detox.
  • Tolerance – For those who have built a strong tolerance to a certain drug and are used to consuming it in high doses, there will be a greater adjustment to not having it in their system.

There are different timelines for different substances. However, in most cases, people report feeling withdrawal symptoms about eight to 12 hours after the last dose or drink. Symptoms usually increase for the first couple of days and peak around the 72-hour mark. After that, symptoms should slowly begin to decrease.

During the detox process, you will be cared for by medically-trained staff to make sure you are physically safe and being offered the best interventions for your individual situation. The staff may frequently take your temperature, blood pressure and pulse. They may also give you fluids via IV to help you stay hydrated.4 Depending on the type of drugs you have in your system, there may be medicine available to you to help ease the withdrawal symptoms. This is especially true for those addicted to alcohol and opioid painkillers.

Why Should I Choose Detox?

Addiction is a disease, and it’s difficult to overcome, but it can be done. By choosing medically-managed detox, you are taking the first step to invest in your future. It is an action upon the belief you are worth the pain and effort it will take to get you on the path of recovery.

Following detox, you and your care coordinator will develop a treatment plan together, helping you heal according to your needs. Treatment plans usually consist of individual and group counseling, education on addiction, enjoyable activities—like hiking, exercise, meditation and massage, skills training for relationships back home and relapse prevention.

Detox should never be attempted alone and should always be followed by addiction treatment. The risk of overdose is much greater after detox, and being in a controlled atmosphere in a residential treatment center will help protect you from relapse. Detox is the first step in changing your life for the better.

If you or your loved one is considering addiction treatment and detox, please call our 24 hour, toll-free number today to talk with an admissions coordinator. We want to help you detox in a safe environment while receiving the best care available. We’ll be here when you’re ready.

1Frequently Asked Questions.” NIDA, March 2017.

2Alcohol Detox and Rehab Programs: What to Know.” WebMD, August 8, 2017.

3Understanding Drug Use and Addiction: What Science Says.” NIDA, February 2016.

4Alcohol withdrawal.” Medline Plus, January 14, 2017.