What is Detox?
3 Parts of Detox
This process identifies the presence of substances in the body, any other medical conditions present, and the person’s social and living situation for program placement once detoxification is completed.
The second step is the actual process of assisting an individual through withdrawal as substances are removed from the body. Medications may be used to assist this process.
Fostering Readiness and Entry into Treatment
The last step of detoxification introduces the individual to the treatment process and stresses the importance of follow-through as the individual enters a treatment program.
It is important to stress that detoxification is not a treatment for substance abuse. Detox is the first step toward treatment, as treatment is difficult when substances are still active in the body.
Where Do You Detox?
- The patient is admitted to the hospital and stays there until detoxification is completed
- The three components of detoxification above all occur while the patient is staying at the hospital
- The length of treatment varies, but usually lasts from 5 to 14 days
- The patient travels to the hospital or treatment center daily
- The initial detoxification intake session lasts 1 to 2 hours, followed by treatment sessions that last about 30 minutes daily
- The length of treatment also varies, but usually lasts from 3 to 14 days
- An intensive outpatient program provides more support, with a minimum of 9 hours of service per week. This type of program is just as effective as inpatient programs for people who do not require 24-hour supervision during detox.3
Detox for Alcohol Addiction
How Long Does It Take to Detox from Alcohol?
- Rapid heart rate
Medications and Treatments
Medications to Reduce Cravings
Detox for Addiction to Opioids
Opioids, including natural opiates derived from the opium poppy and synthetic opioids, are drugs that are primarily used to relieve severe pain. They may be taken legally with a prescription or obtained illegally. A few examples of opioids include heroin, morphine, Oxycontin®, and Vicodin®. If these drugs are taken for more than a short period, severe physical and mental addiction can occur.5
How Long Does It Take to Detox from Opioids?
- Muscle aches
- Eyes tearing up
- Runny nose
- Excessive yawning
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramping
- Dilated pupils with blurry vision
- Goose bumps
- Rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
Medications and Treatment
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Loperamide (Imodium®) for diarrhea
- Hydroxyzine (Vistaril®) for nausea
- Plenty of fluids
- Hospitalization may be required.
- Clonidine – reduces the intensity of withdrawal symptoms
- Suboxone – a combination of buprenorphine (a mild opioid) and naloxone (an opioid blocker) used to shorten the intensity and length of drug detox
- Methadone – may be used for long term drug detoxification when faster detox methods fail or when opioids must be reduced in the system very gradually
Detox from Stimulant Addiction
How Long Does It Take to Detox from Stimulants?
- Poor concentration
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
- Psychomotor retardation
- Increased appetite with carbohydrate cravings
- Drug cravings
- Possible cardiac complications during cocaine withdrawal
- Persistent headache could be a symptom of bleeding in the brain
- Possible psychosis, including hallucinations and delusions
Medications and Treatment
Dangerous Detox Situations
Detox at Home
Some people attempt to detox by themselves at home. Detoxing at home can be safe for people who have mild substance abuse issues, but it is risky for people with larger, long term problems. Anyone who considers detoxing at home should consult a medical professional about how to detox before doing so.8
This method of detoxification involves sedating the patient and then administering medications to start the onset of withdrawal. The theory behind the technique is that the patient sleeps through the worst of the withdrawal symptoms. Studies on the effectiveness of this technique show that it does not speed up the withdrawal period and that the sedation used can increase the risk of adverse side effects.9, 10
Similar to rapid detox, ultra-rapid detox involves sedating the patient and administering medications to start the onset of withdrawal. While heavy sedation is used during rapid detox, general anesthesia is used during ultra-rapid detoxification. This greatly increases the risk of adverse effects during the detoxification process. An investigation by the New York State Department of Health into deaths and adverse effects resulting from ultra-rapid detox in 2012 resulted in a health alert issued to health care practitioners in the State of New York to avoid the practice.11
The Benefits of Detox at an Addiction Treatment Facility
- Evaluation of your status and situation regarding substance abuse
- Medical management of the entire detoxification process
- Medications to make withdrawal more comfortable
- Initial treatment programming for substance abuse
- A smooth transition into long term substance abuse treatment