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Medically Reviewed

What Can I Expect From Medical Detox?

- 6 sections

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer:

Sahil Talwar, PA-C, MBA


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Alcohol or drug addiction causes the body to become dependent upon the substance. Because of this, when an individual attempts to quit, they will experience symptoms of withdrawal. Symptoms of drug or alcohol withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable and possibly life-threatening in cases of severe dependency. As a result, individuals recovering from substance use disorders should always attend a medical detox program.

Detox programs are medical interventions to assist individuals who are transitioning from dependency to sobriety. During the detoxification process, patients will receive medications and treatments intended to soothe symptoms of withdrawal and reduce cravings. This allows the individual to safely complete their withdrawal phase, enabling them to move on to the next stages of recovery.

What to Expect During Medical Detox

Detox is defined as the process of removing all traces of drugs and alcohol from the body. The purpose of detox is to allow patients to be medically and physically stable enough to focus on addiction therapy.

The detox process works to reduce the negative aspects of withdrawal symptoms, making this experience as safe and comfortable as possible. Medically assisted detox, or medical detox, is known as the most effective form of detox program in the addiction recovery field.

During detox, patients will be provided with medications that soothe the symptoms of withdrawal and reduce their drug or alcohol cravings. In doing so, patients have a higher chance of completing the initial stages of recovery, allowing them to phase into the mental aspects of addiction treatment.

Intake and Evaluation

The first step of medical detox programs includes intake and evaluation assessments. This helps the medical professionals get a bigger picture regarding what the patient’s individual needs are. Additionally, experts will gather information about the patient’s medical history, details about their addiction, and information on any co-occurring disorders the patient may be dealing with. All of this information will be used to create a comprehensive and individualized treatment plan for the patient.

Medical Stabilization

Once patients are admitted to the detox program, they will no longer be using the substances they were addicted to. Due to this, they will begin their withdrawal process. However, medical detox is intended to ensure that patients do not feel the worst aspects of their withdrawal symptoms. This is why medications are administered to patients.

Medications used in detox may include:[1]

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Anti-nausea medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines like diazepam
  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine

The most known medications utilized in medical detox are methadone and buprenorphine. Methadone is a synthetic opioid medication that reduces the effects of opioid withdrawal symptoms. Similarly, buprenorphine is used to treat opioid withdrawal, as it prevents withdrawal symptoms from occurring. These medications are only used in conjunction with other forms of addiction treatment methods like behavioral therapy and group counseling.[2]

While an individual is taking detoxification medications, they will be routinely checked for any physical health concerns. Sometimes, severe drug or alcohol abuse leads to the development of additional physical health conditions. By consistently checking vitals and performing tests, medical professionals eliminate any concerns for the patient’s health.

Treatment Planning

Once a patient is deemed medically stable, they will begin the treatment planning stage of detox. In the meantime, patients will begin small counseling groups and frequent individual therapy sessions to prepare them for the next treatment stages ahead.

Treatment planning will include meetings between the patient, their therapist, and their case manager. During these meetings, they will discuss what steps the patient should take to ensure they have the best chance at long-term sobriety possible.

Next steps after completing medical detox may include one or a combination of the following programs:

  • Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)
  • Residential addiction treatment or inpatient treatment
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
  • Outpatient Programs (OP)
  • Sober living programs or halfway houses
  • Attendance of sober support groups like 12-step meetings or SMART recovery

Because addiction is not just a physical disease, treatment does not end after the completion of detox. Individuals completing a medical detox program should continue their treatment by attending a combination of inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and sober living.[3]

Why Should I Choose Medical Detox Instead of Detoxing At Home?

Detoxing from any substance is dangerous to attempt without the assistance of trained medical professionals. The withdrawal process of addiction recovery causes complex and potentially dangerous changes to one’s body. In other words, it is necessary to attend a professional medical detox program to ensure safety throughout the detox process.

Detoxing at home causes an individual to be at risk for a variety of life-threatening medical conditions, including cardiac arrest, suicidal behaviors, psychosis, severe dehydration, and seizures. Additionally, the severity of an individual’s withdrawal symptoms varies based on overall health, age, and whether the person suffers from underlying medical conditions. When a person attempts to detox at home, they will not have the tools and medical experience they need to resolve any issues that may arise.

Start Medical Drug & Alcohol Detox in North Carolina Today

Deciding to get sober from drugs and alcohol is one of the best decisions an individual can make. However, it is important not to make this decision alone. Carolina Recovery Center is here to help you every step of the way!

With a state-of-the-art medical detox center, qualified medical professionals, and dedicated mental health experts, we can provide you with all of the tools you need to live a successful, sober life. Contact us today to get started.