Content reviewed by Nicholas G. Glines

Treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs) such as addiction is often lengthy and intensive. Contrary to what has become popular thought, psychotherapy is not the beginning of the treatment process. Due to the severity of consequences that substance use often has on the mind and body, individuals must go through medical detox before their treatment journey truly begins.

Medical detox is when an individual is medically-supervised as they quit or wean off alcohol and other drugs. It is the process of clearing out toxins from the body to properly prepare the body and mind for treatment. Detox often occurs in an inpatient treatment center, although some facilities offer outpatient treatment options with added supervision.

More often than not, detox is a vital first step for individuals seeking recovery from problematic substance use. It is essential to understand the value of medical detox on sobriety and recovery and why it is incomparable to at-home detox.

Understanding the Potential Severity of Withdrawal Effects

Withdrawal effects are unpleasant physical, mental and emotional reactions experienced when a person ceases to continue taking a substance or tries to stop altogether. Additionally, withdrawal effects are not just experienced by those that use substances repeatedly. They can also be experienced by individuals that use chemical substances just one time because alcohol and other drugs can cause drastic changes to brain functioning and take a lifetime to reverse.

The severity of withdrawal symptoms is dependent on several factors, including:

  • Type of substance being used
  • Frequency of substance use
  • The intensity of substance use
  • Duration of substance use
  • Route of administration for substance use
  • Presence of substance dependence

Examples of Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms

Although withdrawal symptoms may vary, some of the most common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Tremors

While these symptoms may seem harsh, there is the possibility of experiencing even more severe withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawing from certain substances, such as alcohol can be life-threatening. Because the withdrawal process is truly unpredictable, medical detox is imperative for ensuring the safety and security of patients.

Why Shouldn’t Someone Quit their Addiction Cold-Turkey?

Quitting substance use cold turkey is often hazardous. The uncomfortable physical and mental symptoms experienced can become so intolerable that people may quickly view returning substances as a reasonable solution. Still, the dangers of self-detox are only part of why an individual should not stop their substance use alone.

On the other hand, many people try to quit their substance use cold turkey because they have yet to recognize that their substance use is beyond their control. However, when individuals stop substance use cold turkey, they ultimately hold themselves responsible for their sobriety. This mistake often leads to relapse, as individuals quickly find out that they may be able to stop substance use temporarily but have no connection with long-term treatment and support.

The Three Steps of Detox

Detox is often completed as a three-step process involving evaluation, stabilization and preparation. Simply put, the main goal of detox is to help keep patients comfortable while withdrawing from substance use and prepare them for future treatment.

Step 1: Evaluation

Although these steps are unique to each treatment center, an evaluation typically requires a medical assessment, questionnaire, physical exam and blood work. Medical professionals want to understand the patient’s history and present problems and recognize any potential co-occurring mental health conditions. A physician will then create an individualized treatment and detox plan for the patient.

Step 2: Stabilization

This step requires an individual to discontinue substance use altogether. At inpatient detox facilities, mental health professionals work with patients around-the-clock to ensure that they are medically stable as they go through withdrawal. Often, medication is offered to ease severe withdrawal symptoms. This phase of detox depends on the severity of substance use and can last anywhere between one and three weeks.

Step 3: Preparation

The final step of detox involves preparing the patient for future treatment that will follow the detox process. While detox focuses on reducing the uncomfortable physical side effects of withdrawal, it does not lessen any psychological challenges patients will endure during their treatment journey. This particular aspect explains why long-term treatment is essential for effective recovery and sobriety.

Patients will be recommended a treatment program based on their individualized needs and goals for treatment. For individuals who have outside responsibilities, outpatient treatment may be a great option to stay engaged with other obligations like work or childcare. However, inpatient (residential) treatment programs are recommended for severe addictions as they provide a much higher treatment structure and intensity.

New Hope Ranch is a male-only residential treatment facility that acknowledges the value of detox before treatment. We offer a detoxification process that is individualized to fit each of our patient’s unique needs. We provide medications to help assist during the detox process if withdrawal symptoms become unmanageable. With access to 24/7 care, you can know that you will never be alone during your treatment journey. To learn more about our treatment programs, call us today at (737) 600-8565.