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Detoxification, more commonly called detox, is the gradual expulsion of harmful toxins from the body. When used in reference to substance abuse recovery, detox is the period of time in which your body processes, breaks down and flushes out any remaining traces of drugs or alcohol from your system. The medically supervised detox programs offered through inpatient treatment have three very specific and intertwined goals for every patient in recovery:

  • to remove harmful substances from the body in a safe and comfortable way
  • to swiftly and effectively manage any symptoms of withdrawal during detox
  • to encourage ongoing treatment for the patients in recovery past detox

Medically-Assisted Detox and Dependency

Typically, detox is a crucial step in the addiction treatment process, especially for patients who have developed a substance dependency. In this sense, dependency simply means that your body, whether physically or mentally, has adapted to a substance in such as way abusing that substance almost seems necessary to think, feel and function normally. Then, when you stop taking the substance, you might experience uncomfortable and potentially harmful symptoms: withdrawal.

Medical detox is a great program for people who have substance dependencies involving:

  • alcohol
  • barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and other hypnotic or sedative drugs
  • heroin, morphine and other opioids
  • prescription pain medication

The Range of Withdrawal Discomfort in Medical Detox

Withdrawal symptoms can range from slightly uncomfortable to extremely hazardous, or in some cases, even fatal. It all depends on a number of factors like the type of substance you misuse, how long the substance abuse has been going on, and what your medical and family histories are. Addictive substances that yield less serious withdrawal symptoms— like hallucinogens for example— might not require as much medical supervision during detox as compared to others. Still, it is far safer to undergo detox in a professional rehab facility than anywhere else, like at home— even if you think your drug of choice is “harmless.”

The Dangers of Detoxing Alone at Home

The tricky thing about detox is that complications involving your physical and mental health can appear at any time. If you attempt to detox at home without the supervision of a medical staff of experienced professionals, you’ll experience both a slew of withdrawal symptoms and also intense cravings, which will most likely weaken your desire to quit and heighten your risk of relapsing.

Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms that can result from unsupervised detox include:

  • Gastrointestinal pain
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleeplessness
  • Drowsiness
  • DepressionIrritability
  • Cravings
  • Seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Coma

Comfort and Security in Medical Detox

For addicts who have failed to detox at home, the fear of suffering through withdrawal symptoms any further is usually what prevents them from seeking help. This is what makes medical detox such an important part of the addiction recovery process. The purpose of any professional medical detox program is to reduce and even prevent these kinds of withdrawal symptoms. Today, there are a vast number of medications and treatments available to help you and others in recovery through the detox process with the best possible chance of success.

The Detox Process Timeframe

The detox process is not constrained to any strict timeline. In most cases, detox takes only a few hours or a few days. In other cases, detox may take weeks. The amount of time it takes for the lingering drug or alcohol toxins to leave your system depends on a number of factors, including:

  • how long you used
  • how often you used
  • how much you used
  • the substance(s) you used
  • any previous detox attempts
  • your overall health condition
  • the setting in which you detox
  • your personal goals and mindset

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the national average for the duration of time during the detox process is less than eight days. However, it’s not unusual if detox takes longer than that. Some substances take longer to leave your system than others.

Treatment Beyond Detox at True Possibilities

By the end of your detox, our staff will provide you with options for further treatment, including follow-ups, therapy for mental and emotional health, and other programs you might be interested in. Detox is a vital step in the right direction on the road to recovery, but it’s only one leg of the journey.


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