Image of Detoxification

In this article we’ll cover the following:

Detoxification is the second stage of your recovery from substance abuse. After the intake process, you’ll require a detoxification phase to eliminate all traces of drugs and alcohol from your body. In certain cases, maintenance meds may be given to ease the withdrawal effects of certain drugs like opiate, benzodiazepine, and heroin. While it’s an important starting obstacle to overcome, undergoing detoxification alone isn’t the overall treatment for substance abuse.

Detoxification can be performed either on an inpatient or outpatient setting. However, it’s safer to be done in a supervised medical setting. This is because some people may require intense detoxification and it might become deadly and risky for the person. Sometimes, the process becomes unsafe and life-threatening for the patient because of the many risks associated with detoxification.

Why Is Detoxification Necessary?

Uncontrolled use of drugs and alcohol may lead to the dependency of the substance abused. A person addicted to these substances can’t just quit and go cold turkey because the withdrawal symptoms can sometimes become very dangerous.

Undergoing detoxification with proper supervision may help you with the following:

  • Relieve the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms
  • Refrain from any serious circumstances that may happen
  • Lessen the risks of relapse or continued drug usage
  • It’s an efficient way of overcoming withdrawal symptoms, especially after the immediate discontinuation of substances abused.

The severity of the detoxification process depends according to:

  • Your body composition
  • Your metabolism
  • The type of drug you used and how much you’ve taken
  • How long you’ve used the drug
  • Other addictions involved

Stages of Detoxification

As mentioned earlier, detoxification can be performed on an inpatient or outpatient basis. It consists of three essential steps:

  • Evaluation
  • Stabilization
  • Transition


In this stage, you’ll be undergoing different tests to determine the presence of any substances of abuse in your body. It’ll also include the determination of the concentration of these substances intoxicating your body.

Medical professionals will then screen you for any underlying physical and mental conditions. There’ll be an intensive and thorough assessment of your overall health. This evaluation is important in creating a comprehensive treatment program that’s suitable for you.

All information gathered during the evaluation process will serve as a basis for your initial rehabilitation plan, once you finish your detoxification.


The second stage of detoxification includes medical and psychosocial measures of helping you through your withdrawal symptoms and intoxication. This stage will help you achieve a physically and mentally stable condition through moral support from the staff and may be from the people around you. You may have minimized the toxicity level of the substance in your body, or be substance-free during this phase. Some medications may be given to you by your doctor during this period, to help you become mentally and physically stable.

During the stabilization stage, you’ll be informed about everything that’ll you have to expect throughout the course. You’ll also be discussed about what your support team’s role during your treatment and recovery from substance abuse. Your families, friends, and significant others may have roles in your treatment program when needed.


When you abuse substances and take them consistently, your body ends up becoming dependent on the substances abused. Once these substances are eliminated from your body, you may start to experience withdrawal. The occurrence of these withdrawal symptoms depends on the concentration levels of the substances in your body. It’ll usually start to appear within the first 24 hours after the last intake of the substances. However, some people may start to experience withdrawal symptoms after a few hours of detoxification.

Withdrawal symptoms may vary due to several reasons like tolerance to the substance abused, the concentration level of the drugs used, and the type of drug used. Some of the typical withdrawal symptoms and problems that you might experience are:

  • Extreme depression
  • Hallucination
  • Concentration problems
  • Decreased appetite
  • Severe fatigue
  • Inability to sleep
  • Agitation
  • Runny nose
  • Cramping
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Troubled breathing
  • Seizure
  • Heart attack


This is the final stage of detoxification. It’s actually a preparation phase for your entry to the next step of your drug rehabilitation program. The staff and medical professionals, who’ll supervise you, will make you ready for your entry into active treatment. They’ll focus mainly on the significance of following through with the entire treatment process and various approaches to care.

Typical Medications Used During the Detoxification Process

The method of treatment received during detox will depend on the type of addiction being treated. Before detox, you’ll be thoroughly assessed by a professional medical staff to determine your addiction and degree of pharmacological help you may need during your detoxification.

Some addiction may not need to undergo detoxification to proceed the next step of rehabilitation. But addictions like alcohol, heroin, and opiate needs pharmaceutical assistance to lessen the effects of withdrawal during the detoxification process.

Pharmaceutical assistance depends on your specific type of addiction. So the dosage and type of medicine that you’ll take during the detox process vary.

Some of the typically used medications during detox are:


Benzodiazepines are usually given to alcohol-addicted patients while undergoing detox. It’ll help relieve anxiety, depression and withdrawal symptoms. This type of drug also lessens the occurrence of seizures in patients undergoing detoxification.


Barbiturates are basically depressants and are also used for patients undergoing detox from alcohol addiction. They help relieve anxiety and discomfort during detoxification. These drugs may also contribute to reducing one’s risk of seizures, a common withdrawal symptom during alcohol detoxification.


Methadone is usually given to patients who are undergoing detoxification process from heroin or opiate addiction. The dose given is typically reduced over time until the patient will hopefully be free from the dependence of the drug. It also helps ease the withdrawal symptoms that’ll happen during the detoxification process.


Like methadone, buprenorphine is given to patients undergoing detoxification from heroin and opioid addiction. This drug has recently become a preferred alternative to methadone. It’s because it doesn’t make the patients feel a sort of “high,” unlike methadone. The drug dose is also given in reducing amounts after some time to relieve the withdrawal effects during detoxification.