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What is Drug and Alcohol Detox?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Drug and alcohol detox is a treatment for people who have developed physical dependencies on drugs or alcohol. Cessation can cause serious symptoms and complications during the period known as withdrawal. A drug and alcohol detox provides medically supervised care during withdrawal to treat symptoms and stabilize patients. Detox can also be used for drugs associated only with psychological dependencies to create a structured environment for people who are quitting.

For certain addictions, drug and alcohol detox in a clinical setting is critical. Withdrawal from alcohol, heroin, and certain other drugs can be deadly if conducted at home or in an unsupervised setting. During drug and alcohol detox, patients are monitored for signs of emerging complications and are given medications to treat symptoms, including drugs like anticonvulsants to address seizures.

Withdrawal from drugs or alcohol can be dangerous if conducted in an uncontrolled setting.
Withdrawal from drugs or alcohol can be dangerous if conducted in an uncontrolled setting.

When a patient is admitted to a drug and alcohol detox facility, the personnel develop a treatment plan on the basis of the patient's general health, the type of addiction, and other factors. This treatment plan will be used to help the patient adjust to cessation of drugs and alcohol and cope with the sometimes dangerous associated symptoms.

Detox is typically provided in a secure hospital or clinic. While in treatment, patients do not have access with the outside world and they are monitored 24 hours a day by nursing personnel and other medical staff. They may also be provided with psychological counseling, although during the worst period of drug and alcohol detox, patients may not be alert or aware enough to benefit from counseling.

Counseling might be offered during drug and alcohol detox.
Counseling might be offered during drug and alcohol detox.

Going to drug and alcohol detox is the first step in treating addiction. Once a patient is medically stable after with the withdrawal process, additional treatments like counseling can be explored. Some inclusive facilities offer both detox and counseling in an inpatient setting and may provide outpatient services as well to people who are far enough into recovery to feel comfortable leaving the clinic.

Detox for severe drug use can lead to intense symptoms that require medical attention during the detox process.
Detox for severe drug use can lead to intense symptoms that require medical attention during the detox process.

Substance abuse is very difficult to treat. It is important to remember that addiction is not cured, only managed or treated. Someone with a history of alcoholism, for example, will always be an alcoholic, but can choose to avoid alcohol with the assistance of substance abuse treatment. Many different treatment plans are available for people who have completed drug and alcohol detox and if a program is not working well for a patient, the patient may want to consider exploring other approaches.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • Withdrawal from drugs or alcohol can be dangerous if conducted in an uncontrolled setting.
      By: Kzenon
      Withdrawal from drugs or alcohol can be dangerous if conducted in an uncontrolled setting.
    • Counseling might be offered during drug and alcohol detox.
      By: Alexander Raths
      Counseling might be offered during drug and alcohol detox.
    • Detox for severe drug use can lead to intense symptoms that require medical attention during the detox process.
      By: fotomaximum
      Detox for severe drug use can lead to intense symptoms that require medical attention during the detox process.
    • Some addictions, such as those to opiate painkillers, create a dependence that should be addressed by a medical professional.
      By: kmiragaya
      Some addictions, such as those to opiate painkillers, create a dependence that should be addressed by a medical professional.
    • Detox is typically provided in a secure hospital or clinic.
      By: Monkey Business
      Detox is typically provided in a secure hospital or clinic.
    • Counseling can help alcoholics determine the underlying reasons behind their addiction.
      By: petert2
      Counseling can help alcoholics determine the underlying reasons behind their addiction.
    • A person addicted to heroin may scratch excessively during the withdrawal process.
      By: Piotr Marcinski
      A person addicted to heroin may scratch excessively during the withdrawal process.
    • Alcohol withdrawal treatment is determined by the severity of the symptoms.
      By: kmiragaya
      Alcohol withdrawal treatment is determined by the severity of the symptoms.
    • Detox may be able to help those with severe nicotine addictions.
      By: eldadcarin
      Detox may be able to help those with severe nicotine addictions.
    • Detox is usually provided in a secure hospital or clinic.
      By: Monkey Business
      Detox is usually provided in a secure hospital or clinic.