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Detoxification, or detox, generally refers to the process of removing toxins from the body. In the case of substance use, detox specifically refers to the period of time that the body is allowed to process or metabolize any drugs and alcohol in the system and, in doing so, clears their toxic influence.

  • Medically assisted (or medically supervised) detox
  • Clinically managed (“social”) detox

This type of treatment is done under the care of medical and mental health professionals. The observation is helpful to increase safety and comfort levels for people undergoing the painful symptoms and potential medical complications that may result from ending substance use. At times, medications can be administered to ease the process and reduce the strong cravings for the substance that typically are experienced at this point.

This style is a short-term, non-medical strategy for someone wanting to end substance use. Some social detox settings will only provide a room for detox to take place while others will provide more hands-on treatment approaches including peer encouragement and professional support throughout the detox duration.

Relapse should not be viewed as a failure but should instead be seen as an obstacle to overcome on one’s lifelong journey to sobriety.6 It provides an opportunity to reassess one’s path and get back into a program that offers the support and help needed to maintain sobriety.

Many people who are struggling with addiction undergo more than one course of professional treatment before they are able to find their footing in their recovery journey.6 Ultimately, the only person who can manage your addiction in the long term is you, and rehab will help you build the skills necessary to maintain sobriety.

Medically-assisted detox is most appropriate for people with substance dependencies involving:

  • Alcohol
  • Hypnotic/sedative drugs like barbiturates and benzodiazepines.
  • Opioids like heroin, morphine, and prescription pain medication

There is no set timeframe for detox to be completed. For some, the process will only take hours or days. For others, it may take weeks to completely clear the body of the drug. Factors that dictate the length of detox include:

  • The drug of abuse
  • The rate, dose, and duration of use
  • The presence of any poly-substance abuse
  • The detox setting
  • The goals of the patient
  • Previous detox attempts
  • The individual’s health condition

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that the average length of detox is fewer than eight days. However, certain substances like methadone and buprenorphine may take longer to clear because the drugs are relatively long acting. In these instances, patients often undergo a slow tapering of the abused substance, which can necessitate longer durations.

Drug and alcohol withdrawals occur when someone who has been abusing a particular substance suddenly stops or slows down the use of the drug. When someone is crossing the line into addiction, they build what is called a tolerance, which means that over time they will need more and more of the same drug in order to achieve the same results or feelings.

Tolerance slowly evolves into dependence and addiction if the drug or alcohol abuse does not subside. Once a person has become physically dependent on a drug just to feel “normal”, they experience withdrawals when they haven’t had their typical dose or amount of that drug.

As with many chronic conditions, though there might not be an outright cure for addiction, it can be managed effectively.1,3 Regardless of any treatment duration, drug and alcohol addiction recovery doesn’t conclude after the patient completes a rehabilitation program. For many, recovery from substance use is an ongoing, lifelong process. Managing an addiction requires hard work and dedication as a person learns how to navigate through daily life without drugs and alcohol.

Insurance is often accepted at drug rehabilitation programs. However, the extent of coverage may vary according to the particular facility. Your insurance plan may cover only a portion of your rehabilitation stay, so it’s important to check your insurance plan prior to enrolling in a drug rehab program. Visit our Insurance Verification page to learn more and to fill out our confidential insurance benefit verification form.

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