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What to Expect in Drug Detox & Rehab

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Drug detox is the first step in stopping a substance and getting on the path to a substance-free life.

If you struggle with a substance and are looking to quit, the first step on your path to recovery is drug detox. Substance abuse is not uncommon, particularly during the COVID19 era, when 13.3% of Americans have started or increased substance use in order to cope with stress. Although some people may be reluctant to seek treatment due to COVID19 concerns, drug detox is a crucial step in successfully overcoming substance abuse and avoiding deadly complications like overdose.

What is Drug Detox?

When you become physically dependent on a substance, your body begins to expect its presence. The neurons and neurotransmitters in your brain adapt to the presence of the substance, as well. For this reason, if you suddenly stop taking it or try to quit the substance cold-turkey, your brain becomes chemically unbalanced. This leads to withdrawal symptoms, which may be uncomfortable or dangerous in some cases. Further, poorly managed withdrawal symptoms make it much less likely that you will be able to remain off the substance over the long-term.

Drug detox is the process by which you come off a substance. It is always best – and safest – to seek medical advice before trying to stop a substance. Depending on the substance, how often you take it, and how physically dependent you are, your doctor may recommend that you detox at home or that you enroll in a medically supervised detox program.

Drugs that Are Dangerous to Detox from Alone

Although many drugs – even prescription drugs – can cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop them abruptly, some drugs are more uncomfortable or dangerous than others when it comes to trying to go through detox alone. These can include:

  • Opioid withdrawal, including both prescription opioids as well as street drugs like heroin. Although opioid withdrawal is not fatal, it is highly uncomfortable and can feel like a bad flu
  • Benzodiazepine withdrawal, which may lead to seizures in some cases
  • Alcohol withdrawal, which can lead to seizures or a serious condition called delirium tremens
  • Stimulant withdrawal, which can involve mental status changes including psychosis

For these substances, a medically supervised detox program is often the safest way to come off the agent.

Ways to Detox from Drugs

You have several different options when it comes to stopping a substance and undergoing detox. These include:

  • Cold turkey: Stopping a substance abruptly is the most likely to lead to withdrawal symptoms. Quitting cold turkey may also be dangerous, as is the case with stopping heavy alcohol use
  • Home detox: Your doctor may advise you to use strategies you can self-manage at home when coming off a substance. These include tapering a drug, or slowly decreasing the dose to wean yourself off the agent without withdrawal symptoms.
  • Medical detox: In medical detox, you are admitted to a facility where you receive round-the-clock medical care to manage and address any withdrawal symptoms that arise, so that you can come off a substance in the most comfortable and well-managed way possible.

What to Expect When Detoxing from Drugs

During a drug detox, some issues are common regardless of the drug you are quitting. These include:

  • Withdrawal symptoms: Withdrawal symptoms vary based on the substance you are stopping. Further, symptoms may be mild or severe depending on your degree of physical dependence on a substance.
  • Physical symptoms: Many withdrawal symptoms are physical in nature, such as muscle cramps and nausea, and may occur throughout your whole body.
  • Psychological symptoms: Some withdrawal symptoms are psychological in nature. This does not make the symptoms any less unpleasant or any less real. Agitation, confusion, and mental status changes can develop as your brain tries to adapt to being without the substance upon which it has come to rely.
  • Cravings: When your body wants a substance that it is being denied, cravings are common.

The length of time that these symptoms last can vary dramatically based on the substance and the extent of your dependence on them. Withdrawal symptoms for some substances last only a few days, while others, like benzodiazepines, can have a protracted withdrawal syndrome that lasts for weeks or longer.

Benefits of a Drug Rehab Program

A medically assisted detox program has several benefits over attempting to detox on your own:

  • Monitoring: In a medical detox program, you have constant medical monitoring to ensure that the detox is progressing as planned. Further, any withdrawal symptoms you experience can be treated quickly with medications if necessary. Overall, this leads to a safer and more comfortable detox.
  • Transition into rehab: Detox is only the first step in sobriety. After a substance is removed from your system, rehab begins to help you develop skills and insights to avoid future substance abuse. A medical detox program can seamlessly transition you from detox into a rehab program, readying you for the healing and hard work of rehab as your detox progresses.
  • Nutritional support: Nutrition is an important part of detox, especially since substance abuse can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Without proper nutrition, detox can take longer and be more difficult than it needs to be. A medical detox facility will be able to provide you with the necessary nutrition to help your body heal and overcome your substance abuse.
  • Emotional support: Detox can be emotionally exhausting. The therapists and mental health professionals that are available during medical detox can help you stay emotionally strong to complete detox.

Medication Used During Detox

A variety of medications can be prescribed during a medical detox to help you cope with withdrawal symptoms, although specific medications will vary. Medications can include therapies to help you:

  • Avoid cravings
  • Sleep
  • Become calm
  • Overcome gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Relieve pain

Related: Types Medications Used in Medication-Assisted Treatment

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Are Drug Detox Facilities Safe During COVID-19?

Drug detox facilities take the COVID-19 threat seriously. Although specific rules may vary based on the state, facilities minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission by:

  • Testing patients and staff members for COVID-19
  • Ensuring access to adequate personal protective equipment
  • Maintaining social distance and small groups
  • Following strict cleaning protocols

When you are struggling with a substance, it is important to weigh the risks of continued substance abuse against the risk of COVID-19. For example, without treatment, substance abuse carries serious risks including overdose that may exceed the risks of COVID-19. Working with a treatment facility that follows COVID-19 safety protocols can, therefore, help both avoid COVID-19 as well as well as complications from substance abuse.

Related: Learn more about our COVID-19 precautions.

What Happens After Drug Detox

Detox is the first step in sobriety, but is by no means the only step. After your body has been cleansed of the substance in detox, the hard work of rehab begins. In rehab, you learn to address and explore the habits that led to substance abuse in the first place, and learn coping skills about how to avoid substance use in the future. A variety of rehab treatment programs exist, and can be on-site or outpatient. Further, rehab programs can be focused on your specific needs. For example, teen-focused rehab exists as a supportive tool for teams, and dual diagnosis programs exist to help address not only substance abuse but also any underlying mental health issues.

Florida Drug Detox and Rehabilitation Facilities

The Recovery Village at Baptist Health offers a state of the art medical detox and drug rehab facility. Our staff are experts in substance abuse and recovery. Don’t wait, call us today.


What is drug and alcohol detox?

In drug and alcohol detox, you wean your body off drugs or alcohol in a medically supervised setting. This helps you to avoid withdrawal symptoms which may otherwise put you at risk of relapse.

What drugs can kill you from detox?

Although most drugs simply make you highly uncomfortable during detox, some substances can be more dangerous, making medically supervised detox the safest choice. For example, detoxing from heavy alcohol dependence can be dangerous as it can lead to potentially fatal condition called delirium tremens. Undergoing a medically supervised detox is significantly safer.

What drugs are given during medical detox?

A variety of drugs can be given during medical detox. Generally, any medications are tailored to treat the symptoms you may be experiencing, such as insomnia, agitation or nausea. The specific drugs that are used will vary based on the medical detox facility that you choose.

What is the fastest way to detox your body from drugs?

Unfortunately, there is no quick way to detox from a drug. Your body and brain need to process and remove the drug from your system, and the time that this takes will depend on the drug, how much you take, and your overall health and physiology. However, the best way to ensure that you remain sober after detox is by participating in a rehab program.

Where are drug rehabs near me?

Many medical detox facilities and drug rehab facilities exist across the country. Your health insurance company as well as your state health department can help to advise you of local options. In Florida, The Recovery Village at Baptist Health serves the Lake Worth, Miami and Atlantis areas.

View Sources

Czeisler, Mark É.; Lane, Rashon I.; Petrosky, Emiko; et al. “Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, August 14, 2020. Retrieved December 8, 2020.

Sinha, Rajita. “New Findings on Biological Factors Predicting Addiction Relapse Vulnerability.” Current Psychiatry Reports, October 2011. Accessed December 8, 2020.

World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed December 8, 2020.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment: A treatment improvement protocol.” 2015. Accessed December 8, 2020.