A Guide to Drug and Alcohol Detox

Part of the Complete Guide to Understanding Addiction

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What is Drug and Alcohol Detox
  3. How do Detox Programs Work
  4. How Long Does Detox Take
  5. Substances Susceptible to Addiction
  6. Substances Difficult to Detox From
  7. Can I Detox from Drugs and Alcohol at Home?
  8. Same Day Treatment Options
  9. What is the Next Step After Drug and Alcohol Detox
  10. Conclusion


The decision to begin the long journey of recovery is a commendable one. Recovery is a goal which often requires a medical detox program in order to be achieved, but is attainable by all nonetheless. If you or someone you know is thinking of beginning detox and starting their recovery journey, they likely have many questions about detox.

No thanks to modern movies, detox is often portrayed negatively. There’s no question that detoxing from anything is one of the toughest parts of recovery, but it is also the time when the person is the most closely monitored by physicians. Detox program physicians and nurses remain at the patient’s side to ensure they are as safe and comfortable as possible throughout their detox. 

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The information below may answer many questions people have before entering a detox program.  

What Is Drug and Alcohol Detox?

Drug and alcohol addiction runs far deeper than its psychological aspect alone . Addiction affects a person physically as well, which is why it is so hard for them to stop using on their own. Their body will start to experience withdrawal symptoms when the drugs or alcohol leave their system. 

The process of allowing substances to leave the body, and the side effects of this cleansing, are known as detox or detoxification. 

Detoxing can technically be done at home, but it is highly recommended that everyone seek out a professional detox program when considering recovery. It is possible to quit drugs and alcohol completely (“cold turkey”), but the type of addiction one suffers from plays a major role in the safety of this choice. Some people that have multiple hard-core addictions might be unable to stop everything all at once; it may be very unsafe for their bodies. Therefore, medical detox under the 24-hour care of a physician is generally the only viable option. 

How do Detox Programs Work?

Detox programs are highly recommended because they set the patient up for success. Not only does it ensure that the person is in the safest possible environment in which to experience withdrawal, it removes the person from their natural environment, which is a crucial part of the beginning of the recovery process. 

There are many different types of detox programs, because there are many variables at play when someone is addicted to a substance. 

A few of the different variables include: 

  • Type of addiction 
  • Number of addictions (Is the patient addicted to more than one substance?)
  • Length of addiction
  • History of relapses
  • Underlying physical and mental health conditions 

These constitute some of the questions a patient is asked upon arriving at a detox center. The person must first sit down for an evaluation of their medical and addiction history. 

After their evaluation, the physician develops an individualized detox treatment plan for the patient, which includes all therapy and medication that will get the patient safely through their detox. All of this is subject to change at any time, but detox cannot be done properly if the patient doesn’t first receive an official evaluation. 

Once evaluation and diagnosis are complete, the patient begins their stay at the detox center. The patient may want to ask the program officials to make sure, but most detox facilities have 24-hour nursing staff to ensure patients receive the care they require at all hours of the day or night. 

Detoxing from drugs and alcohol is likely the most vulnerable and difficult stage a person will go through, and detox facilities are specifically designed to make the process as easy as possible. Therefore, around-the-clock nursing care is a must. 

How Long Does Detox Take?

The length of one’s individualized detox treatment plan varies. Many of the abovementioned variables are factors which will affect how long a person will detox. However, most detox programs are either three, five, or seven days long. 

Detoxing is the first step towards recovery and is often the shortest part of a patient’s stay at a rehabilitation facility – but it often feels like the longest part for the patient. 

Depending on which substance, how many substances, and how long the addiction has gone on, withdrawal symptoms can be some of the worst physical pains a person will experience. Detox is also one of the most mentally trying moments of the person’s recovery process. 

The number and type of substances which were abused can also make the detox process last longer than a week, because some can technically stay in the system for months at a time. That said, a majority of the physical symptoms will subside by the end of the first week, which is why most detox programs are seven days at most. 

Substances Susceptible To Addiction 

There is a long list of addictive substances and medications which have the ability to cause withdrawal symptoms. Some symptoms are more serious than others, but none are easy to endure. 

Below are some addictive, commonly abused substances:

  • Alcohol 
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Cocaine 
  • Fentanyl 
  • Hallucinogens
  • Heroin and other Opioids 
  • Inhalants 
  • MDMA
  • Methamphetamine 
  • Nicotine 
  • Bath salts

Addiction to one or more of the above substances is common.

Substances Hardest To Detox From

The more substances a person is addicted to, the more severe their withdrawal symptoms will be. That said, some of the more dangerous substances to detox from are alcohol, heroin, crack, cocaine, meth, and benzos. When a person is suffering from addiction to these substances, it is absolutely critical that they undergo the detox process in an accredited, professional addiction detox center. 24-hour observation and close monitoring from doctors and a full medical staff is imperative.

Can I Detox At Home?

In most cases, an official addiction detox or rehabilitation facility is highly recommended. When a person tries drug and alcohol detox at home, they are in the same environment that allowed their addiction to evolve in the first place. Removing triggers and avoiding overwhelming temptation and relapse can prove to be nearly impossible at times. 

Additionally, withdrawal symptoms of certain drugs can cause life-threatening conditions. Proper medical protocols and the insight of a physician trained in addiction is needed, especially if the person has underlying health issues. 

Insurance companies cover medical detox programs in almost every case. Why not take the safest route and go to a detox or rehabilitation facility for detox treatment? There is no financial burden, and it is so much safer than trying it on your own.

Sometimes ambulatory detox can be an option for those who don’t want to stay at a rehab facility for the length of the detox period. This involves attending the center for several hours every day, each day of the detox program. This is only advisable in low-risk cases, so discuss the possibility with a certified professional before choosing your treatment plan.

Same Day Treatment Options

Depending on their current capacity, many detox centers offer same-day detox, which means they can start your treatment right away. This is crucial in most circumstances. If a person is forced to go home before they can officially start their detox, it increases their chances of changing their mind and failing to go through detox at all. 

When seeking the right detox center, remember to ask about same-day treatment options. 

Learn more about Avenues drug detox and alcohol detox programs

What is the Next Step After Drug and Alcohol Detox?

Detoxing is merely the first step in a person’s recovery process. Therefore, the steps after detox are just as critical as the decision to begin. Detoxing alone will not provide the person with the tools necessary to sustain their recovery. Physicians and other staff members encourage patients to enter a rehabilitation center upon completing their detox program. 

Rehabilitation centers are designed to help those who have completed detox begin their first stages of recovery. Typically, a minimum 30-day stay at a rehabilitation center is recommended. This is the minimum length of time it takes to complete all of the programs that equip patients with the tools for a successful recovery journey. Learning new skills and forming new, healthier habits takes time as well. Spending 30 days away from one’s previous environment will make it easier to say no to those triggers in the future. 

In places like Avenues Recovery, extended care programs are available and a highly beneficial option that should definitely be explored.


Addiction detox is a difficult process that is bound to challenge you. With strong support and dedicated staff, Avenues Recovery will make your detox experience as comfortable as possible. Set yourself up with the drug and alcohol detox program that will provide the support you deserve as you embark on the journey to an addiction-free lifestyle. Choose Avenues! Contact an Avenues location today or read more about the rehab admissions process on our website.

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