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


Making the decision to start the long and rewarding journey of recovery is a commendable one. It is a decision that often requires a medical detox program to successfully accomplish but is something that is achievable for anyone. If you or someone you know is thinking of beginning detox and starting their recovery journey, they most likely have a lot of questions coming to mind about what detox is and how it actually works. 

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. The detox program physicians and nurses stay at the patients’ side to ensure they are as safe and comfortable as possible throughout their detox. 

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The information below will answer all the tough questions people have before entering a detox program.  

What Is Drug and Alcohol Detox?

When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the addiction runs deeper than mentally. The addiction affects them physically. That 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 leaves their system. 

The process of allowing substances to remove from the body, and all of the side effects that ensue because of this cleansing, is known as detox or detoxification. 

Detoxing can technically be done at home, but it is recommended that everyone seek out a professional detox program when they consider their recovery journey. It is also possible to quit drugs and alcohol altogether (“cold turkey”), but the type of addiction plays a major role in the safety of this choice. Some people that have multiple hard-core addictions might not be able to stop everything all at once. It might not be safe for their bodies. Therefore, medical detox under the 24-hour care of a physician is the only viable option. 

How do Detox Programs Work?

Detox programs are highly recommended because they set the person up for success. Not only does it promise that the person is in the safest care to undergo the symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal, but it removes the person from their daily environment, which is a crucial part of the beginning stages of the recovery process. 

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

A few of the different variables include: 

  • The type of addiction 
  • Whether or not the person is addicted to more than one substance
  • How long the person has been addicted
  • How many times they’ve relapsed
  • Underlying physical and mental health conditions 

These variables are some of the questions the person is asked upon arriving at a detox center. The person must first sit down for an evaluation to get their medical history in order as well as their addiction history. 

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

Once evaluation and diagnosis are complete, the patient begins their stay at the detox center. The patient will 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 hardest thing a person will go through, and detox facilities are specifically designed to make the process as easy as possible for the person. Therefore, around-the-clock nursing care is a must. 

How Long Does Detox Take?

The length of someone’s individualized detox treatment plan varies as well. Many of the above-stated variables also go into how long a person will detox as well. 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. This time period is also one of the most mentally trying times of the person’s recovery process. 

The type and number of different substances can also make the detox process last longer than a week because they 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 different addictive substances and medications, all of which have the ability to cause detox symptoms. Some detox symptoms are more serious than others, but none of them are easy to go through. 

Here is a brief list of some of the common addictive and 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-stated substances is common because of how addictive they all are in the first place. 

Substances Hardest To Detox From

The more substances a person is addicted to, the harder their detox 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 to 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 continue in the first place. Removing triggers and avoiding overwhelming temptation and relapse can prove to be nearly impossible at times. 

Additionally, going through withdrawal symptoms of certain drugs can cause life-threatening symptoms. Proper medication 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.

Same Day Treatment Options

Depending on their current capacity, many detox centers even 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 the chances that they will change their mind and not go through the detox at all. 

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

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 proper tools to help them progress their recovery, most of the time. The physician and other staff members encourage patients to enter a rehabilitation center upon completing their detox program. 

Rehabilitation centers are designed to help those that have completed detox begin their first stages of recovery. Typically, a minium 30-day stay is recommended at a rehabilitation center. 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. It also takes time to learn new skills and form new habits. Spending 30 days away from their 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 highly beneficial. It is an option that should absolutely be explored.


Addiction detox is a difficult process that will challenge you. With the right support and a strong staff, Avenues Recovery will make drug and alcohol detox 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!

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Brooke Abner,

Motivational Coach