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People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol often need a detoxification process as the first step to recovering from this issue. While the process may seem simple enough, it includes a complex stepwise approach through which an addict tackles an addiction’s physical and mental side effects as a first step. As known as detox, detoxification serves as an essential cornerstone for achieving long-lasting sobriety and, therefore, must be performed properly for a good quality of life ahead.

Detoxification is a process through which an addict removes all traces of drugs or alcohol from their body while ensuring they are physically stable and ready to begin rehabilitation. While detox may not always be a part of every addiction treatment program, many rehabs expect their patients to have completed it before they start addiction therapy.

Drug addiction can easily make an individual’s body habitual of having these substances in their system. When their levels gradually begin to reduce through a detox, the brain attempts to readjust itself to these declining levels. This typically causes people to experience several unpleasant symptoms, commonly known as withdrawal symptoms.

A drug detox process aims to minimise the impact of these negative withdrawal symptoms while making the entire experience as comfortable and safe as possible. Detox can be of different types, depending on the level of care at which it takes place and what the process involves. Some people even attempt to do so on their own at home; however, it is not advised to go ahead with this plan as it can be highly risky and potentially life-threatening.

People who are addicted to any of the following drugs typically need to undergo a detox before they can engage in addiction therapy:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Meth
  • Opioids
  • Crack cocaine
  • MDMA

Just as an addiction treatment plan must always be personalised, a detox program also requires individualisation to improve the chances of recovery. The type of drug a person is using, and their level of dependence greatly determine how a detox should take place and its context.

Most people suffering from drug addictions choose to undergo a medically-supervised drugs detox which comprises the following steps:

Medical Assessments

The first step in a medical detox process is for all patients to undergo a detailed medical assessment. The purpose of these assessments is to help experts build an accurate picture of their individual needs. As a part of this process, the expert gathers data regarding the patient’s medical history and other details regarding their addiction and uses the information to curate a personalised detox plan.


When the amount of drugs or alcohol in a patient’s body drops, they start experiencing symptoms called withdrawal symptoms. The type of withdrawal symptoms a person develops depends on various factors, such as how long they have been using a drug, the frequency of use, the drug dose, and the type of drug they have been using. Their current mental and physical health also plays a role in determining the severity of these withdrawal symptoms.

It is essential to remember that each person uniquely goes through a drug detox, and the experience can be entirely different from others. Mentioned below are some common physical symptoms associated with a medically-supervised detox:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea
  • Runny nose
  • Shivering and shakiness
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Chills and high temperature
  • Headaches
  • Increased heart rate
  • Exhaustion
  • Pain in muscles and bones
  • Unpleasant and vivid dreams
  • Abdominal cramps

The most common psychological symptoms associated with the detoxification of drugs include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Extreme mood swings

In rare cases, some people may end up developing life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Delirium


To help people cope with drug withdrawal safely and effectively, many experts prescribe controlled medication as a part of the detox process. While no medication can completely prevent withdrawal symptoms, some can ease their intensity, improve sleep, and counteract and neutralise as many problems as possible.

Depending on the individual circumstances, an expert may administer the following medications to minimise the severity of withdrawal and increase the success rate of a drugs detox:

  • Alcohol Withdrawal: Disulfiram, Acamprosate, Naltrexone
  • For Blood Pressure: Clonidine
  • Sleep Promotion: Ambien and other sleep supplements
  • Mitigation of Drug Cravings: Vivitrol
  • Seizure Treatment: Diazepam
  • Anxiety Management: Benzodiazepines

Round-the-Clock Support

Research indicates that compassionate and supportive care is equally crucial as medication in successfully enabling the process of drug detoxification with the best possible outcomes for patients. Hence, many rehabs for detox UK ensure that all individuals undergoing detox undergo careful monitoring and have access to emotional, psychological, and physical support at all hours of the day.

Drug detox can be of different types, and experts choose one that best fits their patients’ clinical needs. Many detoxification programs use the medical model of detoxification, which indicates a process that includes clinical staff members, such as nurses and physicians, to make an individual safely pass through the process.

Drug detoxification can occur in different settings with different intensity levels. However, official authorities recognise the following five types of detox depending on their levels of care:

Ambulatory Detoxification Without Extended On-Site Monitoring

This type of detox program takes place on an outpatient basis with predetermined intervals. An example can be a detox process that takes place under the supervision of a home healthcare agency or at a physician’s office.

Ambulatory Detoxification With Extended On-Site Monitoring

This type of detoxification takes place on the same level of care as above but includes credentialed nurses who monitor patients for a couple of hours per day.

Clinically Managed Residential Detoxification

This type of detox process comes with round-the-clock supervision. Also known as social detoxification, it comes with minimal oversight and focuses more on social and peer recovery support.

Medically Monitored Inpatient Detoxification

This level of care for detox is more restrictive than the one mentioned above. The process comes with round-the-clock supervision and cares, along with support for all patients going through a withdrawal.

Medically Managed Intensive Inpatient Detoxification

As a detox program’s most restrictive placement level, it provides 24/7 supervision and cares in an inpatient setting for patients experiencing withdrawal.

A rapid detox involves a method of removing substances from a person’s body at a much faster rate than a regular detox. Advocates of a rapid detox system call this process a faster way to get the drugs out of the system while preventing painful withdrawal symptoms. However, it must be kept in mind that rapid detox processes can not only be expensive but equally dangerous. As a part of this process, a person suffering from a substance use disorder is sedated with anaesthesia and provided medication that replaces the drugs in the body. The method initially came into being for people addicted to opiate drugs, including painkillers and heroin, and its risks often outweigh the benefits. The risks of undergoing a rapid detox include the following:

  • Heart attack
  • High body temperature
  • Paranoia
  • Choking
  • Infection
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Death

Ultra-rapid detox programs are even faster than rapid detox and may take only a few hours. However, according to statistics, these methods also come with a very high risk, with approximately one in every 500 people dying from them. Moreover, many people who undergo rapid or ultra-rapid detox may continue to experience withdrawal symptoms even after the process has been completed, but usually at a lower intensity. Such people are also less likely to continue working on their treatment and recovery process, and many end up relapsing very soon.



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