Medical Detox Programs: What You Should Know 

November 10, 2023

6 mins

Jackie Rosu


A rehabilitation program, or rehab, can help detox patients cope with the worst withdrawal symptoms safely.

Problems from severe physical drug dependence don’t stop when the user quits the drug. People with severe substance use disorder (SUD) experience a process called detoxification, or detox, when they quit cold turkey. 

In detox, changes in the body and brain from drugs revert and the body violently returns to normal. People who drink or have an addiction to drugs like opiates and benzodiazepines experience powerful side effects that may require medical attention. 

A rehabilitation program, or rehab, can help detox patients cope with the worst of these symptoms. They include potent cravings, delirium tremens (DT), seizures, and even heart attacks. In theory, a patient could undergo the detox process at home. But the controlled environment of a rehab center keeps them away from the substances they crave. In extreme cases, it can provide immediate medical attention if withdrawal symptoms become high risk. 

Why Should I Go to a Detox Facility When In Recovery?

Detox is not a place, it is a process. Anyone can quit in the comfort of their own home, but the willpower necessary to overcome these cravings is intense. Further, the severe mental health symptoms associated with withdrawal can make the patient a danger to themselves or others. 

A rehab facility can design a tailored treatment plan for each patient, which helps reduce the chance of repeat treatments—a benefit for their long-term health and finances. 

More importantly, detox facilities have access to advanced medical processes and prescription drugs to treat withdrawal symptoms effectively. 

Tapering and Advanced Techniques

Tapering is a process where drug users reduce their usage over time rather than take a drug one day and nothing the next. This slow adjustment helps the body move away from the withdrawal effects of depressant drugs like alcohol and mitigate the worst withdrawal symptoms. A detox program at a rehab facility can set intervals between drugs and the amount of reduction tailored to the patient, ensuring they can taper safely. 

If tapering isn’t an option or withdrawal symptoms manifest regardless, detox facilities have emergency medical staff on standby. Their specialized training, fast response time, and intimate knowledge of the patient’s case help them respond to and treat life-threatening symptoms. 

Withdrawal symptoms, especially for chronic users, are serious enough to warrant vigilant medical presence.

Drug Withdrawal Symptoms 

Cold turkey detoxers struggle with cravings when they enter withdrawal. Changes in the brain make it associate their drug of choice with normal function. With SUD, chronic users’ bodies are only “normal” when they have alcohol, opiates, or benzodiazepines in their system. Withdrawal symptoms emerge as the body adapts to life without those drugs. 

The body works to adjust until about a week after the last drink or dosage. During those days, patients struggle. They experience powerful cravings, intense physical discomfort, mental disorientation, and potentially life-threatening symptoms.


In the study of addiction, a craving represents more than a sudden urge. These powerful, involuntary compulsions supersede patients’ willpower. Patients with severe addictions will do almost anything to obtain more drugs. Cravings intensify that motivation.

Detox creates a controlled environment with fewer distractions and close monitoring to keep patients from accessing the drugs they crave. People with SUD rely on impartial medical staff for support rather than friends and family (whom they can manipulate).  

Mental Health Problems 

Symptoms of withdrawal include

When severe mental health symptoms collide with cravings, they can drive patients to drastic measures and risk the health and safety of those around them. The patient’s body also enters a delicate physical situation as detox advances and erratic decisions can push patients toward severe and permanent harm. 

Detox Symptoms 

Different drugs change the body and cause varied detox symptoms. Alcohol and opiates detox both cause digestive disruption. Minor benzodiazepine withdrawal causes aches and pains, while severe symptoms include seizures. Alcohol withdrawal patients run the gamut from headaches to hallucinations and deadly fevers. 

Alcohol Detox Symptoms 

Chronic drinkers experience a sequence of symptoms that intensify and then fade over time. Moderate symptoms include headache, shaky hands, sweating, and vomiting. More severe cases include a racing heart, high blood pressure, and high fever. These symptoms can harm or kill vulnerable patients. 

The on-call medical staff at detox facilities have an intimate knowledge of these symptoms to ensure patients in critical condition receive medical intervention in seconds. Those seconds matter in life-threatening situations. 

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms 

Withdrawal from opiates like codeine, heroin, and morphine causes aches, sweating, and insomnia in the early stages of detox. Diarrhea, dilated pupils, nausea, and vomiting usually appear in the later stages. 

Detox treatment can help patients power through the discomfort of treatment and sustain sobriety. 

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms 

Patients who detox from “benzos” experience physical symptoms ranging from minor muscular pain and stiffness to withdrawal syndromes that can last up to two weeks. Severe cases can experience seizures and psychosis

Detox creates an environment for people with an addiction to face symptoms without hurting themselves or anyone else. 

How Do Detox Facilities Tailor Treatments to Their Patients? 

Detox treatments vary based on the drug. However, they can also account for: 

Expert detox facilities can construct a plan that accounts for the combinations of factors. Not all facilities can match every combination, which is where rehab placement services like Never Alone Recovery come in. Never Alone Recovery can find a specialized facility that targets the patient’s demographics, co-occurring symptoms, and addiction. 

Once a patient finds a facility that works for them, the facility can help them decide which treatment plan is best. Options include an array of inpatient and outpatient options, which the facility can adjust as treatment progresses. 

Unmonitored Outpatient 

The least intrusive form of detox treatment for minor addictions requires a few hours a day. Patients report their status to a doctor’s office or home healthcare agency while they stay at home. These third parties help keep them accountable and provide medical intervention when necessary. 

Monitored Outpatient 

Patients in monitored outpatient programs can still sleep at home but require more care to remain stable throughout the day. The patient commutes to a doctor’s office daily so medical staff can monitor them during their most vulnerable periods.

Residential Inpatient 

This level of detox is commonly referred to as “social detox'' and consists of 24/7 peer support in an isolated residential facility. These treatments create a residential plan where similar-risk patients can support one another without excessive medical oversight.

Medical Inpatient 

Patients at risk of more severe symptoms require round-the-clock medical supervision instead of 24/7 peer companionship and therapy. Immediate access to medical care helps stabilize them if their symptoms take a sudden turn for the worse.

Intensive Medical Inpatient 

Equivalent to hospitalization, intensive medical inpatient treatment keeps patients with life-threatening withdrawal symptoms stable until they recover. They can transition to less intensive inpatient treatment when the worst of their symptoms subside.

How Much Does Detox Cost? 

As with all medical treatments, detox costs vary widely with insurance coverage and provider networks. Never Alone Recovery offers insurance verification to help potential patients navigate the complicated process. 

Compounding factors for insurance costs include the types of treatment required, facility fees, medications, and duration of treatment. Some treatment plans require a few days, while others can take months.

How Long Does Detox Last? 

Detox lasts as long as needed for the patient to recover. The time frame varies with the substance, the intensity of treatment required, and the patient themselves. 

Addiction is a very personal experience, and treatment for addiction is just as unique. 

Finding a Detox Program 

If you are struggling to find a detox program that meets your needs—call us

Never Alone Recovery’s free drug rehab placement handles the stressful work so you can focus on detox preparations. Rather than search for something like “medical detox near me” and settle for the one that sounds the best, let us handle it. We can find the best detox in the US for your needs and help you get there. Our services include insurance verification, travel arrangements, and more. 

If you’re unsure if detox is right for you, take advantage of some of our other resources, like our free online support group. We also have a library of online resources with valuable information on life after recovery. 

We're On Medium!

We're sharing the recovery stories of our community members. Be sure to check out Never Alone Recovery on Medium to read those featured stories.



Get Your Free Consultation Now

No matter where you are or what you're going through, send us a secure message and someone from our team will get back to you.

Check Out Our eBook
Surviving Your Loved One's Addiction


$19.95 Value
Inside spread with pullquote