Before You Choose a Detox Program

Detox is a must if you are medically compromised by your alcohol or drug use, if required by another program, or if you want to quit but don't feel you have the self-control to taper or reduce gradually. Detox programs cleanse alcohol and other drugs from your body safely, preventing physical withdrawal from killing you or making you ill. Your psychological addiction will remain, but your physical tolerance will be greatly reduced, making it unsafe to drink or use again.

Follow-up treatment is essential to get you through the long haul to abstinence, controlled use, or substitution with a prescribed drug.


  • Detox is the safest way to come off alcohol and other drugs.
  • Medical attention is available 24/7.
  • Drugs will be administered to make you more comfortable and to control your symptoms.
  • The process of detox is quite short -- over within a week or two.
  • Detox provides excellent preparation for residential, and sometimes for outpatient treatment.


    • High risk of death by overdose or poisoning if you relapse afterwards.
    • Deals with the physical but not the psychological dependence.
    • Affordable facilities are not luxurious.
    • Luxurious facilities are not cheap.
    • Detox is often physically and psychologically unpleasant.

      Why Detox?

      Detoxification is a physical process. It involves getting the alcohol or drugs out of your body without you having to experience the most unpleasant and dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

      It is unsafe to quit alcohol and many other drugs without the medical management you can get in detox.

      The medical management of your symptoms will involve administering drugs to prevent you from dying or becoming ill from the withdrawal process. This works by the administration of drugs which act on the body and brain in some of the same ways as your drug of choice.

      Other medications may be used to make you more comfortable.

        What Is the Process Like?

        The physical process of detoxification is unpleasant. Drugs create rebound effects, so the withdrawal symptoms you go through tend to be opposite to the feelings and sensations you experience when you drink or take drugs. You will also experience the same desire to drink and take drugs you usually do, but without doing so.

          What If I Have Another Mental Health Problem?

          If you have a concurrent mental health problem, such as depression, detox is important to establish whether or not the mental health problem is caused by substance use. This will be assessed after detox is complete and you have established a period of abstinence. In many cases, mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and even psychotic symptoms, are actually an effect of the substance.

          You will still need support in overcoming your addiction, as detox only deals with the physical aspects. Therefore, you will find residential or outpatient treatment, or a support group helpful after completing detox.

            Will I Need Mental Health Treatment After Detox?

            If your mental health symptoms clear up after you have become abstinent, they may be substance-induced, in which case, you may not require medication. Ideally, you should not take medications that are unnecessary. Close monitoring by a psychiatrist is still a good idea, to ensure symptoms do not return.

            If your mental health symptoms remain or worsen after becoming abstinent, you may benefit from prescription medications and other therapy to address the mental health problem. For many people, this can be the start of feeling good for the first time.

              How Do I Get Into a Detox Program?

              Some programs have first-come, first-served intake, others require advance booking and/or a referral.

              Costs have to be covered, so ensure you have insurance, money, or other arrangements in place.

                How About When I Get Out?

                Stock up on healthy, non-perishable food, and arrange to have a supportive person or two live with you or visit daily, to ensure you are OK and haven't relapsed.

                Make a plan for dealing with people you drink or take drugs with -- inform them or plan to avoid them.

                If possible, book yourself into a residential treatment program, or outpatient or community clinic, or to see a psychiatrist, or your family doctor.

                Keep details of nearby support groups and a hotline number -- call if you feel ill or triggered to drink or use drugs. If you relapse and feel unwell, call 911. It could save your life.

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