Medical Detox the First Step in Recovery

For many people, medical detox is a critical necessity at the very beginning of addiction recovery.

This kind of supervised, professional care can make all the difference in helping you cope with even the worst symptoms of substance withdrawal.

It can also help you prepare to pursue additional treatment once you reach a stable state of initial sobriety.


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What is Medical Detox

Medical detox is the common term for a two-part process used in inpatient programs.

During the first part of detox, you receive help dealing with the effects of any drugs or alcohol still in your system. You also halt your substance intake.

During the next part of detox, you’ll go through the process of alcohol or drug withdrawal. Withdrawal occurs because of the physical and chemical nature of addiction.

When you’re addicted to a substance, your brain expects you to keep using it. If you don’t keep using it (or quickly cut back your intake), your brain will send out warning signals.

That’s true because it has come to view the presence of drugs or alcohol as a normal condition. The warning signals from your brain appear in the form of withdrawal symptoms.

In some cases, those symptoms can be relatively minor. However, they can also take a more serious form. Serious withdrawal can make you feel extremely unwell.

In a worst-case scenario, it can also threaten your life.


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What Happens During Medical Detox

You may wonder what to expect during detox. All effective programs rely on a basic, three-step process.

This process begins with a complete evaluation of your condition, and continues with steps to stabilize and support you.

In the final phase, detox programs prepare you for entry into primary addiction treatment.

Some programs go through these steps in a consecutive order. However, others use all three of them at the same time.

For this reason, the course of a day in detox varies from person to person.


Evaluating Your Situation

The medical detox intake process is designed to evaluate your unique situation. It begins with blood testing that reveals the amount of alcohol or drugs in your system.

Your evaluation will also cover all aspects of your physical well-being and mental health. In addition, your doctor will examine any details of your personal life that may affect your recovery.


Stabilizing Your Condition

During stabilization, you receive the help needed to cope with the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

In many cases, this help includes the use of medication. That’s especially true for people going through alcohol or opioid withdrawal.

You may also receive a tapering dose of benzodiazepines during benzodiazepine withdrawal. There are not medications available for all forms of substance withdrawal.

Instead of giving you medication, your doctor may focus on monitoring your symptoms and making you as comfortable as possible. In addition, anyone going through medical detox may receive counseling or therapy.

You will reach a stable condition once your withdrawal symptoms are gone or well under control.


Medical Detox - A group of young adults who has just completed medical detox sits in their first primary addiction treatment group therapy session.


Getting You Ready for Primary Treatment

Experts universally recommend that you enter formal treatment after completing medical detox.

Why? Because failure to do so greatly increases your chances of returning to substance abuse. For this reason, detox programs emphasize the necessity of following up with treatment enrollment.

They also explain what happens in treatment and how you can prepare for it.


Who Needs Medically Supervised Detox

Medical detox is required for anyone with withdrawal symptoms severe enough to need medical treatment. That includes treatment from a doctor.

It also includes treatment from nurses, therapists and other trained support staff.

Depending on your situation, the symptoms that lead to medically managed care may include:


  • Dangerous changes in the function of your heart, lungs or other vital organs
  • Disruptions in your normal ability to think clearly and make decisions
  • Dangerous or seriously disruptive behavior
  • Loss of emotional control

Whenever possible, your doctor will collaborate with you on any treatment you receive. However, some people don’t have the ability to take part in treatment decisions.

In these circumstances, a guardian or other designated third party can act on your behalf.


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How Long Does Medical Detox Take

You may wonder, how long is medical detox for drugs. You may also wonder, how long is medical detox for alcohol. Unfortunately, no one can answer these questions for sure.

Why? Because the medical detox timeline varies from case to case.

Factors that can affect your length of stay in a detox program include:


  • The substance responsible for triggering your withdrawal symptoms
  • The specific withdrawal symptoms you experience
  • The severity of your withdrawal symptoms
  • The length of time you’ve used drugs or alcohol

Most people complete the withdrawal process in a matter of days. However, others require more time. That’s especially true if they experience serious complications during the process.


Where Is Medical Detox Performed

Medical detox programs can be based in a range of different facilities. One common option is a private facility designed for this specific purpose like we have at Pathfinders. You can also find programs based in:


  • General hospitals
  • General hospitals equipped with psychiatric units
  • Specialized detox facilities with medical staff like Pathfinders

All of these facilities offer the staff and equipment needed to safeguard you during substance withdrawal. Your doctor can help determine which option works best in your situation.


Medical Detox - The doctors and nurses of the medical detox team look at a patients chart to go over the next steps.


Medical Detox or At-Home Detox

Some people may wonder about medical detox vs. at-home detox. By definition, medical detox is for people heavily affected by the symptoms of drug or alcohol addiction.

In fact, they’re so affected that they need medical oversight to safeguard their health. Anyone in this situation should never seriously consider going through detox on their own.

Doing so could lead to severe discomfort that increases your odds of returning to substance abuse. It can also expose you to life-threatening emergencies without any access to expert care.

Only your doctor can determine if you need medical detox. Don’t attempt to make this crucial decision on your own.


What to Take With You to Medical Detox

You may wonder what to bring to detox. All programs have lists of allowed items. They also have lists of items you must leave at home.

Things you can take with you in the typical program include:


  • A few days’ worth of clean clothes that meet guidelines for appropriate style and type
  • Any required prescription medications
  • Alcohol-free hygiene products
  • Your driver’s license or other I.D.
  • Recovery-related books, magazines or pamphlets
  • A personal music player

Things you typically can’t take with you include:


  • A cell phone
  • Any other device that can take pictures or connect to the Internet
  • Personal food
  • Physically revealing clothing
  • Lighters
  • Alcohol-based hygiene products
  • Pornographic material
  • Weapons

Check with your chosen facility to get an exact idea of what you can and can’t bring.


Cost of Medical Detox

So, how much does medical detox cost? The answer to that question is not the same for all people. Some people pay little or nothing to enroll in a detoxification program.

However, others may find themselves facing a substantial detox bill. Does insurance cover medical detox? For some people, the answer to this question is yes.

An insurance policy may cover the entire cost or substantially reduce the amount you must pay. On the other hand, some plans may not cover the costs of a detox program.

In addition, some people may not have any insurance at all. If you fall into either of these two categories, don’t panic.

At Pathfinders Recovery Center we take steps to make treatment as widely available as possible. We do so by offering payment agreements that you can negotiate to meet your needs.


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Learn More About Medical Detox

Medical detox is a form of short-term, inpatient addiction treatment. It’s designed to deal with the effects of any substances still in your system.

Doctors also use detox to help you cope with serious or severe symptoms of substance withdrawal. Methods used in detoxification programs include general monitoring and support, medication and counseling or therapy.

During detox, you will go through a thorough evaluation. You will also receive the help needed to stabilize your condition.

In addition, the benefits of medical detox programs include preparation for follow-up enrollment in a treatment program. You will need medical detox if your withdrawal symptoms are serious enough to call for a doctor’s care.

Want to learn more about medical detox programs at Pathfinders?

Contact us today at 877-224-0761.

Our staff of specialists is standing by to provide the information you need to choose the program that’s right for you.


  • 7580 E Gray Rd Suite 201 Scottsdale, AZ 85260
  • (877) 224-0761
  • Mon-Sun: 24x7


  • 2953 S Peoria St. Suite 230 Aurora, CO 80014
  • (877) 224-0761
  • Mon-Sun: 24x7

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