To Top

Quitting Drugs? Everything You Need to Know about Detoxification

Detox is the first step in quitting drugs, but it can be very dangerous if it is not done properly. Therefore, make sure to read this article before attempting the detox yourself.

[su_quote class=”cust-pagination”] “Addiction is not shameful. It is a disease.”― Raju Mangrola  [/su_quote]

 So, what is a detox?

Detoxification is, simply put, the process of getting the drugs out of your body. It can either be physiological, where you let your body work it out and remove the drugs, or medicinal, where you take certain drugs to accelerate the process. Either way, the bigger part of the job is done by the liver. When done properly, detox should be organized to manage withdrawal symptoms safely.

 How long does it last?

Detox is not a really quick process. Programs for rapid and ultra-rapid detoxification take 3-4 days and a couple of hours respectively. However, detox can last up to a couple of months depending on the drugs that the patient has developed an addiction to.

 Should a patient detox at home?

While going through detox at home might sound like a good way to ease the process to the patient, it must, and we cannot stress this enough, be done with medical supervision. There are trained physicians that can help avoid seizures and dehydration issues caused by “cold turkey” quitting, and if done too quickly, it can kill the patient. With alcohol detox, up to 25% of patients who decide to go through the process of the self-detoxification die.

Therefore, even if you know someone who wants to go through this at home, they should still obtain medical assistance. There are various outpatient detox programs, and they save lives. If, however, their addiction is severe, any patient should seek inpatient detoxification that includes 24-hour monitoring.

The process of detoxification

While the details vary for every patient, the United States Department of Health and Human Services has recognized a three step process of drug detox:


The first step of detox is to test and see which specific substances the patient has abused, which drugs are still in the bloodstream and exact amounts for each. But they do not just test for physical issues; the medical team will also evaluate the mental health of the patient, they will check for common disorders that tend to co-occur with drug abuse, previous mental issues, and other mental health problems. The medical team is also expected to do a complete review of the patients medical, psychiatric, and drug histories to help them set up the treatment plan.


The second step is there to guide the patient through the process of detox. The patient should be stabilized through medical and psychological therapy, and the main goal of this step is to avoid harm to the patient. Here, the doctor should also prescribe medication to stop complications and manage withdrawal symptoms.

Entering the treatment

Since detox is but a first step in rehabilitation, the final step includes preparing the patient to go on with his treatment. Such detox can only deal with what your body is capable of;  it cannot help with psychological aspects of addiction. Thus, the doctor will inform the patient of what their next steps should be and help them enroll in a rehab program.

 What are the side effects?

Detox is a really difficult process that can be painful and even dangerous, as we have already said. This is why you must have professional help. However, even with a proper medical detox, some symptoms simply cannot be avoided. So you should expect anxiety, troubles with sleeping, nausea, weakness, and mood swings.

 Rapid and Ultra-Rapid detox

There is a way to shorten the time a patient is in detox, but it is both costly and carries a certain amount of risk. That way would be going through one of these variations of rapid detox. Basically, the patient should be sedated and then given opioid antagonists that hasten the rate at which drugs are removed from the patient’s system. However, these come with increased risk of complications and even death from the treatment.

These complications are a cause for controversy as there are critics who claim that rapid detox doesn’t provide long-term efficacy and can even be detrimental to recovery.

Due to the safety issues (Ultra Rapid Detox kills 1 in every 500 patients), some detox centers have stopped offering that service for moral reasons.

More in Drug & Alcohol Rehab