Detox for Drugs: What Happens During Detox?

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Detox for drugs or alcohol addiction is the first vital step in an ongoing recovery process.

Before engaging with inpatient or outpatient treatment, you must first purge the residual toxins from substance abuse from your system. Detoxification timelines vary from person to person and according to the substance being used, typically taking between five and ten days.

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A supervised medical detox is the most comfortable method of detoxification, and it is also the safest approach. Detoxing in a licensed medical detox center offers you access to medications to soothe the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. You will also benefit from around-the-clock emotional and clinical care. 

Detox, a precursor to rehab and recovery, addresses the physical aspect of substance abuse and drug or alcohol dependence. After a week or so of medically monitored withdrawal, you will be ready to tackle the fiercely psychological component of substance use disorder (drug addiction) or alcohol use disorder (alcoholism)

What is a Drug Detox?

Detox for drugs or alcohol is an abbreviation for detoxification. During detox, your system metabolizes and expels toxins and toxic by-products. These toxins accumulate as a result of chronic substance abuse. 

Every dedicated detox program has three core goals: 

  • Allowing you to process toxins from your system as safely and comfortably as possible.
  • Using medications to manage withdrawal symptoms, if appropriate.
  • Helping you to transition from detox into an addiction treatment program, whether inpatient, outpatient, or virtual.

There are two main types of detox: 

  1. Medical detox: A clinical detox in a licensed medical detox center is always recommended for moderate and severe addictions. Some people find a medical detox acts as a springboard into outpatient programming, while others segue from detox into inpatient rehab, also known as residential rehab. With access to FDA-approved medications to streamline withdrawal, an environment free of triggers and addictive substances, and a committed team devoted to your clinical and emotional care, medical detox is the optimum foundational step on the recovery journey for most people addicted to drink or drugs.
  2. Home detox: For those with very mild addictions and no risk profile for severe withdrawal symptoms, discontinuing substance use in a social setting is the other detox option.

Remember: Quitting alcohol or drugs using the cold turkey method at home is not only dangerous, but potentially fatal. Reach out to California Detox and build a solid foundation for your ongoing recovery while mitigating risks and complications. 

An image of a man considering doing a detox for drugs

Why Go to a Treatment Center?

Although you may have heard anecdotal evidence that cold turkey home detoxes can be effective, home detoxes more frequently deliver negative outcomes. You’ll have no medical support, no medications to streamline withdrawal symptoms, and you may have access to addictive substances. These factors combine to increase the risk of relapse with a home detox. 

Intense cravings for substances are a diagnostic criterion for drug addiction and alcoholism. Cravings are also a central feature of detox and withdrawal. Many people detoxing at home end up using alcohol or drugs to alleviate cravings, whereas those in a medical detox center cannot resort to this self-defeating tactic without first discharging themselves from the facility.  

Withdrawing from alcohol at home is potentially fatal. Up to one in twenty people with severe alcohol use disorder will experience DTs (delirium tremens). This is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal and can be life-threatening if symptoms present outside of a medical setting. 

Additionally, those with more severe addictions to opioids (both heroin and synthetic opioid painkillers), benzodiazepines like Xanax, and stimulants like meth should engage with a supervised medical detox at a treatment center. 

How do you detox someone from drugs, then? 

What Happens During Detox?

According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), the average drug detox lasts for eight days. 

During acute withdrawal, you will be actively supervised and medically monitored. If you require emotional support, you will have access to mental health professionals and addiction specialists in a medical detox center. 

Medications can be administered during detox as follows: 

  • Opioid withdrawal: Buprenorphine, methadone, naltrexone.
  • Alcohol withdrawal: Disulfiram, naltrexone, acamprosate.
  • Anxiety: benzodiazepines.
  • Cravings: Vivitrol
  • Sleep: Ambien and other z-drugs.
  • Blood pressure: Clonidine
  • Seizure: Diazepam

Where detox for drugs or alcohol is a mainly physical process, sustained sobriety is predominantly psychological. If you detox in a treatment center, you will increase your chances of sustained recovery without relapse. 

What is the Detox Process?

The detox process involves three critical phases: 

  1. Evaluation: An initial assessment at a detoxification center enables a clinical professional to determine the withdrawal and acute intoxication potential for patients. Based on this initial evaluation, the treatment team is able to create a personalized detox plan with the appropriate level of care.
  2. Stabilization: This phase of drug or alcohol detox involves the patient following the treatment plan, with medications administered as necessary.
  3. Encouraging a transition into ongoing treatment: Detox alone is not typically enough to help you achieve long-term sobriety. No attention is paid to the social and psychological aspects of substance abuse during detox. You will focus on those elements in an ongoing treatment program, whether inpatient, outpatient, or virtual in delivery.

Although most detoxes follow this process, every addiction is unique, and every individual has different needs. The most effective detox is always highly personalized and takes place in a controlled medical setting. 

Is Drug Detox Safe?

Drug detox is safe if you avoid quitting cold turkey at home and engage the services of a dedicated detox center. 

Quitting alcohol, opioids, or benzos in a non-medical setting is not safe, and could be life-threatening. 

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Get Help at California Detox

Detoxing from alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs is likely to be an uncomfortable experience. By engaging with the withdrawal process at California Detox, though, it will be safe and less overwhelming. 

We provide all of the services outlined above and the committed treatment team will help you to move from physical dependence and active addiction into the first phase of recovery and sobriety. 

After a week or so, you’ll be ready to engage with ongoing therapy for alcoholism, drug addiction, or mental health conditions. For those with co-occurring addictions and mental health disorders, we offer integrated and coordinated dual diagnosis treatment

Choose from treatment programs at all levels of intensity, from virtual rehab and traditional outpatient programs through to IOPs (intensive outpatient programs), PHPs (partial hospitalization programs), and residential rehab. 

All California Detox treatment programs draw from EBTs (evidence-based treatments) and holistic interventions, including:

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Counseling (group and individual)
  • Psychotherapy (CBT and DBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies

Detox from drugs today by reaching out to admissions at 949.567.8790.


The detox process begins with a comprehensive evaluation so the treatment team can create a customized withdrawal plan. You then discontinue use of the substance, in some cases with a tapered reduction of dosage. Medications can be administered to streamline withdrawal and you will be closely medically monitored throughout seven to ten days of withdrawal and detox.
Detox is a series of interventions intended to manage acute intoxication and drug or alcohol withdrawal. During detox, toxins are purged from the body. This triggers withdrawal symptoms that can be most effectively managed in a licensed medical detox center.


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