Menu Close

Addiction Resources

Get Started Today

Contact us today to start your journey!

Detox: What to Expect

When one falls privy to an addiction, questions are raised. One thinks, “Should I seek treatment? Do I truly have a problem with substance abuse that is interfering with my ability to function on a daily basis?”

Through the answer to these questions, and a little feedback from loved ones, individuals with chemical dependency can garner the motivation and willingness to attend an inpatient and/or detox treatment center.

What Happens upon Entry to a Detox Facility?

When one first checks into a detox center or rehab clinic, the first step is the completion of an intake assessment. The addict converses with the intake manager and discusses logistical issues. In addition, one must fill out a plethora of paperwork upon checking into the premises.

If patients are completely transparent and honest while filling out the paperwork, they will receive the best drug detox benefits available. Omitting details can result in health complications, improper prescriptions to mitigate withdrawal symptoms and an overall inadequate detox process. For example, if a client is a polysubstance abuser – addicted to more than one drug simultaneously – rehab staff members must be made cognizant of these circumstances. Clinicians will alter the treatment regimen accordingly. Without knowledge of the scope and type of drugs used by the patient, detox staff members are unable to provide the best level of care for the patient.

If the patient has deep-seated reticence against relaying the facts, hopefully the pathology results will reflect the actual circumstances. Initial screenings are conducted to test chemical levels within the addict’s blood and urine. If the screening is not conducted immediately, it will most likely be conducted the following day.

Many rehab centers also check for tuberculosis and have patients undergo a brief on-site physical assessment. After the initial intake process is complete, rehab patients are exposed to the facility premises. A brief tour is conducted and certain amenities pertinent to the alcoholic are pointed out throughout the tour. The goal is to ensure that one feels comfortable, safe and secure throughout their stay in a detox center.

After the tour, the addict or alcoholic is introduced to the room in which he or she will reside for the treatment duration. In many cases, addicts and alcoholics share a room with recovering peers. In other cases, e.g., within luxury treatment centers, private rooms are available.

>>> READ THIS NEXT: Basics of Residential Rehab

Is the Detox Process Painful?

Many addicts and alcoholics worry that the detoxification process will be painful, uncomfortable and unpleasant. The truth is, detox is designed to be as painless and smooth a process as possible. With that said, things to keep in mind include:

  • Physical constraints, such as underlying medical conditions that require additional treatment, can compound pain experienced during detox. However, clinicians on-site are authorized to prescribe counter-indicative prescriptions with the intention of mitigating unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. For example, Ativan is sometimes administered to patients withdrawing from alcohol to ease delirium tremors (DTs). For a heroin addict, Methadone may be administered to help regulate neurological pathways once again.
  • Clinicians wean the patient off of all substances eventually – sometimes in a matter of days, for others in a matter of weeks. This process can be met with resistance on behalf of the addict or alcoholic; completely weaning off all drugs that have assisted with the detox process can present itself as a scary, unknown darkness which patients are fearful to enter.
  • Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) can last from six to 12 months after the addict’s last drug dose. This is also true for sufferers of alcoholism. The residual effects associated with detox can last for a very long time; patients must exhibit patience as they traverse the road toward a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms include impaired memory, clumsiness, occasional vertigo, headaches, oversleeping or insomnia, irritability, mood swings, depression, anxiety, drug-induced psychosis in the case of prolonged meth use, teeth clenching, vivid dreams, agitation, loss of appetite and many others depending on the patient’s drug of choice
  • Detox regimens are tailored to the physical, psychological and emotional needs of each patient. There is no one “correct” avenue through which patients detoxify from chemicals. In a general sense, detox regimens share similar characteristics such as the type of drug administered to combat withdrawals or the length of time in which clients can expect PAWS, but the process is individualized. For some individuals, detox is made more difficult by the emotional changes associated with drug withdrawal.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms and Transitioning into a Drug-Free Lifestyle

In terms of the latter, emotional detox is the secondary component of a proper detox from drugs and alcohol. What is an emotional detox? Emotional detox is the process of coming to accept and embrace life as it is.

Happy woman in a therapy group

Facing emotions head-on, communicating needs, expressing desires and voicing problems – all of these skills are acquired throughout the emotional detoxification period.

Clients are accustomed to a specific lifestyle that has encompassed drugs, partying and self-destructive behavior for weeks, months or years prior to entering a drug treatment facility. Part of the emotional work involves unearthing feelings that have been pushed under the rug, rebuilding trust with family members and slowly refueling the individual’s stash of self-esteem.

Progress does not occur overnight. Patients – and family members – must be patient, caring and supportive in order to ensure a smooth detoxification from alcohol and drugs. The process takes hard work that is both emotional and physical in nature.