No matter what type of help a person seeks for substance abuse, the first step is always drug and alcohol detoxification treatment. The objective of drug and alcohol detox is to cleanse the body of all the toxins that have accumulated through substance abuse that negatively influence the individual’s mental, physical and emotional health. Drug and alcohol detoxification treatment is associated with withdrawal symptoms many of which have been over-dramatized by the media to make many fearful of this crucial stage of rehabilitation.

In this article, we address what’s actually involved in the detox process and what people are likely to expect when they have made the momentous decision to seek help for substance abuse. Although it is not without its challenges, drug and alcohol detox is nevertheless the most important step on the road to recovery from substance abuse. That said, every individual has their own experience of detox and different factors come into play when coming off drugs or alcohol such as how long they have been abusing them and to what extent.

The Factors Determining Severity of Withdrawal

Getting through withdrawal symptoms from drugs or alcohol can take days or months depending on the individual concerned. There are several factors that determine the length of time it takes a person to complete drug and alcohol detoxification treatment including:

  • The type of substance used
  • The duration the person has been addicted
  • The method of abuse with drugs such as smoking, injecting, snorting, etc
  • The dose or volume of drugs and alcohol normally used
  • Family history
  • Genetics
  • The condition of mental and physical health

When you consider the different factors contributing to substance abuse working in combination with many different personality types, it is not surprising that addiction is such a complex illness.

Can I Detox at Home?

In almost all circumstances, opting to detox at home can be dangerous. There are also serious health issues that can be caused by withdrawal symptoms during drug and alcohol detoxification treatment such as dehydration and seizures. Again, the risk of these more dangerous symptoms emerging is totally unknown.

It is often crucial to a successful outcome to have supervision throughout drug and alcohol detox. This doesn’t mean just having someone standing by to rush the individual to a hospital if necessary. Going through withdrawal in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center where there are qualified addiction professionals on hand to treat difficult symptoms is often the difference between successfully detoxing and relapsing.

The Process of Detoxification

As mentioned above, everyone’s experience of detox is different which makes it important to provide a personalized plan in a center for alcohol and drug treatment. Generally speaking, the following three steps are involved in detoxification from drugs and alcohol:


When clients enter a detox program they are first of all screened for any physical or mental health issues which may have an impact on the severity of withdrawal. Physicians will take blood tests to measure the level of drugs or alcohol in the client’s system. All of the results of such an evaluation are used to personalize treatment for the specific needs of the individual.


When detoxing in a center for alcohol and drug treatment, patients are stabilized as they experience withdrawal so as to prevent any harmful complications from developing. This is done using a range of medical, psychological and holistic therapies which all combine to reduce withdrawal symptoms.

Preparing Entry into Rehabilitation

The final stage of detox has the objective of preparing clients for further rehabilitation. It is always useful to continue in the same drug and alcohol rehabilitation center where detox was completed so as to provide a continuum of personalized care. It is widely believed that a program in a residential or inpatient center for alcohol and drug treatment is more effective in promoting long-term recovery.

Side Effects of Detox

Detox is not without its challenges and some symptoms can be painful and very dangerous. This is the main reason supervised detox is crucial for the health of the individual concerned. When people detox from alcohol or drugs in a safe environment, they are more likely to go on to rehab treatment and ultimately enjoy a fulfilling substance-free life when they’ve completed their program.

Although supervised detox reduces withdrawal symptoms, there are some that are unavoidable including the following:

  • Restlessness and anxiety
  • Sleeplessness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Physical discomfort
  • Mood swings
  • Sluggishness and difficulty concentrating

Ensure the Best Outcomes from Detox

Detoxification from alcohol and drugs is without a doubt the hardest step in overcoming substance abuse. However, once completed the path is then free to navigate through rehab and into recovery without the influence of drugs and alcohol. Learning to live without substances inevitably means making considerable lifestyle changes which are more effectively made when the foundations have been laid in residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. Every person with substance abuse issues will find their own path to recovery although following a strategy that has been personalized for their individual needs is more likely to result in long-term success.