Celebrity stays in drug and alcohol detox are blasted across the covers of smear magazines that line the checkout aisle at grocery stores. Someone you liked to watch on a reality television show might have gone to detox after a particularly damaging drug and alcohol binge. Even some public figureheads have gone through a widely publicized detox treatment stay.
But what do you actually know about drug and alcohol detox? There are many questions surrounding detox:
- Which substances require detox?
- What is the detox process?
- How much does detox cost?
- What should I expect from detox?
- How long will detox be?
- What should I bring to detox?
These are just a few of the many questions covered in this guide. It was written to help you learn everything you need to know about drug and alcohol detox. Whether you’re an addict or alcoholic actively struggling or a concerned parent, friend, or family member hoping to find help for your loved one, this guide will help you understand what detox is, how you can select a detox, and what to expect.
It doesn’t have to be a scary or embarrassing time. Instead, drug and alcohol detox can be an incredible first step towards a brand new life free at last from the grip of drugs and alcohol.
About Drug and Alcohol Detox
- What is detox?
The detox process, short for detoxification, is the process of separating of someone with substance dependence from their substance of choice. Some substances that require detox include:
Detox helps people through the withdrawal experienced after quitting drugs and alcohol and stabilizes their body afterwards. Whether they’re an alcoholic, an addict, or an just an individual who relies too heavily upon any sort of mind-altering substance, drug and alcohol detox helps to begin the process of getting sober by first clearing out their system.
Drug and alcohol detox takes place under the medical supervision of doctors and nurses equipped to handle the symptoms and immediate aftermath of separating from drug or alcohol dependence.
- Who needs detox?
Anyone living with severe drug and alcohol dependence will experience withdrawal symptoms during the first few days to weeks of separating from their substances of choice. Depending on the intensity of abuse, detox may be necessary to safely get through this period. Drug and alcohol detox provides a medically supervised and managed place to withdraw from drugs and alcohol. While not every addict or alcoholic will need it, it’s highly recommended for those who have extreme addictions or alcoholism.
- Which substances require detox?
People can develop severe enough addictions to nearly any substance to warrant a stay in drug and alcohol detox. There are many substances that require detox, but some of the most severe withdrawal symptoms occur after addictions to:
- Prescription drugs
Each drug and alcohol detox treatment center’s website will have a list of the substances they are equipped to handle. Certain treatment centers specialize in treating those addicted to specific substances that require detox, while others manage all types of substance addictions.
- Do I have to go to detox to get sober?
Detox is not necessarily “required” to get sober, but it is highly suggested in severe cases. Withdrawals can be difficult and often dangerous to manage alone, especially when an individual is addicted to opiates. While there is no hard set rule for getting sober, in order to get sober safely, detox may be a necessary step.
- Is detox the same as inpatient treatment?
Many detoxes take place in an inpatient facility in order to provide the best, safest treatment possible. For extreme cases, overnight inpatient stays are necessary when attending detox. Doctors and nurses want to provide round-the-clock care and be available should any medical emergencies arise. In these cases, inpatient care is the only way to manage this.
Other detoxes for less severe cases of addiction or alcoholism are managed on an outpatient basis, where the individual will come in daily to receive medication and then go home for the day.
Whether drug and alcohol detox is inpatient or outpatient depends on the facility and what they offer. Assess your or your loved one’s needs before selecting a list of detoxes to pick from to ensure they can provide the best care possible.
Selecting a Drug and Alcohol Detox
- Where do I go to detox?
There are more than 15,000 treatment centers in the United States, providing plenty of options to pick from. Some centers are detox only, some transfer clients to an onsite inpatient treatment after the detox program is over and others will transfer individuals to off site, pre-arranged facility.
The detox you select will depend upon your needs as an individual. Determine the best course of action or get in touch with a few treatment centers to talk through your options. Before selecting a program, ensure they are able to handle the needs you have.
- How do I select a detox?
There are many websites available that offer full directories of available detox facilities as well as information regarding the facility. It may be helpful to utilize a website like this to develop a list of potential detoxes for your particular situation. Once you have a list of possible facilities, contact each one and ask a few questions to find out whether or not they will be a fit for you. Some questions you might want to ask are:
- What is your detox process and general length of stay?
- What does a typical day at your facility look like?
- Do you use any additional programs in your facility?
- What is your approach to recovery?
- How do you handle aftercare?
Feel free to have this guide handy while talking with them and ask some of the questions outlined here. It’s imperative you understand a facility’s capabilities and offerings before paying large amounts of money for their help.
Paying for Detox
- How much does detox cost?
There is a wide range of detox facilities, each at different price points. Some lower-end facilities offer available at low- or no-cost options for those who qualify. Additionally, there are luxury facilities that cost upwards of $30,000 for your weeklong stay. If a facility’s pricing is not available on their website, call to receive more information. There is a detox for every budget but be sure to find out pricing information before selecting a facility.
- Does detox take insurance?
This depends on the facility. Some facilities take all types of insurance, some take state insurance, some accept just private insurance and others take cash-only payments. There is a detox available for nearly every budget and insurance option but limit your search to those who accept the type of insurance you have available.
- What if I don’t have the money for detox?
The present state of health care and some for-profit detoxes may make it seem impossible to afford treatment, but do not rule it out. Many facilities are willing to work with individuals honestly seeking assistance. Some locations offer low- or no-cost treatment and some offer scholarships. As the old adage says, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” If you earnestly seek treatment, you will find a way to go.
What Happens in Detox
- What is the detox process like?
This depends on the facility. Different drug and alcohol detoxes offer different methods of treatment. Generally, the detox process involves spending your time there in bed managing your withdrawals from drugs or alcohol. While detoxing, oftentimes there is little else you will want to do other than sleep. Contact the detox facilities you’re considering to find out what a typical day at the facility looks like.
- Will they give me meds in detox?
Again, this depends on the detox facility. Sometimes the detox process at a certain center is a “cold turkey” detox, or separating from drugs and alcohol without the assistance of medication. Doctors and nurses still provide supervision but you are not given any medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. There are also detoxes that provide medication management and tapering from substances with drugs like suboxone or methadone. These drugs help addicts and alcoholics experience less discomfort during the detox process.
Oftentimes individuals detoxing from opiates such as heroin or painkillers will require a medical detox; the severity of withdrawal symptoms are difficult to handle without them. Decide which type of detox will be best for your particular addiction or alcoholism situation before establishing a list of potential detoxes. If you’re going to struggle with intense withdrawals it is better to select a detox that provides a medically managed, taper detox.
- What should I expect from detox?
Expect to be in bed most of the time. While detoxing, you may not want to do much else except for lay in bed and sleep. Expect discomfort because withdrawals are anything but enjoyable. Getting sober is not easy but it is absolutely worth it.
- How long will detox last?
Detox lasts anywhere from 3 days to a week. The length of stay depends upon the amount and how often you used, as well as the substances you are detoxing from. It also depends whether you are attending a “cold turkey” or a medically managed detox. When you call the treatment center for more information and explain to them your situation, they will be able to outline a proposed treatment plan and length of stay for you. If you react poorly to medications or your withdrawals last longer than expected, you may have to stay at detox longer.
- What determines how long I will stay in detox?
The types of drugs you do and the amount and frequency with which you used will determine your length of stay. Oftentimes, the detox process takes place within a weeklong stay, but if your withdrawals are extreme you may stay longer.
Additionally, the mental effects of drug withdrawal will last longer than the physical aspects so be prepared for a plan after detox. Whether you attend inpatient rehab, a partial hospitalization program, an intensive outpatient program or 12-step meetings, having a plan after detox is imperative to maintain long-term sobriety. Oftentimes there will be staff at the detox to help you decide your next course of action if you didn’t make a decision before attending.
When You’re in Detox
- What should I bring to detox?
Most detoxes have a “What to Bring” list on their website detailing which items you’ll need to bring as well as what isn’t allowed into their facility. Each facility is different, but commonly you will need:
- Enough clothes to last your stay
- Slippers or house shoes
- A journal
- Contact information for loved ones
This small list is generally allowed in but it’s always good to double check with the facility you plan to detox at.
- Can people visit me in detox?
Some detoxes allow visitors while others do not; policies between detox facilities differ. Whether or not you can have visitors depends also on how you respond to treatment. While you’re detoxing, you’re generally in quite a bad place so you may not feel up for visitors anyways. Find out from the treatment center whether or not they allow visitors so your loved ones can plan accordingly before you leave for detox.
- Is detox the same thing as a 12-step program?
While detox is usually focused solely on separating an addict or alcoholic from their substances of choice, sometimes the detox process involves 12-step meetings. It depends on the detox treatment center whether they involve a 12-step program in the process or not. If you’re looking to avoid 12-step programs or meetings, it would be beneficial to ask the facility whether or not they utilize it in treatment.
- Can I come and go freely from detox?
No. During detox you need to stay in the facility to ensure you receive thorough care. Especially in medically managed detoxes, it is imperative you remain at the center. Quitting detox drugs cold turkey can be dangerous to your health. It is important to remain at the center throughout your entire treatment process in order to get the best results.
- What do I do for fun in detox?
Many treatment centers provide a television to watch at your bed to keep you entertained while you’re confined to bed and not sleeping. Some offer luxury amenities such as massages, yoga classes or high-end theater rooms, while others stick strictly to the detox process. Ask the facilities you’re considering for an outline of the programs they offer during detox to find out more about each individual center.
- Will I be safe?
Absolutely. Your safety is of utmost importance during the detox process. The doctors and nurses at detox facilities are trained to handle the withdrawal process and are there to help you through it. Some locations offer security on the premises as well to ensure your privacy is as maintained as possible.
- Do I get a private room?
Possibly. A private room is not always guaranteed. Some facilities offer private rooms and others pair individuals in multiple bed rooms. If a private room is important to you, check with each detox you’re considering before making your decision.
- Is detox co-ed?
Some detoxes are co-ed while others are gender specific. Of those that are co-ed, often the facility will separate the genders to ensure the focus is on getting sober and not catching the attention of another individual.
- Can I be arrested while I’m in detox?
In most places yes. If you’re looking to attend detox as a way to evade the law, this is an irresponsible idea. Law enforcement is usually able to locate you and remove you from the facility. It is a better idea to handle any legal issues before attending a treatment facility, rather than having your treatment interrupted by police officers.
- Can I bring my own clothes?
Yes, usually you can bring your own clothes. During detox you want to be comfortable so many centers encourage you to bring clothes from home. Check with the facility to ensure you’re allowed to bring your own clothes, though, in case they don’t allow it. If you can bring your own clothes, be sure to bring enough to last your entire stay. Usually laundry facilities are not available during detox.
- Is there wi-fi?
Some detoxes offer Wi-Fi while others prefer you focus on your treatment and getting sober. Ask while doing your research if having a Wi-Fi connection during detox is important to you. Wi-Fi can help you to pass the time during the withdrawal period, but it is also important to remain present and realize the place that your substance of choice brought you to.
- Can I bring my regular prescriptions to detox?
This highly depends upon the facility. Ask the detox before bringing your own medication. Some detoxes prefer to provide you with the medications you need, but others will allow you to bring unopened, non-narcotic prescriptions to detox with you. Again, it is extremely important to check with the facility you’re considering because bringing your own medication may be cause for them to not let you in the facility without throwing away the prescriptions.
- What happens after detox?
You can pursue many different options after detox.
- Inpatient rehabilitation: Some detoxes are part of an inpatient rehabilitation center, in which case you will be transferred to the rehab portion of the facility following the detox process. If you are at a detox-only facility and want to attend inpatient rehab afterwards, you must make arrangements beforehand. Inpatient rehab is a great option for those who need an intensive, round-the-clock environment in which to continue staying abstinent from drugs and alcohol.
- Partial Hospitalization Program: A Partial Hospitalization Program (Day Program) involves treatment during the day and staying at a residency like a sober living at night. Treatment generally includes both individual and group therapy to teach coping skills required for long-term sobriety.
- Intensive Outpatient Program: An Intensive Outpatient Program (5-Day IOP) is a great option for individuals who don’t have the ability to take extended periods of time off of work while working at recovery. Available both during the day and at night, 5-Day IOP provides therapy and groups to help individuals learn to live sober.
- Sober Living: Sober living provides a safe, sober environment that helps keep individuals away from drugs and alcohol and with like-minded individuals. Some sober livings provide group or individual therapy, while others simply provide a place to live free of any substances. Many sober livings require weekly drug tests to ensure you’re staying clean and sober while living there.
- Do I have to go to 12-step meetings after detox?
No. There is no single way to get sober. Many people appreciate the availability of 12-step programs but they are by no means a requirement. They are a free way to continue your path to sobriety while surrounded by a group of people who understand what you’ve been through and what you continue to go through on a daily basis.
Alternatives to 12-step programs include:
- SMART Recovery: SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. It is an abstinence-based, “4-Point Program” to help individuals struggling with any type of addiction, including substance abuse, gambling, sex or food addictions. SMART Recovery takes place in in-person meetings but is not affiliated in any way with 12-step programs.
- Celebrate Recovery: Celebrate Recovery is a Christianity-based recovery program that adopted its 12 steps from Alcoholics Anonymous. Additionally, Celebrate Recovery has 8 Principles which guide members on a path to salvation through God.
- Women for Sobriety: Women for Sobriety is a women’s-only program, aimed to help women achieve sobriety and long-term recovery. The program operates on the Thirteen Affirmations meant to be used throughout the day when difficulties arise. Their philosophy is, “Release the past – plan for tomorrow – live for today.”
- Secular Organizations for Sobriety: Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) is a program of autonomous local groups intended to help individuals find and continue on a path of sobriety and recovery. SOS is for all types of addictions, from food to drugs to alcohol.
- LifeRing Secular Recovery: LifeRing Secular Recovery provides no steps or sponsors and instead believes that you as an individual know the best path to sobriety to take. It encourages you to develop your own program of recovery while attending face-to-face meetings with others struggling with addictions.