Do You Need Detox? How to Tell a Loved One

When you have decided that it’s time to get help for addiction to drugs or alcohol you may wonder, “do I need detox?” For many individuals, starting with detox is an important first step on the road to recovery.

This article will explain what medical detox is, its benefits, and how to know if you need detox.

What Is Medical Detox?

Medical detox is a set of interventions that are designed to help individuals address the immediate effects of substance use in order to pave the way for more robust addiction treatment. Medical detox does this by clearing toxins (e.g., alcohol or drugs) from the body and managing any withdrawal symptoms. 

Supervised medical detox can work toward preventing potentially life-threatening symptoms that can occur during withdrawal from certain substances, such as benzodiazepines or alcohol,  if a person were to attempt to quit “cold turkey” on their own.

Do I Need Medical Detox?

For many people who have struggled with addiction to an intoxicating substance for a long time, the physical symptoms of withdrawal can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, dangerous. Intense discomfort can lead to relapse, especially if the person does not have adequate social support during this time.

Certain substances, like benzodiazepines or alcohol, can produce life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, which is why it’s highly recommended that individuals who many be addicted to these substances undergo medical detox.

Medical Detox for Alcohol Addiction

Withdrawing from an alcohol use disorder, especially for people who have struggled with this addiction for a long time, or consumed large amounts of alcohol regularly, requires medical supervision because of a condition called delirium tremens. This is a withdrawal syndrome that includes symptoms like seizures, paranoia, hallucinations, vomiting, and extreme anxiety, including panic attacks.

In some cases, a physician may administer small doses of benzodiazepines to ease symptoms. Medical professionals will also monitor clients carefully for signs of addiction to the benzodiazepines. Delirium tremens typically begins within 12-48 hours after the last drink, and it can last around 10 days.

Medical Detox for Benzodiazepine Addiction

Typically, a person who struggles with benzodiazepine addiction was exposed to these psychiatric medications to ease their anxiety, insomnia, or panic attacks. Because benzodiazepines can be very habit-forming, the person may have discovered that they experienced withdrawal symptoms, including rebound anxiety or insomnia, when they stopped taking the medication. This could, potentially, lead to a cycle of addiction.

At higher doses, benzodiazepines create a sense of relaxed euphoria, similar to alcohol or other central nervous system (CNS) depressants.If a person struggles with benzodiazepine addiction for a long period of time and at high doses, then they may experience benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome (BWS) if they attempt to end their addiction without help. This condition means that withdrawal symptoms last for longer than two weeks – typically about one month – and some symptoms, such as seizures, can be physically dangerous and even lead to death. To reduce or avoid these dangerous symptoms, many doctors work taper individuals off the benzodiazepine slowly over time.

Medical Detox for Opioid Use Disorder

Opioid use disorder often requires medical detox because the withdrawal symptoms are particularly uncomfortable — although not usually life-threatening. However, the symptoms may be intense enough that a person attempting to quit on their own may relapse in order to find relief.

A doctor can prescribe replacement medications like buprenorphine, or the more tamper-resistant Suboxone, to ease the body off physical dependence on narcotics. Without a tapered approach or the use of replacement medications, the person may experience PAWS, or post-acute withdrawal syndrome. PAWS symptoms involve primarily psychological challenges, such as increased anxiety and depression, intense mood swings, and suicidal ideation. Sometimes, the person may also develop seizures and hallucinations.

What to Expect from Detox

When you first come to detox, you’ll undergo a thorough physical and psychological evaluation. This ensures that your personalized treatment plan includes the right support for you. During this time, you’ll meet with healthcare professionals and receive individual therapy.

During detox, you’ll be monitored to ensure your physical safety and to keep you as comfortable as possible.

Talking to Your Loved Ones About Detox

Sometimes, it can be difficult to reach out for help from loved ones, particularly after a long struggle with addiction. However, it is vital to find a way to ask for help from friends and family during this time.

Social support is critical during the detox process and into ongoing recovery. Ideally, family and friends will support the individual’s decision to end the addiction. They can help during detox by reminding the person that withdrawal symptoms will end and the end result is well worth the discomfort of the short-lived process.

Getting Help for Addiction

If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder, getting professional treatment can help get you on the road to recovery and back to living the life you deserve. At our Orange County inpatient rehab we offer safe and effective medical detox that uses evidence-based addiction focused healthcare to help people struggling with addiction.

Contact our helpful and knowledgeable admissions navigators 24/7 at to learn more about our different levels of addiction treatment and to find out more information about how to start rehab admissions. They can also answer your questions about how to pay for rehab or using your insurance to cover addiction treatment. 

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