Medically Assisted Drug and Alcohol Detox


The first step to overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol is detoxification (Detox). This is a critical step in the addiction treatment process and many times it requires medical intervention. These interventions help the process go smoother and make sure that all precautions are taken to keep clients safe and comfortable. During the detox process, the body will literally but efficiently cleanse itself of the toxins that have built up from continuous substance abuse. This will allow the body to re-stabilize without the chemicals it was once used to. A body affected by substance abuse will need time to fully return to homeostasis, but it is well worth it. Once the body has returned to functioning without drugs or alcohol in the system the client’s physical well-being will be in a much better place to proceed in recovery.

A medically managed detox program will keep the patient comfortable during the unpleasant and sometimes painful withdrawal process. There are a few substances that require a medically assisted Detox for safety reasons. If a client were to withdraw from one of these substances without medical intervention they could suffer deadly consequences such as heart attack, seizures, or stroke. Other times a medically assisted detox can be requested by the client for comfort measures. Medications can help to take away the painful and just plain miserable withdrawal symptoms. Many times clients do want to get clean, but are afraid to go through withdrawal. The fear of detox keeps them from attempting to get clean at all. Medically assisting their detox will take down the roadblock that is keeping them from getting the help they need, and truly deserve.

The initial detox program does not typically address the underlying factors that influenced the addiction. Many addicts suffer from past traumatic events and/or underlying mental illness that has gone undiagnosed. Addiction is a bio-psycho-social and spiritual issue. It has many angles and many insidious factors. Simply removing the drugs and their impact on the physical body is not enough to save a life. For an individual to continue to effectively treat their addiction and achieve long term sobriety there needs to be additional steps taken. Many treatment centers offer a variety of different therapy options such as behavioral therapy and talk therapy. They also offer alternative methods such as IV vitamin therapy, and different forms of play therapy. Dynamics such as social, psychological, and complex behavioral issues all need to be explored in order to successfully complete an addiction treatment program. With all of this, the addict can begin to heal emotionally, physically, and spiritually. They will be able to actually feel themselves getting better each day.

The formal detoxification process includes three steps; Evaluation, Stabilization, and Guidance. We will explore these steps further below.

Evaluation – Each patient must first be evaluated. This will happen upon admittance into the facility, and will be performed by a trained staff member. The initial evaluation includes being drug tested to see which specific substances, and the amounts, are currently in their bloodstream. This will give the staff a better indication of what they are working with. They will be able to advise if a medically assisted detoxification is necessary or not. This is also the point at which a staff member will assess the underlying factors that influenced the addiction, including possible dual-diagnosis and co-occurring disorders. It is important for staff to get a brief, but thorough understand of the patient as a whole person during this process.

Stabilization – Second, each patient must be stabilized so they are comfortable and they are safely able to proceed through the detox process. In this stage, the patient is literally guided through the process of detoxification. This part may be completed with or without medical intervention and the option to have a medically assisted detox comes into play. Some substances demand medication to help the patient combat the dangerous and sometimes deadly withdrawal symptoms. Other times medication is a comfort measure. Comfort medications and round-the-clock surveillance are given to patients that need it. Safety is the number one priority. Patients are also given the options of resting or participating in relaxed groups and activities.

Guidance – Once the patient is stabilized, staff members will help to mentally and physically (if needed) guide the patient into a treatment program. It could be a residential treatment program, with varying durations of 30-90 days. It could also be an out-patient or intensive out-patient program that varies in length of time as well. It will all depend on what the patient’s individual needs are, and what their lifestyle can maintain. This is the final phase of the detoxification process, but the beginning of their addiction treatment journey. Guidance is where the addict will explore the underlying factors that influenced their addiction. This is a crucial step, and must be taken by an individual to successfully complete an addiction treatment program. If the underlying factors or past traumatic events are not dealt with and addressed, the urge to use drugs to cover the pain will surface time and time again. It is imperative that the client’s reason to use is resolved and replaced with healthy coping behaviors.

To further break down the traditional options for drug rehabilitation we will take a look at residential and outpatient programs. Residential treatment is where you stay on property and have multiple people available to able to help you 24-hours a day. The next step following residential is called partial hospitalization. You are in a therapeutic community where you can experience the growth that comes from a safe and productive environment. What sets these two apart is that you can leave when you are at the latter level. We understand this may not be feasible for everyone and also include the option of intensive outpatient, where you can experience the benefits of therapy while attending to your demanding lifestyle at home. After completing a program, many find success in a less structured house specifically designed for recovering people. This is called sober living. This is the natural process through the recovery journey.