What are the Different Types of Detox Treatments?

There are different types of detox. The most common options include:

  • Inpatient or Residential Detox:  In most cases, inpatient or residential detox is recommended for clients in order to significantly avoid relapse and make sure that people have the medical attention they need in case of an emergency. It is important to know that detox from many substances, including alcohol can be very dangerous and even life-threatening. Please do not detox on your own. Seek medical attention.

Because of the inherent danger of detoxing from drugs and alcohol, many detox options are inpatient or residential. Look for stand-alone detox programs that plan for a seamless transition to ongoing addiction and mental health treatment after detox is complete. Recommendations may be made for long or short term residential care, Day Treatment, Intensive Outpatient Programs or outpatient services including peer support and Relapse Prevention.

Some drugs have few significant physical withdrawal symptoms but can cause intense psychological withdrawal symptoms. Detox from stimulant drugs like methamphetamines and cocaine, for example, can result in serious depression and suicidal thoughts. Inpatient detox is recommended in these cases to ensure the safety of the client. This is because outpatient detox allows clients the opportunity to use the drug outside the detox clinic or to otherwise hurt themselves.

  • Outpatient Detox: Because of the physical and mental challenges associated with the experience of withdrawal symptoms and cravings, outpatient detox is rarely successful. Because many detox situations can be dangerous or life-threatening, outpatient detox is often not recommended.

Outpatient detox programs may be appropriate for less severe cases of addiction where regular check-ins with the treatment team and medication available by prescription or a methadone clinic can provide acceptable detox care. In instances where money is an issue or the client must stay engaged at work or home, coming into an outpatient detox program could provide adequate treatment with the right post-detox supports in place.

Individuals receiving outpatient detox are more likely to cancel appointments and fail to complete detox and relapse. Conversely, inpatient detox facilities provide around-the-clock medical care and supervision to ensure that the client isn’t in danger.

There are different types of detox depending on the drug(s) of abuse or the length of time someone has been addicted. While no one single approach to detox is right for everyone, generally speaking, the more chronic the Substance Use Disorder (SUD), the more severe withdrawal, cravings and detox can be. It is important to note that detoxing from some substances, including alcohol can be dangerous and even life threatening. Types of commonly referred to detoxes include:

  • “Cold-Turkey”: means stopping the use of all drugs and substances with nothing more than medical supervision to aid you in case of an emergency. There’s no pharmacological assistance, and clients experience the full brunt of the withdrawal symptoms for as long they last. For some drugs, these can be quite intense and last for a couple of weeks or longer. For other drugs, cold turkey detox isn’t as physically difficult.
  • Short-term Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT): Clients who opt for short-term MAT will stop using all drugs and/or alcohol but as they experience withdrawal symptoms, MAT is used for a limited period of time to ease discomfort. Someone for example, who is going through detox and can’t sleep may be prescribed a sleep medication or a client who is experiencing detox-related muscle pain may be given a medication to help with the pain.

Alcohol remains the most common substance of abuse and detox from chronic, long-term use of alcohol can be one of the most dangerous. Clients detoxing from alcohol are commonly given benzodiazepines in order to prevent seizures and delirium. These medications should not be taken long-term because they themselves are highly addictive.

  • Long-term Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT): In the case of opiate use such as heroin or prescription painkillers, clients may use longer-term medications that are used specifically to prevent cravings and acute withdrawal symptoms. For example, clients may be prescribed methadone or the drug combination buprenorphine and naloxone (Suboxone) to stop uncomfortable detox symptoms. Over time, clients may be weaned off of MAT until they’ve achieved a drug-free recovery.

Detox at a medically supervised and licensed facility is always the safest choice, especially when mental health issues are also involved. Withdrawal symptoms from any drug or alcohol can lead to serious complications that require immediate medical attention. It is very rarely recommended that clients detox on their own when significant substance abuse is present. Instead, enrollment at an inpatient or residential detox program that provides 24-hour medical assistance if necessary, ongoing medical monitoring, and a therapeutic follow-up program is recommended.

When considering a Detox (detoxification) Program look for full medical detoxification/withdrawal management services from any and all prescription or illicit drugs and or alcohol.

Please note that according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the United States, “medical detoxification…by itself does little to change long-term drug use… for some individuals it is a strongly indicated precursor to effective drug addiction treatment.” Detox can help a person comfortably deal with withdrawal symptoms and cravings and get people on the road to wellness sooner. To keep people well however, detox is only the first yet important step to achieving a better, healthier and more functional life.