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Alcohol and Drug Detox Programs: Types and What to Expect

Alcohol and drug detox can be an important first step in the recovery process for substance misuse and is often an entry point to substance use disorder (SUD) treatment.1 This page will help you learn more about detox, including, what detox is, types of detox services, what to expect during detox, and how to find a detox program.

What Is Alcohol and Drug Detox?

Alcohol and drug detox is a set of interventions designed to manage acute intoxication and withdrawal.1 Detox can help:1

  • Prevent or reduce withdrawal symptoms.
  • Keep patients as comfortable and safe as possible throughout the withdrawal period.
  • Address complications that may arise during withdrawal.
  • Foster the transition into ongoing treatment (e.g., inpatient or outpatient rehab).

Why Is Alcohol and Drug Detox Important?

When a person takes certain substances regularly over a period of time, they may need more of the substance to feel its effects (e.g., tolerance).1, 2 As the body adapts to the presence of the substance, a person may experience withdrawal symptoms if they abruptly reduce or stop taking it (e.g., dependence).1, 2 Withdrawal symptoms and their severity can vary depending on several factors, such as:1

  • A person’s age.
  • The type of substance used.
  • How long the substance was used.
  • The route of administration (e.g., injecting, snorting, smoking).
  • A person’s mental and physical health.

Types of Alcohol and Drug Detox Programs

Medical detox programs typically last between 3 to 7 days and can take place in an inpatient or outpatient setting depending on a patient’s needs.1, 3


What to Expect During Alcohol and Drug Detox

The process for alcohol and drug detox can vary; however, patients can expect to receive support from several professionals to help them stay as comfortable and safe as possible during withdrawal.1 The detox process typically involves three steps.1

Medications Used During Alcohol or Drug Detox

Medical detox medications are often used to ease withdrawal symptoms, especially for withdrawal from alcohol, opioids, and sedative-hypnotics (e.g., benzodiazepines).1 Patients may also receive medications as needed for additional symptoms that arise during withdrawal.1

What Happens After Drug or Alcohol Detox?

Although detox is an important part of the recovery process, detox alone does not address the behavioral, psychological, and social problems associated with addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), recommends ongoing treatment to address these underlying issues.1, 7

Like detox, post-detox treatment can take place in a variety of settings, including inpatient or residential drug and alcohol rehab or outpatient facilities.1, 8

How to Find an Alcohol and Drug Detox Center

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance misuse, you should know that treatment is available. You might start by talking to your doctor to discuss your situation and ask for referrals. You can also use our rehab directory to find detox centers near you and filter your search by insurance, locations, and services offered.

It’s never too late to start the path to recovery. If you have questions about detox, American Addiction Centers (AAC) can help. We have various facilities that offer medical detox, which can help you begin the path to sobriety.

Our compassionate admissions navigators are available now to take your call at . They can hear your story, discuss your detox and rehab options, and verify your insurance. Not ready to call? You can also easily verify your insurance online by filling out the short form below.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Detox