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Exactly What is Drug Detox Like?

One of the biggest initial challenges that an addict must face before reaching a state of sobriety are the withdrawal symptoms associated with becoming dependent on a substance.  Detoxifying yourself of all of the harmful toxins and allowing your body to return to its normal function is more difficult than it sounds; withdrawal symptoms are frequently overwhelming and it can create a mini-hell for the person going through it, with symptoms ranging from intense physical effects to consuming psychological conditions. However, rehab programs offer a solution in the form of a medically-assisted detox. But what is drug detox like at a rehab center?

6 Minute Read | Published Jan 16 2024 | Updated Jan 16 2024

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Of course, even when a person is given medications to assist them, the experience can still be tough. Through drug detox facilities near me, you can at least be sure that your symptoms will be managed within safe boundaries to reduce complications and to help make the experience more comfortable. With over 20 million adults in the United States who potentially needed drug detox programs to help them stop their substance abuse in 2014, there are thousands of families and individuals who must break free from their physical addiction. In this article, we will look at what is drug detox like for an addict considering treatment.

Day One

So, what is drug detox like? Most addicts have an idea of what to expect as far as addiction detox symptoms goes – either from stories or from their own experience. But these ideas usually just serve to frighten an addict because it’s often described as hellish, and is one of the reasons why many addicts continue to get their fix: in order to avoid the symptoms.

The range of symptoms and their intensity can vary greatly depending on how intense the abuse was and what type of substance was abused. For the purposes of this article, we will look at what generally happens during detox, regardless of the specific addiction detox symptoms a person may have.

Starting Out

One of the things that often come as a surprise to people who enter into a detox program is just how friendly and supportive the staff, nurses, and doctors are. To answer the question “what is drug detox like?” meeting the team is often the first step.

An addict will then sit with their assigned counselor to talk about their addiction. Questions that are usually asked include:

  • What substances were abused?
  • How long have they been abused for?
  • How frequently was the substance taken?
  • What is the family history like?
  • What is the state of the addict’s mental health?

For those who are attending an inpatient or residential program, they will also get to see their room and be allowed to settle in. A tour of the facility is also offered, even for those who are doing their treatment in an outpatient setting because they still need to know where they can find everything.

A Medical Evaluation

What is drug detox like during the first day? Along with an assessment by the counselor, a patient will also need to have a medical evaluation. Since certain addiction detox symptoms can actually be life-threatening, especially if there is a pre-existing medical condition, a medical evaluation is important to ensure that the patient isn’t at risk during the addiction detox process. The physician will also made recommendations on which medications will be effective during detox for the individual. Meal planning is also usually done to ensure that they meet their nutritional needs during the addiction detox process.

Detox Begins

Detox can then begin, having completed the preliminary examinations. If medications are to be involved, then a person may be given some on the first day. For those in outpatient programs, they can then return home until their next appointment, while those in residential programs are able to get comfortable in their room.

Day Two

In the addiction detox process, the second day is usually when symptoms start to really kick in. Some addictions to drugs such as heroin and alcohol may start to show symptoms as early as six hours from the last use.

From the perspective of the recovering person, their focus won’t be on counseling or therapy yet, but rather on the basics, such as healthy food. Of course, this is putting it lightly because the experience they are in can be gut-wrenching. They may be vomiting, sweating profusely, dealing with pains and aches throughout their body and a host of other symptoms.

However, being in a drug detox program means that there are professionals to care for you. As such, you can expect to speak with your doctor and the nurses who are there to ensure that you are being helped as much as possible medically. Medications will be given to ease some of the more intense symptoms that are experienced, which can of course vary from person to person.

Day Three

Some of the most dangerous and intense symptoms usually appear on day three. In the case of alcohol detox, delirium tremens may start at around day three; these symptoms can be life-threatening in around 5 percent of cases and as such, doctors and nurses will continually check on the patient to ensure that their needs are met.

Day Four, Five and Six

Day three usually signifies the peak of most drug dependence withdrawals. From there, all the symptoms you may be experiencing will start to diminish, getting better each day. Doctors and nurses will still be ensuring that you are eating enough healthy food to keep you strong and that uncomfortable symptoms are being addresses; either through prescribed or over-the-counter medications.

Patients will also often start with some of the therapeutic programs, such as sitting in on a group meeting. Other activities, depending on the rehab, may include going outside to be in nature or alternatively just socializing with other recovering addicts.

Day Seven and Beyond

By this time, most of the symptoms that are associated with the various drug withdrawals will have faded. This signifies the end of a drug detox program. From here, a patient usually enters into intensive therapy and counseling because addiction is a relapsing, chronic disease that requires more than just a detox to manage.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

In some cases there may be post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), usually when a brain imbalance remains due to long-term damage caused by substance abuse. The symptoms of this condition are in the realm of psychological symptoms such as depression – as is the case in cocaine abuse.

These symptoms can be difficult to fully get under control, but treatments are available to help restore proper balance and function to the individual.  These include the use of medications such as acamprosate and flumazenil.

Drug Detox Facilities Near Me

While a drug detox may be a tough experience and even frightening to some, a medically-assisted detox program can make a substantial difference to the individual going through the experience.

If you would like to find drug detox facilities near me, then make use of the search feature on Better Addiction Care that allows you to find facilities in your location or call us directly at (800) 429-7690


bullet National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
"Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment"
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
"Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment"
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet Mayo Clinic
"Drug Addiction: Detoxification"
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet Verywell Mind
"What Is Drug Detox?"
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet Healthline
"Drug Detox: What to Expect"
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet WebMD
"Drug Detoxification"
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet DrugAbuse.com
"What to Expect During Drug Detox"
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet HelpGuide
"Detoxification and Withdrawal"
Retrieved on June 28, 2023
bullet Psychology Today
"Drug Detox: What It Is and What to Expect"
Retrieved on June 28, 2023

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