Detox centers are facilities that provide a medically controlled environment where you can get through withdrawals from your drug of choice safely and start your journey to recovery.
These facilities are staffed by trained medical professionals who can help with both the physical and mental aspects of detox — detoxification which just means the process of waiting for your body to purge itself of all traces of alcohol and drugs. Detox centers may be part of a larger medical facility that also houses psychiatric patients — this is very common because so many people who suffer from addiction also suffer from other mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety.
The detoxification process usually lasts only a few days — however, some substances, like Suboxone and Klonopin, can take 30 days or more to detox from.
Unfortunately, it’s not something that can be accelerated. It can also be dangerous, even deadly, to do on your own. However, there are multiple treatments available that make the process safer, much less painful, and easier to cope with.
Here’s what you can expect if you decide it’s time to quit alcohol and/or drugs and go to a medical detox facility.
The primary function of a detox center is to help you safely withdraw from drugs and/or alcohol under the supervision of medical professionals. This includes medical doctors, nurses, psychiatrists/psychologists, and counselors, but it may also include spiritual counselors as well, like a chaplain.
This process is designed to help you manage the physical and psychological symptoms that occur when you stop using substances. While the top priority is your safety, for most people, the withdrawal process is psychologically difficult as well, which is why mental health professionals and spiritual counselors (for people with spiritual beliefs) are involved.
Detox centers serve as a critical first step in the recovery journey because most people can’t just go directly to rehab — it’s dangerous to detox alone, and some substances, like alcohol and benzodiazepines — can be deadly to withdraw from.
In many cases, at least a few of the employees in the detox center — even some of the counselors — will be in recovery themselves. They’ll have direct knowledge of what you’re going through, which makes them better able to help.
In a medically assisted detox center, you’ll likely be prescribed medication to ease your withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
The medication you may be prescribed will depend on what substances you’re trying to detox from. For example, medications like methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone may be used for opioid addiction, while benzodiazepines may be used for alcohol withdrawal.
The team of healthcare professionals at the detox facility will monitor your physical and mental health throughout the process. While a doctor and/or psychiatrist will prescribe medications, you won’t be able to take them on your own — the nurses and technicians will administer them.
They’ll also regularly monitor your health, which includes:
You’re typically only at a detox center for 10 days at most, so because it’s such a short period of time, the staff will usually check your vitals like this multiple times a day for the entirety of your stay.
The process of getting into a detox center can take a little time, so you’ll need to try to be patient — like most medical facilities, they’re likely very busy.
You’ll start with an intake evaluation. During this assessment, medical professionals gather information about your health history, the substance(s) you're using, and the severity of your addiction.
Depending on the time you get there, you may be able to meet with the doctor right away, or you might have to wait until the next day. However, you’ll likely get some medication to help you until the doctor can directly evaluate you.
Most detox centers offer private or semi-private rooms, recreational areas, and counseling rooms where you can participate in group therapy and individual therapy. Depending on what time of day you get there, you may be able to participate in sessions right away, or you may just go straight to bed.
These sessions are structured in many different ways and are designed to help you develop coping strategies and prepare for a life without alcohol or drugs. Some are educational, helping you learn more about your disease, while others are therapeutic, designed to give you the space you need to talk about anything that’s bothering you.
Some centers have fitness facilities and outdoor spaces so you can get some fresh air and exercise when you wake up the next day. You’ll typically start going to group therapy and other sessions right away. All detox centers have a cafeteria where you’ll get cooked meals at least three times a day.
When you get to the end of your stay and the medical staff have decided that you’re stable, they’ll help you transition seamlessly to a rehab, sober living facility, or intensive outpatient program (IOP).
Detox can be expensive, and not everyone has insurance or can afford a hefty co-pay. It’s natural to ask why you should go to a detox center, but there are some good reasons.
First, a detox center provides a safe and supportive environment for you to go through withdrawal. You have medical professionals on hand to manage withdrawal symptoms and complications. Even if you have no other health conditions, withdrawal can still be deadly. It’s not safe to try to detox on your own.
If you do have underlying health conditions, detoxing off of any drug can be extremely dangerous. It’s not worth the risk.
Second, detox centers offer a structured environment that can help you stay focused on recovery. The regular counseling and therapy sessions, routine schedule, and structured environment can help you power through the withdrawals and get sober.
Third, it’s a safe place that keeps you away from temptations. Though you’re free to leave whenever you want to, the doors are locked, and you’re surrounded by other people who are also trying to better their lives and are supporting you.
It’s a long process to get medical professionals to clear you to leave against their medical advice, which means you have an additional barrier between yourself and going back to drinking or using drugs — for some people, this can be hugely helpful to keep them from leaving when they have very strong cravings.
You’re also safe from people in your life — like drug dealers or family/friends who drink/use — who could derail your sobriety. They can’t get in easily, and they can’t bring you drugs or alcohol.
Finally, detox centers help you get to the next phase of your recovery, often helping you go directly from their facility to the rehab or sober house you’re going to. This makes it less likely that you’ll relapse after leaving.
While the road to recovery may be challenging, with the support of a detox center, you can navigate this journey with confidence and hope.
And, if you’re looking for substance abuse treatment in Texas after you leave a detox center, we can help.
At ASIC Recovery, our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is dedicated to helping you develop healthier coping skills and build a supportive recovery network so that you can achieve long-term sobriety.
Cristal Clark, LPC-S, is the Medical Reviewer for ASIC Recovery Services. She reviews all website content for quality and medical accuracy. She is a master’s level Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and graduated from Liberty University in 2011. She has worked in the behavioral and mental health field for over 12 years and has a passion for helping others. She has been clinical director and CEO of a 200 plus bed facility, PHP, and IOP, with experience managing a team of counselors, individual/group/and family therapy, and coordinating continuum of care. Cristal is trained in EMDR and certified in non-violent intervention. She is a member of American Counseling Association and American Association of Christian Counselors.