Detox: The First Step on the Road to Recovery

detox drug test

Once someone has taken the decision to get help for drug or alcohol abuse, they have made one of the most significant strides towards recovery. The next step is to learn how to live a life in sobriety without the compulsion to use drugs but before that can be achieved, it is essential to undergo detox. Some people may need to seek drug test detox if they are to be tested in a physical examination and so it’s worth understanding what’s involved.

Detox is often the most frightening aspect of addiction treatment and can sometimes prevent someone seeking help. This is because there are widespread misconceptions about detox that have been promoted by the media which portrays it as a violently uncomfortable experience. In fact, detoxing under medical supervision is extremely effective and minimizes any discomfort caused by withdrawal symptoms.

In an effort to demystify the detox process, we’re going to take a look at what’s involved more closely.

Understanding Drug Detox

There are three phases of detox according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services including the following:


At the start of detox for drug test patients will be thorough assessed and evaluated to determine the nature of their addiction. It is at this phase of detox that patients will also be assessed for co-occurring mental health conditions known as dual diagnosis. This is important as dual diagnosis patients require specific treatment that addresses both conditions separately but at the same time.


During the first hours after someone has stopped using drugs, the withdrawal symptoms can be very intense. It is not uncommon for patients to display extremely violent, even psychotic behavior as their bodies expel toxins. During this phase it is essential that there is appropriately qualified medical support on hand to deal with symptoms as they are displayed. In some extreme cases withdrawal symptoms can become very serious and so it’s imperative that patients are stabilized as quickly as possible in this phase of detox.

Transition to Rehab

Once all traces of drugs and their influence have been eliminated from the body, the patient is ready for the next stage of their recovery, which is rehabilitation. This process forms the bulk of addiction treatment and can take varying lengths of time according to the individual needs of patients. Alongside medical treatment with prescription drugs, patients will be offered a range of therapies including CBT and holistic therapies to supplement treatment. The rehab process is important in preparing patients for when they leave rehab and return to their daily lives, providing them with coping mechanisms and support through their years of recovery.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

The kind of withdrawal symptoms someone can experience will differ according to what substance they are addicted to. There are also several other factors at play including how long they were addicted for, what combination of substances they were using and whether there is a pre-existing mental health disorder. That said, there are some symptoms that have been identified by the journal Addiction that are considered universal irrespective of the drug involved. These include:

  • Insomnia
  • Chills
  • Tremors
  • Mood disturbances
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cravings
  • Headaches

In some cases, withdrawal symptoms can require medical attention and it is not a situation that can be foreseen. This is the principal reason people addicted to drugs are encouraged to attend supervised detox as it ensures their wellbeing is protected throughout the detox process. It is never recommended for people to try and detox on their own as some of the complications caused by withdrawal can be fatal if not treated immediately.

Duration of Drug Detox

Everybody has their own backstory when it comes to addiction and no two addicts will be the same. For this reason it is not possible to determine in advance how long it will take to detox a patient as there are many factors to consider. The main goal of detox is to prepare patients for rehab and the challenges that inevitably lie ahead. Although the process may seem unnecessarily prolonged, if detox is not completed correctly and successfully, it is likely that relapse will quickly follow.

It is important to understand that detox doesn’t ‘cure’ drug addiction although it does provide an effective way of breaking dependency abruptly. However, once the chemical toxins have been eliminated from the body, it is then necessary to address the issues that led to addiction in the first place. There are so many complex layers to addiction treatment that effectiveness depends on how well a program has been structured to the individual and it has to take as long as the person needs. Effective detox and addiction treatment will provide addicts with a solid foundation for a healthier life in recovery.

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