Medical Detoxification

Learn about medical detox, withdrawal symptoms, the DTs, medications used in detox & more. Find out how drug addiction treatment can transform your life.

Medical Detoxification for Substance Abuse

Medical detoxification is the supervised withdrawal from drugs and alcohol. Detoxification refers to the process of eliminating toxins from the body, which in the case of substance abuse, means drugs and alcohol. Medical detoxification occurs in a hospital or medical treatment center under the supervision of medical professionals. Individuals who require medical detoxification are typically those who have serious health conditions associated with their drug and alcohol use. They are also at risk of serious health complications as a result of ceasing drinking or drug use. It should be remembered that detoxification does not treat addiction, it treats the physical dependence of alcohol or drug abuse.

Detoxification is an important aspect of treatment for substance abuse because it is the first stage in the process of recovery. For some individuals, recovery is dependent on the removal or reduction of the physical dependence on drugs or alcohol. Chronic alcoholics or severely dependent drug users are those who will require medical detoxification. Detoxification aims to treat the symptoms associated with withdrawals.


Withdrawals are the symptoms a person will have when they stop taking drugs or using alcohol. The symptoms vary from person to person and are different depending on what drugs are used. Withdrawals can last from a few hours to a few weeks. They can include restlessness, depression, cold or hot flushes, aches, insomnia, constipation or diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. It is these symptoms that are treated with medications while a medical professional will monitor each individual to ensure that serious health complications do not occur.

Alcohol Detoxification

Alcohol Detoxification is the term used when a person undergoes withdrawal from alcohol. Alcohol detoxification often takes place in a medical clinic with supervision from medical professionals. This is because the detox needs to be managed correctly due to the presence of serious health complications that may arise when a person who is heavily dependent on alcohol stops drinking. These serious alcohol detoxification issues include, but are not limmited to, heart complications, dehydration, increased blood pressure, anxiety, nausea, and headaches. One of the most serious problems that chronic alcoholics can experience when going through withdrawals include delirium tremens (DT’s).

Delirium Tremens

Delirium tremens is the severe withdrawal from alcohol that has symptoms including tremors, agitation, visual and aural hallucinations and confusion. Delirum tremens is considered a medical emergency that can cause cardiovascular collapse, and changes in circulation and body temperature which need to be supervised by a doctor.

Drug Detoxification

Drug Detoxification is the term used to describe the process an individual undergoes when they cease the chronic use of drugs. The aim of drug detoxification is to support the individual through the withdrawal stage of stopping using drugs. Supervision is required because the process of drug detox can be rapid, and drugs are used to help to lessen the effects of the substances that are being used. Similarly, medications are often given to clients to lessen the painful symptoms of the withdrawals which can include nausea and vomiting, severe headaches, shakes, constipation, muscle aches and heart complications. These serious side effects of detoxification are the reason that medical supervision is essential.

Medications for Detoxification

Clients who are undergoing treatment for their drug and alcohol problems may require medical detoxification at the beginning of the treatment plan. Some clients will be given prescribed medications to assist the process and to reduce some of the symptoms of withdrawal. These include anti-convulsants, benodiazephine-like drugs and suboxone.


Benzodiazepines are a drug that is commonly prescribed in the treatment of drug or alcohol addiction. The most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines for drug or alcohol treatment are diazepam or lorazepam. These medications are prescribed to reduce anxiety and insomnia, and have been found to be effective in treating delirum tremens.


Anti-convulsants or anti-seizure medication is also used in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. Some patients are at risk of convulsions or seizures as they go through withdrawals, and this medication combined with a benzodiazepine can decrease the severity of the symptoms.


Suboxone is a drug that is commonly prescribed medication to individuals who are going through medical detoxification for opiate abuse. The drug is designed to treat the chronic pain that individuals may experience when they are detoxing. It has also been found to have anti-depressant properties and is successful in blocking the brain receptors that react to opioid. This means that it can be an effective deterrent medication and decrease the risk of relapse.