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Drug Detox: Process, Side Effects & Detox Centers Near Me

Drug detoxification and medically managed withdrawal can be a safe and effective way to begin your recovery from substance abuse issues.

What is Drug Detox?

Drug detox is the natural process of ridding a substance from the body. However, a professional drug detox program, also sometimes referred to as “medically managed withdrawal,” entails the use of a set of interventions (such as medications and other therapies) to safely manage the side effects that accompany quitting drugs.1

The goal of a drug detox is to minimize the potential physical harm that may result from quitting a drug (or drugs) after a sustained period of use.

It’s critical to realize the difference between a professional detox program and substance abuse rehabilitation; although ”detox” and “rehab” are often used interchangeably, substance abuse rehabilitation involves a conglomeration of ongoing services that aim to socially and psychologically rehabilitate someone suffering from drug abuse. Medical detox centers, on the other hand, seek to medically stabilize patients, minimize their withdrawal symptoms, prevent the potentially harmful effects of withdrawal, and help them transition into a substance abuse rehabilitation program or other form of continued care.

What Are The Side Effects of Drug Detox

Those undergoing drug detox may experience symptoms and side effects of drug withdrawal. Side effects will depend on the substance of choice, but common side effects of drug detox may include:

  • Mood changes such as mood swings, anxiety, depression, and agitation.
  • Body changes such as flu-like symptoms, shaking, nausea, and headaches.
  • Cravings, particularly for the drug they are attempting to quit.

What’s the Best Way to Find a Drug Detox Center?

Detoxification is often the first step in addiction treatment. Some of the best ways to find a drug detox center include speaking directly with your physician or therapist, locating a drug detox center through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), or calling a drug addiction helpline.

American Addiction Centers offers a 24/7 confidential drug addiction helpline staffed with caring professionals who guide those suffering from addiction towards their next best steps.

Laguna Treatment Hospital Spotlight
picture of Laguna Treatment Hospital in Orange County Laguna Treatment Hospital is a Joint Commission accredited and CDRH licensed facility offering medically supervised detox programs and 24/7 nursing care. Just minutes away from the beach, this Orange County rehab center offers destination treatment with comprehensive detox and inpatient drug rehab programs to suite your personal needs.

Services offered include:

  • Individual and Group Therapies
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment
  • Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment
  • Live-In Rehabilitation
  • Aftercare Planning and Access to our Alumni Network
  • Translation Services (Spanish 24 Hours a Day & Others With Notice)

Find Drug and Alcohol Detox Treatment Centers Near You

What’s the Process of Detoxification?

Professional detoxification from alcohol and other drugs involves three essential components, including:1

  1. Evaluation, which is where the clinical professionals at a detoxification center perform a thorough evaluation of patients’ physical and psychological condition and history. Initial evaluations may assess a person’s acute intoxication and withdrawal potential, biomedical conditions, and more. From this assessment, the clinical professionals are able to recommend a detoxification level of care and create an individualized treatment plan for patients.
  2. Stabilization, which entails a detox center following an individualized treatment plan and its prescribed therapies and medications to assist a patient through a safe withdrawal experience.
  3. Fostering a patient’s entry into longer-term substance abuse treatment, which can increase a person’s chances of sustaining their recovery and avoid relapse. Detox alone is rarely sufficient to help a person sustain long-term recovery as it doesn’t address the complex psychological and social aspects substance use.2 A powerful goal of detoxification treatment is to prepare clients for their next ideal phase of rehabilitation, which may be short-term residential treatment, long-term residential treatment, or outpatient care.

Although these are some of the most standard components and goals of detoxification, patients’ individual goals, duration in treatment, and overall treatment processes may vary. Detoxification in a professional detoxification facility may also involve the use of various medications to help a patient manage their withdrawal symptoms safely, comfortably, and in a controlled environment.

Detox & Tapering

Tapering consists of weaning a person off a medication in an effort to ease withdrawal symptoms. This typically involves clinical staff administering medications in slowly decreasing doses following a specific schedule. The technique is sometimes used when medications are administered for benzodiazepine, alcohol, or opioid withdrawal. Tapering requires that clinical professionals in a drug detox environment exercise their best judgment as well as employ tools and protocols when making decisions about tapering.3

Quitting Drugs Cold Turkey

Quitting one or multiple drugs “cold turkey,” or all at once, can prove dangerous for certain substances. finding help and addiction recovery Alcohol, when stopped abruptly after chronic, long-term use, can cause seizures, delirium, diarrhea, and sometimes death. Abruptly quitting opioids is rarely fatal, but abruptly stopping them  can still cause very uncomfortable symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, flu-like symptoms, and more. Moderate to severe withdrawal of opioids also often includes drug cravings. Experiencing these suddenly all at once often prompts a person to relapse and return to opioid use.1

Therefore, it’s a good idea to consult with a physician before quitting any drug cold-turkey. It may also be helpful to contact a drug detox center to determine whether or not a medically managed detox program is right for you.

Take Our Substance Abuse Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with drug addiction. The evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are intended to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result.

Can I Detox at Home?

Detoxing at home is risky and even dangerous. For one, it may be more difficult for some to stay the course in their home environment, where exposure to certain people or things could trigger a relapse or return to drug use. In rare cases alcohol detox can cause delirium tremens (DT), a life threatening condition that can lead to stroke, heart attack, and death if left untreated. For these reasons, alcohol detox is usually done in a hospital, detox facility, or an alcohol rehab center. Most people turn to professional detox services, like those offered at American Addiction Centers, to make their detox experience safe and as comfortable as possible.  It may be beneficial to reach out to a drug detox center near you, speak to your physician or therapist, or call our drug addiction helpline for free information on how to detox from your drug of choice in a safe environment. They can help you better understand your treatment options. Some detox centers even offer same-day admission, depending on their admittance capacity, your location, and various other factors.

What Happens After Detox?

Detox alone is rarely sufficient in helping a person achieve long-term recovery, and is only the first stage of addiction treatment. Often, patients decide to enter a substance abuse rehabilitation program once they’re finished with their detox program. Effective treatment needs to address a person’s drug abuse and any associated medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal problems. Treatment should be appropriate to the individual’s age, gender, ethnicity, and culture. Medication may be included; however, behavioral therapies are the most commonly used forms of treatment for substance abuse.2

Identifying success in the realm of addiction treatment may require people to reframe preconceived ideas about what recovery means. The goal of addiction treatment is to return a person to productive functioning in their family, job or school, and community.3 Addiction is similar to other chronic illnesses, which means that some people will relapse – but this does not mean that treatment wasn’t successful.4 Instead, it could mean adjustments in treatment,  or a return to a treatment center where additional focus can be put on changing their deeply rooted behaviors.

Are There Different Types of Detox?

Yes, there are various types of professional detoxification programs to fit a patient’s clinical needs. Many detoxification programs employ the “medical model” of detoxification, which means a clinical staff made up of physicians and nurses use of certain medications to help people safely detox.1

Detox can take place in a wide variety of settings and at varying levels of intensity. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration identifies five detoxification “placement levels of care” within the detoxification realm of treatment, including:1

  1. Ambulatory Detoxification Without Extended On-Site Monitoring. This level of care is an organized outpatient service monitored at predetermined intervals. Examples of this type of detoxification might take place in a physician’s office or under the supervision of a home health care agency.
  2. Ambulatory Detoxification With Extended On-Site Monitoring. This type of detoxification is similar to the placement level of care above but requires the availability of credentialed nurses who monitor patients for several hours a day.
  3. Clinically Managed Residential Detoxification. This type of detoxification provides 24/7 supervision and may sometimes be referred to as “social detoxification” because it has minimal medical oversight, but focuses on peer and social support.
  4. Medically Monitored Inpatient Detoxification. This level of care is more restrictive than the Clinically Managed Residential Detoxification placement level of care. Inpatient detoxification consists of 24/7 care and supervision and support for patients experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
  5. Medically Managed Intensive Inpatient Detoxification. This level of care is the most restrictive placement level of care in the detoxification program realm, and provides 24/7 care and supervision for patients experiencing withdrawal symptoms in an acute care inpatient setting.

Medical detoxification may be provided in an inpatient treatment, residential, or outpatient basis, and may exist as part of a larger substance abuse rehabilitation program or operate on its own. Patients with complicated medical or psychiatric needs are more likely to require detoxification in an inpatient setting.1

What is the Cost of Drug Detox?

The cost of drug detox varies depending on your payment method, the particular detox center you’re attending, and the level of detox care provided. Insurance policies may help cover the full or partial cost of detox, but there are also free rehab and detox programs and programs that accept Medicaid. Check below whether your insurance policy might cover a detoxification program at American Addiction Centers.

AAC is in network with many insurance companies and treatment can be free depending on your policy and co-pay/deductible.

Frequently Asked Questions About Detox

Finding Help

American Addiction Centers boasts various detoxification centers across the entire United States. If you or your loved one may be in need of a professional medical detoxification program, call our admissions helpline, learn more about our admissions process, or view one of our various treatment centers.


  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Effective Treatment.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). How Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment?
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Treatment and Recovery.
  5. Gowing, L., Ali, R., & White, J. M. (2010). Opioid antagonists under heavy sedation or anaesthesia for opioid withdrawal.
  6. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2020). The ASAM National Practice Guideline.
  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Surgeon General. (2016). Facing addiction in America: The surgeon general’s report on alcohol, drugs, and health.
Last Updated on October 13, 2021
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