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What Is Drug Detox?

When a substance is regularly used, the body can become dependent on that drug. If substance use is stopped, individuals are faced with a withdrawal period of varying intensity. Even if someone wants to seek treatment for their substance use disorder, they may be held back by the fear of the withdrawal period and detoxification process. Drug detox refers to the process of ridding a drug from a person’s body, and detox can also refer to the treatment program used to rid the body of a substance. Detoxing from a drug is one of the first steps an individual takes on their path to recovery.

How Long Does Drug Detox Take?

For some people, detox is a short process—alcohol, for example, leaves the body completely within a couple of days—but the cravings can persist long after the body is cleared of the substance. The length of detox depends on a variety of factors, including the substance used, if multiple substances were used, the frequency with which the substance was used, and the severity of the addiction. A person’s age, gender, and medical history can also influence the length of detox. Generally, medically supervised detox programs are the best drug detox options, with their medical interventions helping withdrawal last for a week or less.

What Does Detoxing Feel Like?

Although medical detox programs often mitigate the severity of drug withdrawal symptoms, most people going through detox will experience some mental and physical changes once a substance has left their system, whether they are detoxing at home or a medical facility.1

Possible common changes include irritability, depression, sweating, shakiness, muscle pain, nausea, and sleep issues. The good news is that these symptoms are temporary, and drug detox programs are designed to minimize the discomfort associated with the drug detoxification process. Near the end of detox, individuals will find they have more energy and feel better overall.

Reviewing the Process for Drug Detox

Some individuals may be hesitant to seek drug detoxification treatment because they don’t know what to expect from the drug detox process. Luckily, the drug detox process is usually the same across the board, and it begins with an evaluation, then moves into the stabilization process, and finally, clients are guided into their treatment program. Medically assisted detoxification programs rarely take a cold-turkey approach; tapering someone off the substance is often safer and easier.


During the evaluation, clinicians will assess the client’s medical history, the substance used and the frequency of use, any mental illnesses they may have, and their physical and psychological condition. Detox professionals will also evaluate the individual’s acute intoxication levels to determine withdrawal potential. Clinicians will use medication to assist with detox withdrawal symptoms when needed and provide therapeutic support to aid in the process. 


The stabilization process involves implementing the treatments decided during the client’s evaluation. This may include administering medications to lessen withdrawal symptoms and utilizing other therapies to ensure the withdrawal process is safe.

Forming a Treatment Plan

Once a person is stabilized, drug detox centers will help them decide on the next steps, which often involve longer-term interventions like rehab and therapy. While detox is an essential part of substance abuse treatment, further rehabilitation is more likely to result in sustained sobriety.

Drug detox at home can be an entirely different process. While people detoxing at home will likely experience the same side effects as those detoxing at a facility, at-home detox offers none of the medical and therapeutic support that medical detox does. Getting through withdrawal at home may be more difficult without medication to minimize symptoms, and relapse may be more common without therapeutic and medical support.

Drug Detox and Withdrawal Symptoms

Have you ever skipped your morning coffee just to be met with a headache and irritability a few hours later? If so, you’ve experienced a form of withdrawal. Drug detox symptoms and withdrawal symptoms vary in severity depending on many factors. Withdrawal can happen when quitting many drugs, including:

  • Alcohol
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Cocaine
  • Opioids
  • Amphetamines
  • Barbiturates
  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine

The detox symptoms for each drug can include fatigue, nausea, insomnia, congestion, depression, anxiety, cravings, and irritability.

Severe Drug Withdrawal Side Effects

For some, withdrawal can be an unpleasant but relatively smooth process, but for others, it carries serious risks. Withdrawal from drugs often causes depression, which increases the risk of suicidal ideation. Additionally, people who quit a substance cold turkey are more likely to experience severe or dangerous withdrawal effects.

For people experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal, there is the risk for a serious condition called delirium tremens. Delirium tremens is a form of alcohol withdrawal that can cause hallucinations, shaking, paranoia, high blood pressure, and fever. It’s a critical condition, but it can be resolved in a few days when treated by a medical professional.2

Drug Detox Benefits

Substance use takes a heavy toll on the body. Not only do the drugs themselves cause damage, but people with substance use disorder sometimes neglect healthy habits. This means diet, exercise, sleep, and immunity can all be compromised.

Though withdrawal and detox can be difficult in some ways, it has many benefits. First and foremost, it acts as the first step on the road to recovery, giving the body a chance to heal itself from the damage accrued from drug use. People report feeling healthier and more energized after just a week of drug detox.3

Balancing Weight

Detoxification can also result in physical health benefits like weight loss. For example, addictions to substances like alcohol and marijuana sometimes cause weight gain due to the side effects. Detox gives the body a break from substance abuse and unhealthy eating habits. People with addictions to stimulants may lose weight throughout the course of their addiction, as these drugs can suppress appetite. In these cases, detox can help individuals gain healthy weight and begin to get their nutritional needs met.

During drug and alcohol detox, dehydration and malnutrition are common. For this reason, medically assisted detox programs closely monitor individuals to make sure they stay healthy as they recover.

Breaking Bad Habits

Whether you choose drug detox at home or go to a detox center, choosing to detox from drugs is something to be proud of. It’s not easy to recover from an addiction when physically dependent on it. One of the major rewards of drug detox is that it gives individuals an opportunity to challenge themselves and resist falling backward. Getting through the cravings that inevitably happen during detox can show individuals that they can live a substance-free life.


Drug use weakens the immune system, making the body more susceptible to illnesses and infections. Risky behaviors that result from substance use increase the risk of contracting illnesses like HIV and hepatitis B and C—these diseases further decrease immune function, making the individual even more vulnerable to sickness. When the drug detoxification process begins, the body is given a chance to recover and improve immune function. The improved nutrition and hydration that come with detoxing at a detox center can further boost the immune system.

Mental Strength Improvement

Although mental health can feel shaky in the first days and weeks of drug detoxification, making it through the challenges of detox can build mental strength. Mental fortitude gives individuals the ability to continue to make good choices, decreasing the likelihood of relapse. Additionally, detoxing at a facility allows individuals to work with professionals to create a treatment plan after detox.

It’s important to realize the difference between a drug detox and rehab. Detox, the first step in recovery, stabilizes individuals and minimizes withdrawal symptoms, but it isn’t the only step needed to stop addiction and sustain recovery. Substance abuse rehabilitation, which comes after detox, is where support is offered from therapists and other professionals who guide people through their treatment plan.

Drug Detox Treatment at Great Oaks

Compassion and support are essential in helping someone through the detox process, which is why Great Oaks provides a safe, empathetic, and effective detox program. To ease the transition from chemical dependence, the Great Oaks team evaluates a person’s entire health profile, types of substances used, the severity of usage, and other stability factors. The detoxification process is managed by Great Oaks’ highly qualified onsite medical team, which includes licensed nurses and specially trained professionals available twenty-four hours a day.

What makes detox at Great Oaks special is that the focus is not only on stabilizing the client medically but also on nurturing the person’s holistic health. The team provides pharmacological interventions when needed, but they also have an array of educational and therapeutic aids to support individuals. The center also assigns an individual therapist to each client, meaning they have access to one-on-one support throughout their detox process.

Great Oaks believes the method of immediate therapeutic intervention allows an individual to replace negative thought patterns with healthier choices.

Drug Detox and Rehab Facilities

Like the detox program, Great Oaks’ residential treatment program prioritizes the unique needs of everyone. Their board-certified clinical team makes it a point to learn about each individual’s experiences, values, belief systems, and current situation to provide the best care possible.

The comfortable, tranquil setting aids in the recovery process. The center offers amenities like expansive grounds with walking and running trails, swimming pools, volleyball and tennis courts, and peaceful communal areas.

At Great Oaks Recovery Center, there is access to:

  • Individual counseling and group therapy
  • Trauma therapy
  • 12-Step program integration
  • Family partnership intensive
  • Recreational, exercise, and nutritional programs
  • Psycho-educational and substance education group sessions
  • Relapse prevention programs
  • Specialized programming, including equine therapy, topic-specific groups, and humor therapy
  • Ready-to-Work collaboration
  • Chronic relapse services
  • Extensive continuing care and alumni fellowship

People in Great Oaks’ programs receive quality attention from a dedicated team of medical doctors, licensed and certified counselors, licensed social workers, nurses, and nursing assistants who put the client’s health first.

Great Oaks Family Program

A support system is a crucial component of recovery. At Great Oaks, there is access to family therapy interventions to ensure a solid foundation for recovery. Addiction affects all members of a family and can have lasting repercussions. Making sure the client and their family understand the root causes of addiction can help sustain recovery. Additionally, the family program allows for safe, mediated conversations between the client and their loved ones, rebuilding trust and releasing shame, blame, and guilt. Together, an individual and their family members:

  • Reestablish a foundation of trust in the family
  • Learn new techniques for addressing conflict
  • Incorporate mutually beneficial practices such as 12-Step integration
  • Develop better methods for communicating, understanding, and facing conflicts
  • Learn to move forward with hope and honesty

Through the family program, Great Oaks facilitates an environment that fosters not only lifelong recovery but also the progressive health of everyone involved.

Continuing Care Program

Most people who have recovered from addiction will agree that it is a lifelong process. While developing personal strength is essential to recovery, having resources and support to rely on in hard times is also critical. Great Oaks’ continuing care program offers people a roadmap to reference, even months or years after they’ve left residential treatment. The personalized roadmap includes:

  • Planning for living arrangements, whether it’s at a sober living facility or at home
  • Intensive outpatient services, which gives individuals all the elements of someone’s inpatient care as they reintegrate into their work, school, and personal lives
  • In-person and online access to 12-step recovery, so someone always has access to mentoring and guidance.

Great Oaks is deeply invested in each client’s wellbeing and lasting recovery, which is why its support and services are available long after graduating from treatment. Whether they need a support group, educational information, or someone to talk to, Great Oaks prioritizes everyone’s healing and recovery.



Questions About Treatment?

Our knowledgeable team is ready to discuss your situation and options. Your call is confidential with no obligation required.