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What to Expect When Going through a Detox Program

Detoxification (detox) is the first step in recovery for anyone with a substance use disorder (SUD). It’s the physical act of weaning yourself off of your bonded substance. Many treatment centers offer detox programs to support you through the difficult process.

Detoxing is medically necessary in order to begin to work on the underlying mental and emotional components of addiction. It’s generally recommended to detox with the support of medical professionals to keep you safe and reduce the risk of relapse.

What is a Detox Program

A detox program is a structured program offered by a treatment or recovery center. It provides around-the-clock support from trained medical and mental health professionals to guide you through the detox process.

While the approach depends on the recovery center, detox programs typically offer supervision and treatments through medications, therapy, and support groups. 

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Detox

Detox programs are offered either as inpatient or outpatient. It’s up to you which you choose, based on your needs and circumstances.

An inpatient program involves living full-time in a treatment center rather than in your home. You’ll be supervised 24/7 and have access to professional support whenever you need it. You’ll still be able to communicate with friends and family, but you won’t go to work or participate in activities outside the program. 

Outpatient programs allow you to live at home, attend work or school, and pursue treatment on a part-time basis. You’ll still have access to care and support, though you won’t be as closely supervised, which can put you at a higher risk of relapse.

Inpatient programs can be more expensive since you live in the center and regularly access treatment. Outpatient programs may be appropriate for someone who doesn’t want to miss work and has less intense withdrawal symptoms.

What Happens During Detox?

While programs may differ slightly depending on the treatment center, most inpatient detoxes follow similar patterns. Here’s what to expect from a typical inpatient detox program.


The first step in detox is entering the program. The program’s providers will conduct a medical assessment to determine what they’ll need to provide for you throughout the program.

They’ll take a detailed medical history and gather information about your SUD and its related behaviors. They’ll use these details to create a personalized treatment plan and explain what to expect over the course of the program.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

Withdrawal is inevitable when you’re detoxing from a bonded substance. Withdrawal symptoms and their intensity may vary between individuals, but they will almost always affect you physically and psychologically.

Common physical symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain and cramps
  • Physical weakness
  • Sweating
  • Shaking or shivering
  • High temperature and/or chills
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Insomnia or vivid dreams

Common psychological symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Irritability or anger
  • Nervousness
  • Paranoia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Intense cravings for the substance

While none of these symptoms are easy to experience, they are a normal part of detoxing. With the right support from your program, they can and will pass.

However, certain symptoms can indicate a need for more urgent medical help. These symptoms may include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Seizures
  • Dehydration
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Irregular heartbeat

It’s not safe to detox on your own. It can be a dangerous process without the proper medical attention, so you should always tackle the process with the help of an inpatient or outpatient program.

Treatment and Support

Your detox program will provide several sources of treatment and support throughout the process. These treatments can ease your withdrawal symptoms and help you focus on the end result.

The most common treatments you’ll receive in a detox program are:

  • Medications – You will likely be prescribed medication to help you through the process. They are intended to mitigate the severity of your withdrawal and avoid a relapse. Your program will carefully monitor your medications to ensure proper use. The most common medications include suboxone, valium, and bupropion.
  • Mental health counseling – Most programs include mental health counseling to help you deal with the emotional and psychological side effects of detox. You’ll start to unpack your relationship with substances and explore the underlying causes and patterns.
  • Support groups – You will often be placed in a support group of peers going through detox at the same time as you are. Connecting with other people undergoing the same experience can be a powerful way to get through a challenging time.

How Long Does Detox Last?

The length of a detox program can vary based on several factors. It depends on the type of substance you used, how much you’ve recently ingested, how long you’ve dealt with your SUD, and other individual factors, both physical and mental.

However, the average detox process takes about 5-10 days. If you’re enrolled in an inpatient recovery program that extends beyond detox, you might be there for 28 days to six months. 

During an outpatient program, you may spend 10-12 hours a week attending treatments and meetings. You may continue to do this for a few months or up to a year, depending on your needs.

What Happens After Detox?

Recovery doesn’t end once you’ve successfully detoxed. You will need continued support to prevent relapse and keep you on track.

You can choose to remain in an inpatient recovery program for a longer period of time, or you can discharge from your inpatient program and attend outpatient treatment after detox. You may continue to receive medication, mental health counseling, and support group assistance as you move forward with your recovery.

Freedom through Sobriety

There’s no getting around it: detoxing can be challenging. It involves enduring sometimes painful physical and psychological symptoms, and the likelihood of relapse is high.

However, with the appropriate care and support, it is possible to successfully detox and pursue your healing further. Jackson House Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers offer inpatient treatment programs that provide the medical guidance and holistic support you’ll need to recover from a SUD.

Sobriety gives you freedom from addiction, financial stability, physical and emotional help, and a better outlook on life. Browse our treatment programs and reach out for an initial assessment.

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