Medical Detox for Drug & Alcohol Withdrawal

For many people beginning their recovery journey, withdrawal symptoms from drugs or alcohol can be overwhelmingly unpleasant, and make it challenging to get through the early days and weeks of recovery. In some cases, withdrawal can be life-threatening, with severe symptoms and withdrawal complications that may necessitate medical management. Medical detox is designed to help people safely and comfortably manage withdrawal and lay the groundwork for more comprehensive treatment when you are ready.2

This article will explain what detox is, what it’s like, and how to get help from a medical detox near Tampa for yourself or a loved one.

What Is Medical Detox?

Medical detox is a set of interventions, such as medication and healthcare oversight, geared toward managing withdrawal and reducing the likelihood of potentially severe withdrawal complications that can arise when the body adapts to a drug or alcohol-free state.2

Detox is designed to address the acute symptoms of withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, some of which may be dangerous if left unmanaged.1, 2 Though an important and necessary element to many recovery journeys, detox is not a substitute for comprehensive rehabilitation. Additional treatment or other levels of care may be necessary to address the underlying issues that led to substance use, the effects of addiction, and to set a firm foundation in recovery.1

The Alcohol and Drug Detox Process

Generally speaking, the detox process involves three essential steps:2

  • Evaluation. When a person first comes to detox, they will be evaluated to determine the appropriate level of care and treatment. This may include bloodwork to determine which substances a person has used and a medical and psychological evaluation.2
  • Stabilization. During this step, interventions are used to ease the discomfort of withdrawal and get the patient to a fully supported, medically stable state. This can involve the use of medications as well as psychosocial interventions.2
  • Fostering readiness for and entry into treatment. While detox is an integral part of the recovery process, it’s often not enough to help people achieve meaningful recovery from substance use disorders.1 During detox, individuals will be encouraged to engage in additional treatment after the withdrawal management period ends.2

How Long Does Detox Last?

The average length of a medical detox stay at our facility is 3-7 days, but can last longer, depending on the person’s history of substance use, health, and other factors, such as:

  • Substance type: The type of substance, such as opioids or alcohol, can influence how long withdrawal lasts.
  • Duration of use and amount used: Using a substance for a long time or in high doses can result in a more severe dependence and longer or more difficult withdrawal.
  • Polysubstance use: Using multiple substances at the same time can complicate withdrawal.
  • Co-occurring medical or mental health conditions: Certain medical or mental health problems can make withdrawal management more challenging. For instance, some symptoms of withdrawal can add to the symptoms of certain co-occurring mental health issues, which in turn may benefit from more targeted treatment attention.

Medications Used During Drug & Alcohol Detox

Medications are used in drug and alcohol detox to relieve physical discomfort, reduce psychological distress, and to manage any serious medical complications to arise.2 The decision to use medications during detox is made on a case-by-case basis, considering the following factors:2

  • The substances being detoxed from.
  • The risk of severe withdrawal.
  • The person’s overall health, including any concurrent medical conditions.

The specific medications given during detox depend on the substance of dependence. For example, different medications are used to manage opioid withdrawal, such as opioid agonists like buprenorphine or methadone may be initiated to minimize withdrawal in early recovery.2

For alcohol withdrawal, benzodiazepine or other sedating medications may be needed to keep people comfortable and safe in acute alcohol withdrawal.2

During sedative withdrawal, a relatively long-acting benzodiazepine may be subbed in for the previously misused benzo, which may then see its dose gradually decreased as withdrawal risks gradually abate.2

In some cases, non-prescription analgesics may also be used to augment withdrawal management efforts by additionally relieving symptoms such as body aches and fever.2

How to Detox from Drugs or Alcohol Safely

The safest way to detox from alcohol and certain types of drugs, such as opioids and benzodiazepines, is with professional help from your medical provider or through a medical detox program.2 Withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable and challenging to manage on your own and may lead to a return to substance use.1 Sometimes symptoms can be life-threatening, so it’s safer to be monitored by a healthcare professional who can quickly respond to medical emergencies.1

Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal

Some form of round-the-clock care, such as supervised medical detox is generally the preferred setting for alcohol detox because some symptoms can be life-threatening.2  Medical personnel and specialists can manage symptoms and respond to critical events like seizures in a medical detox setting, helping people get through withdrawal safely and comfortably.2

How a person experiences alcohol withdrawal is highly variable and often unpredictable. Symptoms can range in severity and may include: 2,4

  • Anxiety.
  • Sleep disturbance, including insomnia, intense dreams, or nightmares.
  • Restlessness or agitation.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Tremor.
  • Hyperthermia.
  • Elevated heart rate.
  • Elevated blood pressure.
  • Cognitive changes, such as poor concentration, memory issues, or poor judgment.
  • Increased sensitivity to sensory input, such as light, sound, and tactile sensation.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Delusions.
  • Seizures.

Benzodiazepine Detox and Withdrawal

Like alcohol withdrawal, people struggling with dependence or addiction to benzodiazepines or other sedatives may benefit from a supervised detox.2 Benzodiazepine withdrawal may be associated with medical complications similar to alcohol withdrawal, including seizures.2  Furthermore, seizures can occur without other warning signs, making benzodiazepine withdrawal unpredictable.2 Other benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms include:4

  • Anxiety.
  • Psychomotor agitation.
  • Insomnia.
  • Sweating.
  • Increased pulse rate.
  • Hand tremor.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Hallucinations.

Opioid Detox and Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal can markedly unpleasant and difficult to manage.2 Opioid withdrawal is not usually life-threatening, but the symptoms of an unmanaged withdrawal can be severe and the cravings intense.2 This can lead people to return to opioid use. Symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:2

  • Dysphoric mood.
  • Insomnia
  • Body aches.
  • Fever.
  • Sweating, runny nose, and teary eyes.
  • Gastrointestinal distress.

Although medical complications from opioid withdrawal are rare, there are still risks to your health, such as dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, or other symptoms associated with gastrointestinal distress.2 Medically managed withdrawal for opioids might include monitoring, interventions to decrease physical or mental discomfort, medications to manage cravings, or preventing complications.3

Is Medical Detox Covered by Insurance?

Yes, medically managed detox is covered by many insurance plans. Under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, passed in 2008, insurance companies and group health plans must provide some coverage for mental health and addiction treatment services.5 Specifically, this law means that insurance companies cannot place greater restrictions on mental health and addiction treatment than they do on medical or surgical benefits.5

Your insurance may have limitations on the percentage of care that they will cover or a set dollar amount that they will pay for each year. To find out how much of the cost of treatment will be covered by your policy, it is always a good idea to reach out to your insurance provider.

Getting Admitted to a Detox Program in Florida

If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol use, compassionate and caring help is available. Our inpatient rehab near Tampa offers multiple levels of addiction treatment, making it easy to get the help you need. River Oaks is a Florida detox center with expertise in treating alcohol use disorder, benzodiazepine addiction, opioid addiction, and more.

For more information about River Oaks, contact our admissions navigator team today at . Our staff can help answer questions about paying for rehab with health insurance, as well as other options for handling the cost of rehab. Call River Oaks’ admissions staff today and start the admissions process quickly and easily.

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