Medical Detox for Drug & Alcohol Withdrawal
Medical detoxification assists patients in safely managing acute withdrawal symptoms as their bodies begin to adapt to a substance-free state.1
This page will discuss how medical detox works, the detox process, and common medications used to support patients.
Medical Detox Process for Drugs & Alcohol
When a person reduces or stops using drugs and alcohol after prolonged or heavy use, they can experience uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.2 Symptoms of withdrawal, as well as their severity, vary depending on the substance or substances used, the dose and frequency used, and other medical conditions. If a patient has a history of alcohol or drug withdrawal, it is likely the withdrawal symptoms they experience will be similar but likely more severe with subsequent withdrawal episodes.2
Medically managed detox aims to help individuals manage their withdrawal symptoms as safely and comfortably as possible. It can occur in an inpatient or outpatient setting, ranging from visits to a physician’s office at predetermined intervals to hospitalization. The setting detox is performed in depends largely on the substance being used and the severity of someone’s physiological dependency.1 At Oxford Treatment Center’s drug and alcohol detox center in Mississippi, we provide inpatient medical detox with 24/7 patient monitoring and support.
When an individual begins medical detox for drugs or alcohol, they can expect to be evaluated, stabilized, and helped to transition forward with continued substance use disorder rehabilitation after successful withdrawal management.
The three essential components of the detox process are detailed below:1
- Evaluation: Upon arrival, each patient is screened for any substances remaining in their system. Patients are also evaluated for any co-occurring mental and physical health conditions, as well as their current social situation to best determine the appropriate level of care.
- Stabilization: Patients are continuously supervised by staff available 24/7 with vital signs and patient status routinely monitored by a medical team who assist in managing the uncomfortable and potentially dangerous symptoms of withdrawal as their bodies are substance free and medically stable.
- Helping a patient with continued treatment: Patients benefit from continued treatment after detox to avoid a return to alcohol or drug use. The treatment team works directly with patients during medical detox to help transition them to the level of care that was identified to be most ideal for them and their needs.
Each patient entering Oxford’s Mississippi drug and alcohol detox center will receive an individualized treatment plan to safely manage their symptoms and stabilize them as their body rids itself of alcohol and other drugs. It is important to note that medical detox at Oxford will differ for each patient, as plans are based on each individual’s unique needs. On average, detox lasts around 5 days. However, the length of time one remains in detox is usually determined by several factors, such as how long substances were used and what substances they were using. Many patients continue treatment after they have completed detox, lengthening their stay to 30-day rehab and/or 60+ day rehab, depending on recovery progress and treatment needs.
What Medications Are Used in Drug & Alcohol Detox?
For some patients, medication can be a helpful tool in managing withdrawal symptoms.3 However, not every patient requires medication during detox. Each incoming patient is assessed by Oxford’s clinical team to create an individualized treatment plan, including if and what medications are used.
Medications used during detox at Oxford may include benzodiazepines to assist in managing severe alcohol and sedative withdrawal symptoms such as seizures, and buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist that can minimize and in some cases eliminate withdrawal symptoms experienced when discontinuing prescription opioids or heroin. Other medications may be administered supportively at Oxford Treatment Center to help soothe unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as pain and nausea.
Patients staying at Oxford during detox are continuously supervised by the medical team throughout detox and treatment may be adjusted as needed..
Alcohol Detox & Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol appear following heavy, sustained alcohol use. It is relatively rare for individuals younger than 30 years to experience withdrawal symptoms, and the risk and severity of experiencing withdrawal increase with age. The risk and severity of withdrawal also increases as a person increases the duration of sustained heavy drinking or if a person is also dependent on other depressants (e.g., benzodiazepines). Symptoms of severe alcohol withdrawal (e.g., seizures, delirium) may be dangerous and even life-threatening and require medical support. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may include: 2
- Elevated pulse.
- Hand tremor.
- Psychomotor agitation.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Transient visual, tactile, or auditory hallucinations (seeing, feeling, or hearing things that aren’t there).
Fewer than 10% of individuals who develop alcohol withdrawal will ever develop more dramatic, severe symptoms and seizures occur in fewer than 3% of individuals. Medications administered during medical detox (often sedatives or anticonvulsants) can mitigate many of these symptoms and reduce the likelihood and severity of seizures.1
Benzodiazepine Detox & Withdrawal
Withdrawal from benzodiazepines is similar to withdrawal from alcohol—both substances are CNS depressants. Like alcohol withdrawal, severe symptoms (e.g., seizures, delirium) can arise that can be life-threatening without medical support. Also like alcohol, the risk of more severe withdrawal symptoms increases the longer the benzo was taken and the higher the dosages used. Symptoms of benzo withdrawal may include:2
- Elevated heart rate.
- Hand tremor.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Transient visual, tactile, or auditory hallucinations.
- Psychomotor agitation.
- Grand mal seizures.
During medical detox for benzo withdrawal, patients are often treated with tapering doses of a different type of benzodiazepine to prevent seizures. Alternatives may include phenobarbital or anticonvulsants.1
Opioid Detox & Withdrawal
Opioid withdrawal is seldom life-threatening but can be quite painful and extremely unpleasant, leading many to return to opioid use. Inpatient medical detox not only can make the withdrawal process safer but also much more comfortable.1
Symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:1
- Fast heart rate and high blood pressure.
- Abdominal pain.
- Muscle cramps and spasms.
Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD), including buprenorphine, are sometimes used during and after detox to reduce, or even eliminate, these symptoms as well as cravings.1
Stimulant Withdrawal & Detox
Withdrawal from stimulants (e.g., cocaine, methamphetamine, Adderall) is not often associated with severe, life-threatening symptoms. Therefore, inpatient detox for these substances is less common. There are no medications currently FDA-approved to treat stimulant withdrawal or addiction.1,4
Stimulant withdrawal symptoms may include:1
- Excessive sleeping or insomnia.
- Psychomotor retardation.
- Trouble concentrating.
Patients who are addicted to stimulants often start treatment with intensive outpatient care or another level of addiction treatment.1
Cannabis Withdrawal & Detox
Addiction to marijuana (when it does not involve addiction to other substances as well) rarely entails detox. There are no FDA-approved medications for treating cannabis withdrawal.
Cannabis withdrawal does not typically result in serious or life-threatening health complications.1, p. 224 Symptoms of marijuana withdrawal may include:1, p. 224
- Trouble sleeping.
- Concentration problems.
Hallucinogen Withdrawal & Detox
Hallucinogen use does not often result in physiological dependency and withdrawal upon cessation. Therefore, medical detox is rarely used for people with hallucinogen addiction, and there are no medications used to treat withdrawal.1,5
That said, some have reported symptoms after stopping chronic use of dissociative drugs, such as ketamine or PCP, including:6,7
How to Detox from Drugs or Alcohol Safely
Detoxing from drugs or alcohol can be difficult, especially when withdrawal symptoms begin.
Detoxing from drugs or alcohol in a supervised, professional environment can help keep people safe and comfortable, reduce risks of serious complications, and facilitate access for additional medical attention, should it be necessary.
Though medical detox is an important first step for many addiction treatment journeys, it alone is rarely sufficient in helping people achieve long-term abstinence.8 After medical detox, patients at Oxford may continue their stay by transitioning to inpatient residential rehab treatment, or move to one of our three outpatient programs: treatment in a variety of levels of care including:
You will not be alone in investigating options after detox, as Oxford’s team assists each patient in creating a unique treatment and aftercare plan.
Getting Admitted to Medical Detox in Mississippi
If you suspect that you or a loved one may be addicted to drugs or alcohol, start the treatment admissions process today by calling Oxford’s admissions navigators available 24/7 at .
Oxford’s compassionate admissions navigators will walk you through the admissions process and answer any questions you may have on drug and alcohol rehab in Mississippi and helping a loved one with addiction.
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