What Happens In a Medical Detox?

Medical detoxification is the first step in an addiction recovery process. For example, someone who relies heavily on alcohol or drugs may need medical detox to help manage withdrawal symptoms during their first few days without substances. It can be a very uncomfortable process, but it is absolutely worth it! Read on to learn what happens in a medical detox. 

What is medical detox?

First, let’s look at what medical detox is not

Medical detox is not to be confused with “detoxing” or “cleansing” the body of everyday toxins. The latter include changes in diet, vitamins, exercise, and lifestyle. A cleanse or detox does not result in the serious withdrawal symptoms associated with drugs and alcohol.

Medical detoxification is a process of treating a person who has an addiction to a substance, such as alcohol or a drug, to bring about a safe and medically supervised withdrawal from the substance. Medical detoxification may also be called medical withdrawal, which can also be called medical detox or drug detox treatment.

As you can see, context goes a long way on this one. When we refer to what happens in a medical detox, we are referring to detoxification from drugs and/or alcohol that medical professionals supervise. 

What happens during medical detoxification?

When you detox from drugs or alcohol, your body is missing chemicals that it has become dependant on receiving. As a result, your system goes into a state of alarm, and very real symptoms occur as a result. 

The withdrawal process can include physical and psychological symptoms. These will vary from one individual to the next depending on multiple factors such as the substances the patient was using, how heavily and frequently they were using, health status, and other lifestyle factors. 

To assist a patient through their medical detoxification, administrators will help by managing withdrawal symptoms. The physician-prescribed process is administeted to help patients who have become physically dependent on a substance.

While it is not the same as addiction treatment, medical detoxification is an essential first step towards recovery.


The first step in drug detox treatment is evaluation. The medical team screens for physical and mental health risks while the doctors use blood tests to measure the drugs are in your system. This provides a baseline and allows them to speak about the detox process with you more thoroughly.

Medical detox is a complicated process that close supervision. Administers assess the patient’s drug, medical, and psychiatric histories to create a long-term treatment plan.

Withdrawal Symptoms

The withdrawal process during medical detoxification begins within a rather short time after stopping use. During the admissions procss, patients often receive medication to help with their withdrawal symptoms. 

Though symptoms will vary based on the substances used, the most common physical symptoms of withdrawal are abdominal cramps, anxiety, chills, diarrhea, dilated pupils, increased blood pressure, insomnia, runny nose, shaking, and sweating.

The psychological symptoms may include intense drug cravings, anxiety, depression, restlessness, sadness, anger, frustration, and guilt.

These can all be quite severe and overwhelming to patients. Intense withdrawal symptoms may tempt people to turn back to drugs or alcohol to stop their symptoms. For this reason, in-patient, supervised medical detox can be instrumental to the first days of recovery. It provides a supportive, supervised environment. 

Medication plan

To help patients with withdrawal symptoms, they are sometimes given medication as part of the detox process. No medication prevents all symptoms, but certain types can help ease some symptoms.

Alcohol withdrawal is a severe medical condition. The medical provider may provide medicines like benzodiazepines which can treat complications caused by alcohol, including seizures, fever, or high blood pressure. 

In the case of opioids, a doctor might prescribe medications like methadone or buprenorphine, which treats the withdrawal and reduces discomfort.

Drugs like cocaine and meth can be dangerous to your heart. Medications are not commonly prescribed for those recovering from these substances, as there are not generally physical withdrawal symptoms. However, the doctor may want to keep an eye on you if anything unpredictable happens during the process.

How to prepare for medical detoxification?

The first step of detoxification is to prepare your mind and body for the process. Some things you can do to prepare your body are:

  • Cut back on alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Eat healthy foods and balanced meals
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Exercising regularly
  • Practicing breathing exercises, such as deep breathing

It’s also essential to prepare your mind for the process. Some things you can do to help with this preparation are:

  • Talking
  • Keeping yourself busy
  • Define your “why” for giving up drugs and alcohol

How long does the medical detox process last?

Detoxification is different for every person and is dependent on the person’s age, weight, and the severity of their substance abuse. In general, the process of detoxification will take a few days with some withdrawal symptoms lasting up to a few weeks.

Benefits of drug detox treatment

Anyone who is addicted to drugs can find themselves in a dangerous situation, both physically and mentally. When their body becomes physically dependent on a substance, they will likely need professional help to end their addiction. If you or someone you know is addicted to drugs, the following are the benefits of drug detox treatment:

  1. One of the essential benefits of detoxification is the assistance it gives from withdrawal.
  2. Drug rehabs offer medical supervision and monitoring.
  3. Medical professionals monitor drug detox treatments so that they can monitor any adverse side effects or complications.
  4. Drug detox treatment provides the added benefit of connecting the patient to a support system and ongoing treatment plan. 

Medical detox is an intensive treatment program that manages and treats alcohol and other drugs’ addiction and withdrawal symptoms in a clinical setting. Medical supervision helps ease the uncomfortable process of detoxing from drugs and alcohol. NJ Rehabs aims to help you find drug and alcohol medical detoxification facilities throughout New Jersey. Call us today at 973-858-5125 to take the first step toward a fulfilling life of recovery.