Drug Detox: Process, Medications & Treatment Options

Last Updated: October 21, 2022

A medically supervised detox can ease withdrawal symptoms, making the first steps of addiction recovery safer, more comfortable and easier to achieve.

Quitting an addictive substance can seem like an overwhelming challenge. Fortunately, with the dangers of addiction becoming more widely known, there is more medical support than ever for people determined to stop their substance use. 

Typically, the process of addiction treatment and recovery starts with a detox period. Drug detox refers to the initial stages of stopping or weaning off a substance. This is often completed in a medical setting and is known as medical detox.

Jump to Section

When Is Detox Necessary?

Detox is necessary when a person wants to quit a substance they have become physically or psychologically dependent on. Because the body and mind have become reliant on the presence of the substance to function normally, quitting the substance can lead to a variety of physical and mental withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms vary widely depending on the substance the person is quitting.

Withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and even dangerous in some situations. For this reason, one of the safest ways for a person to detox is in a medically supervised inpatient setting. In these medical detox facilities, clients receive around-the-clock care from doctors and nurses who can address any withdrawal symptoms and complications as they arise.

In case of a substance-related medical emergency, such as an overdose or uncontrolled withdrawal symptoms, call 911 immediately. If you suspect a person may be overdosing on an opioid, administer the opioid reversal drug naloxone if possible and then call 911.

Dangers of Detoxing From Drugs at Home

Some people attempt to end substance use at home without help. This can be difficult for a variety of reasons. Because withdrawal symptoms can be intense and overpowering, a person might get discouraged and abandon their detox efforts. If they have stopped taking the substance but suddenly start again due to difficult withdrawal symptoms, their body may no longer be used to the substance. This can cause a potentially deadly overdose.

Further, some withdrawal symptoms, such as hallucinations or uncontrolled vomiting, can be dangerous and lead to medical complications.

Medical Detox for Drug Addiction

Medical detox is a safe way to stop substance use. Experts recommend medical detox for many people, including those who have underlying medical conditions, mental health problems, severe addictions or addictions to multiple substances.

What Is Medical Detox?

In medical detox, a person stops or is slowly weaned off a substance while in inpatient care at a specialized detox facility. Doctors and nurses provide around-the-clock medical support while the person’s body is cleansed of the substance.

The Detox Process

When someone is admitted to a medical detox center, the medical team takes their full medical history. This allows any underlying medical or nutritional needs to be addressed as the person is weaned off the substance. The medical team then determines the best way for the person to stop the substance and monitors them until they are ready for the next level of care, which is typically a rehab setting.

Detox Medications & Medication
Assisted Treatment

Medications are often used during the detox process to treat withdrawal symptoms as necessary. Certain medications that help a person stay sober may also be prescribed either during detox or rehab. Prescriptions can vary depending on the withdrawal symptoms that arise and the type of substance that is being abused.


Mood changes like anxiety and depression are common when a person struggles with addiction, and they can be worsened during the withdrawal process. Antidepressants may be prescribed to help a person overcome these feelings, setting them up for a better mental health space to meet the challenges of detox and rehab.


Bartter, T & Gooberman, L L. “Rapid opiate detoxification.” The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. November 1996. Accessed June 21, 2023.

Legarda, Juan J. “Ultra-rapid opiate detoxification under anaesthesia (UROD).” The Lancet Journal. May 16, 1998. Accessed June 21, 2023.

American Society of Anesthesiologists. “General Anesthesia.” 2023. Accessed June 21, 2023.

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Deaths and Severe Adverse Events Associated with Anesthesia-Assisted Rapid Opioid Detoxification — New York City, 2012.” September 27, 2013. Accessed June 21, 2023.

Shah, Mansi & Huecker, Martin R. “Opioid Withdrawal.” StatPearls. April 29, 2023. Accessed June 21, 2023.

Singh, J. & Basu, Debasish. “Ultra-Rapid Opioid Detoxification: Current Status and Controversies.” Journal of Postgraduate Medicine. 2004. Accessed June 21, 2023.

Our Recovery Advocates


Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.

Get your life back

Recovery is possible. Begin your journey today

Call Us Now Admissions Check Insurance

What To Expect

When you call our team, you will speak to a Recovery Advocate who will answer any questions and perform a pre-assessment to determine your eligibility for treatment. If eligible, we will create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. If The Recovery Village is not the right fit for you or your loved one, we will help refer you to a facility that is. All calls are 100% free and confidential.

All calls are 100% free and confidential.