When someone goes into treatment for substance abuse, they usually have a period of detoxification. It’s the kind of thing that gets tossed out as gossip – “This celebrity is back in rehab trying to detox again” – but what does it really mean? You’ve probably heard about people on detox diets, where they eat nothing but raw vegetables and fruits or drink special teas and smoothies. These are also called cleanses, and the idea is that it gets all of the toxins in your body. The same idea applies to people who enter drug or alcohol treatment and go through detoxification. The first step, before you can start working on underlying issues or coping mechanisms, is to get all of the dangerous substances out of your body.

Detox on its own isn’t sufficient treatment to provide long-lasting effects, but it’s a necessary first step. Many people are afraid of taking that first step toward sobriety because they know the effects of withdrawal are going to be unpleasant, but if you do it under supervision, it doesn’t have to be so bad. Most reputable treatment facilities offer medically supervised detox, where physicians are available to make sure you get through the process as safely and comfortably as possible. This will often include the use of medications, particularly ones that combat withdrawal symptoms. For example, you might be given methadone and Suboxone for opioid withdrawal or benzodiazepines for stimulants like cocaine and meth. If you’re withdrawing from benzodiazepines, you might continue taking them in gradually decreasing amounts or switch to phenobarbital instead.

Trying to detox at home isn’t recommended. Not only will it be uncomfortable, but you’ll have no one to hold you accountable if you decide you can’t take it and want to use again. If you’re in a treatment facility, there will be no access to drugs or alcohol, and there will be people there to help you. Sudden withdrawal from certain drugs can also be fatal, due to complications from the side effects. Going cold turkey from alcohol, for example, can lead to convulsions and seizures, as well as cardiac arrhythmias, when your heart either beats too fast or too slow. Quitting cold turkey also makes you more likely to relapse. If you stop suddenly, your body loses its tolerance to drugs or alcohol. If you start using again in the doses you were used to at the height of your addiction, you’re likely to end up overdosing.


Detoxing in a treatment facility offers many benefits. You’ll be better able to deal with cravings and won’t be able to follow through on them. Medical professionals will be present to provide medication and other means of easing withdrawal symptoms. Perhaps most importantly, once the physical part is over, you’ll already be in a place where they can start helping with the mental.

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.