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Drug Detox: Process, Side Effects & Detox Centers Near Atlanta

Last Updated: January 25, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

When someone uses drugs and alcohol for some time and attempts to stop or even cut back, they might experience withdrawal. The human body works to maintain a sense of balance. When a substance is removed from the body, there may be effects as it tries to regain that balance. This is why withdrawal symptoms occur. Medical detoxification includes a set of interventions to manage withdrawal. A medical detox is often the first step in a continuum of care during addiction treatment. 

What Is Drug Detox?

During a medical detox, toxins are cleared from the body of a patient dependent on substances. The goal of medical detox is a reduction of the physical harm and symptoms that can occur during this time. Without professional treatment, someone trying to detox alone could face serious complications. 

Specific withdrawal symptoms may vary depending on the severity of dependence and the substances misused. General symptoms of withdrawal can include sweating, agitation and anxiety. Muscle aches, insomnia, cramping, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting may also occur.  

Medical detox is often described as a medical intervention to help someone safely get through acute withdrawal. Detox is not, however, meant to deal with the underlying causes or effects of substance misuse. Detox is a step in a continuum of care for addiction. It’s not a standalone treatment or rehab for substance misuse.

The Process of Medical Detoxification

The process of medical detoxification can broadly include the following steps:

  • During the initial evaluation, there may be testing for substances in the blood. A screening for co-occurring mental and physical conditions may also be completed. This evaluation can also include assessing the patient’s psychological, medical and social conditions. With these assessments, the medical team can determine the patient’s appropriate care level after detox. They’re able to form a basis for the addiction treatment plan once the patient successfully goes through withdrawal.
  • Stabilization is the next phase of medical detox. Stabilization may include medications in certain circumstances.
  • Once a patient is stabilized, they’re prepared to enter into substance abuse treatment.

Professional Detoxification vs. Quitting Cold Turkey

Withdrawal symptoms can range from minor to very serious. In general, these symptoms can be the opposite of the effects of the substance itself. For example, when someone is withdrawing from alcohol, they might feel agitated or restless. The term “cold turkey” refers to suddenly stopping a substance someone is dependent on, often without medical guidance. There can be significant risks of going cold turkey without professional help.

Alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal tend to have the most significant risk of severe side effects. However, any substance misuse can lead to complications. During a professional detox program, a medical team monitors patients 24/7, including checking their vital signs. If needed, they can administer medications and other treatments to increase safety and comfort.

Even if someone doesn’t plan to take part in inpatient medical detox, they should always speak to a medical professional before trying to stop substances cold turkey.

Detoxing at Home: Risks and Considerations

Not everyone needs an inpatient detox program. However, that doesn’t mean medical advice shouldn’t be considered beforehand. There are opportunities to receive detox management on an outpatient basis. That way, the patient can go through most of the process at home. When someone is going to detox at home, they should have someone who can help them if needed. If medicines are needed, they might be provided on an outpatient basis. The patient should follow their care provider’s instructions carefully during this time.

Treatment Options After Detox

Detox, as mentioned, is only the first step of the recovery journey. From there, someone with an addiction will need to consider a more intensive treatment program. Ideally, this program will help identify the root causes of substance misuse. Addiction is a complicated chronic disease, and treatment should be holistic and individualized.

Different levels of care may be available once detox is complete. A residential program is the most intensive treatment level. They offer a high level of structure and support on a 24/7 basis. Patients will also live onsite and receive various therapies in group and individual settings.

Alternatively, outpatient programs are also available. These programs are best for someone with a less severe substance use disorder or those who can’t take part in residential treatment. They offer more flexibility than a residential program. However, outpatient programs still offer counseling, medication management and other important treatments. 

Types of Detox Programs

Just as there are various levels of addiction treatment, there are also different intensity levels for detox. These levels, defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), include:

  • Ambulatory detoxification without on-site extended monitoring, which is an outpatient service. Patients are monitored at intervals, occurring in either a physician’s office or a healthcare company.
  • Ambulatory detox with extended on-site monitoring is similar to the care level above. However, it requires credentialed nurses to monitor patients a few hours a day.
  • Clinically managed residential detox integrates 24/7 supervision. However, it is focused primarily on social and peer support.
  • Medically monitored inpatient detox is more restrictive than the level of care above. It includes 24/7 care and supervision as patients experience withdrawal symptoms.
  • Medically managed intensive inpatient detox is the highest and most restrictive level of care. At this level, there is around-the-clock supervision and care for patients going through withdrawal in an acute inpatient environment.

The Costs of Detox and Financial Considerations

Drug detox costs vary depending on certain factors. These include the level of care, the center and the payment method. Frequently, insurance will cover the costs of detox fully or partially. Some programs are free or accept Medicaid. If you have insurance and need clarification on your coverage for detox, contact our Recovery Advocates. They can verify benefits and provide you with more information about potential costs. Even if you don’t have insurance, we encourage you to contact a Recovery Advocate to discuss options.

Choosing the Right Detox Center

When you’re searching for a detox center, whether for yourself or a loved one, it’s a big decision. You want to ensure you’re asking questions, comparing options and learning about the credentials of the detox center’s team.

At a minimum, medical and behavioral health facilities need to be licensed by the Department of Public Health in the state where they operate. Beyond that, there are organizations with accreditation that carry significant weight. They also indicate a high level of performance in different areas. Examples of accreditations you might look for when you’re comparing detox centers include:

  • Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF): This non-profit organization accredits substance detox and rehab facilities. CARF accreditation shows that a facility follows stringent safety practices, works to lower insurance premiums for admissions and meets specific program requirements.
  • Joint Commission: As a non-profit, the Joint Commission does accreditation inspections for healthcare facilities globally. The accreditation shows treatment and safety practices are effective. There’s also an emphasis on facilities that lower insurance copay costs for their patients.
  • The  National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP): This is a nonprofit with membership comprising professionals in the recovery industry. The goal is to facilitate best practices in addiction treatment.

Tips for Finding the Best Detox Center

Aside from credentials and costs, remember the following when choosing a detox center:

  • Look for reviews from past patients that can indicate the type of experience they might have had.
  • Avoid detox programs that appear illegitimate. Red flags can include not having a phone number listed or having an out-of-state area code, even though the center claims to be local.
  • You should avoid detox centers without a staff of trained medical professionals.
  • Ensure the center isn’t making unrealistic claims or guarantees about recovery.

Start Recovery with Medical Detox at The Recovery Village Atlanta

If you’d like to begin your recovery journey or get answers to questions, our Recovery Advocates can help anytime. We are a physician-led treatment facility, and we’re ready to welcome you with evidence-based detox care. Contact us to learn more. Same-day admissions are available.


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