After years of suffering from alcohol or substance dependence, it may be difficult to discover how to move forward. While there are many treatment paths available, it may not be easy to know which is right for you. Medical detox is a process that fosters a safe and controlled recovery environment, ideal for those with serious withdrawal symptoms.

Is medical detox the right choice for you? Read on to decide for yourself by reviewing the goals, benefits and process of this specialized treatment.

What Is Medical Detoxification?

Medically supervised detox processes are designed to clear patients of drugs and alcohol in a safe and controlled environment. Under the care of experienced medical professionals, withdrawal symptoms are managed to ensure a high level of safety. Since these symptoms can be painful or even a threat to the patient’s health, this type of controlled environment is a necessity.

Not everyone needs medically supervised care in a detox clinic, though it’s often considered safe to do so. Detox rehab ensures a safer recovery with a higher chance of success. By beginning on the right foot, patients will have a better chance of recovering from addiction.

Who Can Benefit From a Medical Detox Process?

While medical detox can be good for many people to begin their recovery process, it’s not right for everyone. Generally, a medical detox center is a good choice for those who are at risk of being physically dependent on alcohol or another substance. Take a look at these risk factors to see if they describe you or someone close to you:

  • Has drunk alcohol or used a substance in large amounts and regularly
  • Has experienced weaker effects from the same amount of the substance
  • Has a long history of using the substance
  • Has felt cravings for the substance when it’s not accessible
  • Requires greater amounts over time to get the same effect
  • Has attempted to quit in the past and failed

If you’re experiencing the effects of alcohol withdrawal, then you’ve become physically dependent and could benefit from medical detox. Withdrawal is a sign that the body requires alcohol to function properly. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include anxiety, shaking hands, nausea, insomnia, sweating and headache. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms when not drinking alcohol, it may be time to begin a medical detox process.

The Benefits of a Medical Detox Center

A medical detox center is the best way to ensure the highest degree of safety and care during a difficult recovery process. More than anything else, it provides a structure for patients that holds them accountable to long-term recovery goals. A team of professionals is on-site to help guide you through this complicated situation.

The benefits of medical detox include:

  • Safety: The physical and mental well-being of patients is a top concern in a medical detox process. Trained doctors ensure they stay as safe and well cared for as possible.
  • Improved recovery chance: Research has shown that facility-based detoxification offers the greatest chance of a successful recovery.
  • Reduced symptoms: Some facilities are able to administer medications that help ease the symptoms of withdrawal that come with detoxification.
  • Supervision: No detox center offers a one-size-fits-all process. Treatments need to be tailored to the individual, which requires medical supervision.

How Medically Supervised Detox Programs Work

The goal of medical detox is to remove all traces of alcohol or other substances from the patient’s body, allowing them to begin their recovery with a clean slate. However, this is a difficult process, as bodies that have been exposed to large amounts of substances over an extended period have begun to adapt to the substance.

One way the body changes is through two neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine. Sometimes called feel-good chemicals, they regulate our feelings and are triggered when alcohol or drugs are used. This is where the familiar feelings of euphoria come from. When substances are abused, the body develops a tolerance and it becomes harder to trigger the neurotransmitters. Over time, you can become so accustomed to the substance that it’s difficult to feel normal without them. This is called dependence.

Medical detox programs allow patients to remove alcohol and drugs from their bodies while also addressing the physical symptoms that come with dependence and withdrawal. Without medical supervision, withdrawal symptoms could pose a serious health risk.

The process involves three stages of treatment:


The first step is evaluation, which includes a series of screening tests. These are given by a nurse or doctor to ensure accuracy. Their purpose is to gather as much information as possible about your needs so as to deliver the best possible treatment. The tests include medical assessments, drug and alcohol screenings, disorder evaluations and psych assessments.


Once the medical team has all the information they need to develop a treatment plan, the detox process begins. During this time, medical professionals will monitor temperature, blood pressure, breathing and heart rate to make sure you’re physically stable. If necessary, medications can be administered to ease withdrawal symptoms. Otherwise, more general care can be administered as necessary.

The detoxification process is complete after all alcohol and other harmful substances have left your body and the withdrawal symptoms have subsided.

Future Treatment

Once a doctor has determined that you’re safe to leave medical care, the next stage of your recovery begins. This can vary from person to person, but the goal is to ensure the progress made during detoxification is not undone by a relapse. Inpatient or outpatient programs may be recommended, as well as a hospitalization program.

How Long Does a Drug Detox Take?

Most patients can expect detox rehab to take from 7 to 10 days. However, there are a number of factors that can affect this. These include:

  • The severity of withdrawal symptoms
  • The quantity of alcohol or drugs consumed
  • The patient’s mental and physical functioning

After the initial phase is complete, patients will move on to a rehab program, which supports the initial treatment with comprehensive psychotherapy.

Medications Used in Alcohol Detox

Medication may not be prescribed for all detox patients, though it can be a good way to ease symptoms for those who need it most. Here are some of the most common ones used:

  • Anxiolytics: These are offered to help ease tension and anxiety in those suffering from withdrawal, allowing them to find psychological comfort during the process.
  • Sedatives: The purpose of sedative drugs is to help patients sleep or relax. They must be used in moderation, as many can become addictive themselves.
  • Vitamins: It’s important to promote body growth, function and development throughout the recovery process. Simple vitamins are often the best way to do this.

Get Started Today

To get started on your own recovery process or to learn more, get in touch with our team at Sunlight Recovery. Our medical detoxification program is the perfect first step to becoming alcohol-free. Equipped with the staff and facilities to support your journey, we’re confident in our ability to offer the help you need.