The Benefits of a Medically Supervised Detox



Detoxing can be defined as the process of clearing toxins from the body of a patient who is dependent on a substance. It’s designed to manage the symptoms of withdrawal that follow sudden cessation of drinking, and helps patients overcome physical dependence. A medically-supervised detox is when this is done with the help of a doctor.

Anyone who suffers regular side effects from alcohol withdrawal should definitely make plans to detox with medical supervision.

These effects include an increased desire to drink, an inability to go a day without wanting to drink, suffering severe withdrawals between drinking sessions, and beginning to exhibit mental health issues as a consequence of consuming alcohol. [1]

What is a medically-supervised detox?

Medical detox facilities provide patients with a controlled, safe, and comfortable environment where they can rid their bodies of alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms that they suffer from can be treated using a variety of methods which include:

  • Sedative medications
  • Nutritional support and physical exercise
  • Psychological and behavioural counselling
  • Supervision by a doctor and medical team

What is the medical detox process?

There are three steps to a general medical detox process which we have listed below:

1. Evaluation

A medical professional will determine your physiological and psychological state, by asking you to undergo a physical examination, take some blood tests, and fill out a questionnaire. The details provided will be used to design a treatment plan for you.

2. Stabilization

The next step in the process is designed to help patients detox from their alcohol consumption. This stage helps them achieve medical stability by bringing their bodies and vitals to a normal, sober state.

This can take one to three weeks, depending on the severity of the patient’s withdrawal symptoms, and the type of drug or substance they have used.

3. Preparation

Detoxes are usually only the first step on the road to recovery. During this third stage of the process, patients prepare ongoing or additional treatments with the help of their doctors and counsellors. These treatments include ongoing therapy, inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation, or entering a 12-step program. [2]

medically-supervised detox centres

What are detox centres?

A detox centre is a dedicated addiction treatment facility where you receive specialist medical care to aid you in the detox and recovery process. Treatment is provided through a doctor’s supervision and a course of medications to allow people to cope with the withdrawal process.

Detox centres can either be inpatient facilities, state or public hospitals, private institutions, or detox clinics specifically.

Every detox clinic we work with at Rehab Recovery is approved by the Quality Care Commission, meaning you will receive the highest and most professional level of care.

Once the detox process is complete and your health and safety have been assured, you will then discuss with a specialist your next steps towards recovery. This can either be inpatient or outpatient treatment, a treatment found through your doctor, or day programmes.

What is alcohol withdrawal?

Excessive consumption can eventually lead to addiction or dependence on alcohol. When someone reaches this state of dependence, and they decide to stop drinking, the effects of alcohol dissipate. The body is left in a severe state of shock after relying on alcohol for so long, and they suffer severe withdrawal symptoms.

This is why people with alcohol issues regularly do not function well between drinks. They inevitably find themselves reaching for a drink sooner rather than later to alleviate the symptoms.

Why is alcohol withdrawal dangerous without supervision?

Detoxing without supervision can be scary, dangerous, and even life-threatening. The physical and psychological effects of alcohol withdrawal are profound from many people in some cases the result in cardiac events, loss of liver and kidney function, seizures, and delirium tremens.

The psychological impact can be even more dangerous resulting in hallucinations, psychosis, and depression. Withdrawing from alcohol abuse can be profoundly traumatic and is not something that you should do unsupervised.

This is why a medically-supervised detox is the most effective and safest way to complete the first stage of recovery.

What are the benefits of a medically-supervised detox?

There are many reasons to consider choosing to detox in an inpatient centre. Here are the main reasons to consider choosing an inpatient detox centre:

  • Medical staff on hand: you will be monitored on a 24/7 basis to mitigate against the risk of ceasing alcohol consumption
  • Closed environment: the ability to detox in a safe and controlled environment decreases the risk of relapse exponentially
  • Increased focus on recovery: as you work to the detox program, much more emphasis will be placed on life after the centre and continuing on your journey to recovery [3]

medically-supervised detox

Understanding alcohol withdrawal symptoms

The process of withdrawing from alcohol usage causes many unpleasant symptoms. This is why the majority of people choose to detox in medically supervised facilities. Ensuring they are in a safe and comfortable environment can prevent symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Shaky hands and legs
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure
  • Racing heart
  • Confusion

When an individual drinks regularly and excessively, their body tries to compensate for the feelings that alcohol produces by releasing certain chemicals. As this person continues to consume more alcohol, they begin to build what’s known as tolerance.

This simply means that they need to drink greater amounts to get the same feeling. As you do this, you will eventually become dependent upon or addicted to alcohol. the periods between drinking will result in severe withdrawal symptoms as your body and brain try to recover

Which medications can help with these symptoms?

At a medical detox facility, doctors will be on hand to prescribe a list of medications that will help alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal. These include:

These are regularly prescribed to help people deal with alcohol withdrawal sleep issues to treat anxiety.

They're also the drug of choice of many patients who are detoxing and are commonly used in both treatment and detox facilities but rarely prescribed outside as they have a high potential to be abused.

Another drug that is commonly prescribed by health professionals to treat withdrawal from alcohol. They are used very sparingly as they can also be highly addictive and do not interact well with alcohol.

The potential overdosing is high, so they're only ever administered with great care.

Anticonvulsants are prescribed to stabilize the moods in patients, especially those with bipolar disorder. This medication can lessen the intensity of the shakes, anxiety or other hyper-nervous symptoms.

Beta-blockers are used to tackle behavioural problems such as education/clinical issues, tremors, and stabilizing vital signs - all of which can be very helpful when patients are detoxing.


Antipsychotics and commonly used in the treatment of addiction. People suffer from delirium tremens, agitation and hallucinations while undergoing supervised medical detoxes.

They're also widely used to treat psychosis in people who are affected by ongoing mental health issues. They have to be carefully administered as they can increase the risk of seizures in patients.

Alcohol detox timeline

Determining the alcohol detox timeline is never an exact science; everyone’s relationship with alcohol is different as a consequence of the owner’s withdrawal and use.

The detox process is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but the average person responds over a 7 to 10-day period. That has been divided into three different stages: [4]

Stage 1 is the onset of detoxification and generally lasts anything from up to 10 to 24 hours. During this time, it is not unusual for patients to exhibit symptoms such as insomnia, nausea, and anxiety. The body and brain are beginning to deal with the lack of alcohol in the patient system.

Stage 2 happens from up to 24 hours after the last drink. This is usually the most intense part of the withdrawal process as the patients can suffer from high blood pressure, fever, and increased body temperature. The symptoms begin to fade after 48 hours.

Stage 3 will usually occur on days three to four. The worst of the withdrawal symptoms might include new sensations in the limbs, seizures, and hallucinations. Once the patient’s symptoms have gradually begun to subside, the next step is then discussed with doctors.

Is it safe to detox from alcohol at home?

We did mention earlier that it was possible to detox in your own home safely, but it isn’t recommended. As dangerous as excess alcohol consumption can be, stopping drinking without adequate medical supervision can be even more dangerous.

If you genuinely want to stop. start by reaching out and ask for help, and places are available in our medically-supervised detox centres today.

Other types of drug detox

If a medically-assisted detox is something that doesn’t sound right for you, we have listed the lesser common options below:

1. Non-Medical or “Social” Detox

This method of detox is only usually recommended for someone who is newly addicted to alcohol. These people tend to experience less severe side effects and can successfully detox without medical supervision and party use of medication.

The longer you have been exhibiting addictive behaviour, the more critical it becomes for you to consider seeking both medical and professional help.

2. Rapid Detox

Rapid detox is only ever recommended for someone who is in dire need of life-changing intervention. Here, an experienced physician, alongside approved medication, is the only way to handle this approach due to the sporadic nature of the withdrawal symptoms.

3. Ultra-Rapid Detox

The method limits the effects of withdrawal. It involves sedating patients for several hours and using opiate blockers to accelerate the detoxification process. Due to the high level of risk attached to this procedure, most insurance companies refuse to cover it.

Whatever option you choose, make sure you understand the risks & dangers of detoxing and withdrawal. You owe it to yourself to find the best quality of care and supervision.

How is medically-assisted detox more successful for recovery?

It is nearly impossible to recover without completing a successful detox program first. During these ten days, many people in early recovery form strong bonds with each other, as well as members of their treatment team. [5]

As they become more and more comfortable and feelings of anxiety start to dissipate, it’s easier for them to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They trust the surroundings and are beginning to see the benefit from the care and compassion they receive from the dedicated professionals in the centre.

 

Looking for more answers?

Find your path to recovery today by calling us on 0800 088 66 86 where you will receive free advice & guidance.

References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2894658

[2] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-dubious-practice-of-detox

[3] https://healthcare.utah.edu/uni/conditions-treatments/detoxification-treatment.php

[4] https://uhs.umich.edu/aodresources

[5] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/drug-addiction-getting-help/

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