Alcohol & Drug Detoxification Centers, Process and Outpatient vs Inpatient Detox Programs

What you need to know about drug and alcohol detox programs, types, processes, and substance addiction withdrawal symptoms before going to one.

Outpatient and inpatient detox centers programs play a huge role in recovery from substance addiction such as drugs and alcohol.

Substance abuse is the condition where an individual becomes physically and mentally dependent on the substance and is unable to stop consuming it even if he or she desires to do so.

Substance dependence or abuse is so high that according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2011, an estimated 20.6 million people in the U.S have a substance dependency problem.

With this high addiction problem, detox programs are in high demand. An addict can recover from their addiction problems starting with the help of various detoxification programs from drug and alcohol detoxification centers.

Run by professional accredited specialists, these outpatient and inpatient detox facilities excel in providing medical as well as psychological support to these addiction patients, ensuring effective but safe detoxification.

This article highlights some of the most important aspects of drug and alcohol addiction detox services like the withdrawal, types, and duration of detox facilities programs, and so on.

What is substance abuse/addiction detox?

Substance abuse & addiction detox is part of a treatment program for drugs or alcohol abuse that gets the substance abuse chemicals removed from one’s system.

And these are usually done at a professional detoxification clinic. These drug and alcohol detox centers help prepare the addict for the further stages of the treatment by getting the chemical toxins out of the individual body.

There are many ways to detox programs but most are not safe for you because of the severe withdrawal symptoms that might occur. This is why medically supervised detox centers programs are highly recommended and proven to have worked better than self-administered detox.

At these facilities, the addict is made to detoxify under the strict observation of licensed professional physicians in order to minimize their suffering due to withdrawal and other complications.

Types of detox used by detox centers

The two different types of detox programs that will likely be used by drug and alcohol detoxification centers are the social and medical detox program.


Social detox is a non-medical type of detox program treatment facilities use to detox an individual.

In this type of detox, the individual is not given any medication to help them with often severe withdrawal symptoms. The focus is on using psychological and emotional support to get the individual through the duration of the detoxification.

This is a very controversial way of detox that is rarely recommended. There are medical risk and relapse issues that arise during this type of program.

People with serious addictions typically go through pain during the stoppage of their substance abuse choice so not offering some kind of medical pain reliever can lead to some serious psychological and physical health risks for the patient.

Also, relapsing which leads to overdose is higher in the social detox program.


This is the recommended type of detox for substance abuse.

In a medically supervised detox, medications are used to diminish the withdrawal symptoms during detox.

For example, drug withdrawal symptoms can be very painful, so in a medical detox program, patients are given drug(s) that have a similar effect to the drug he or she is addicted to which helps in preventing the withdrawal symptom.

The two drugs most used during this type of detoxification program are buprenorphine and methadone.

Also, this type of detox for drug and alcohol use disorder should only be done by a professional. Never attempt this on your own as there are many medical complications that can arise when not done by a licensed medical professional.


Flushing out opioid drugs from an addict’s system swiftly to avoid distressing withdrawal symptoms is achieved through rapid detoxification or ROD (Rapid Opioid Detoxification).

It is an inpatient procedure conducted under general anesthesia in a specialized treatment facility under 24×7 supervised medical attention. Drugs used are Naloxone (opioid inhibitor) and sedatives.

It can be used as an effective component in an integrated rehab program that includes follow-up monitoring and psychotherapy.

Ultra Rapid

UROD (Ultra-rapid opioid detoxification) is an accelerated process to enable swift abstinence from illicit opioid use and addiction. UROD can reduce the detox process to 6-8 hours.

It is conducted under general anesthesia under 24×7 medical supervision as an inpatient procedure in an intensive care unit.

A very high dosage of naloxone (opioid inhibitor) is given as a bolus injection under sedation, followed by a slow infusion of low-dosage naloxone and psychotherapy.


This comprehensive de-addiction treatment program addresses the individual as a whole person, including the physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, vocational and legal issues that they face.

It can include alternative medicine, medical, yoga, tai chi, guided meditation, massage and acupuncture, proper nutrition, art, and music therapies, counseling, identifying underlying causes of addiction, exercise, and fitness et cetera.

Withdrawal symptoms are managed under medical supervision.

So when is it necessary?

Some people might not need detoxification as part of their drug or alcohol use disorder treatment.
So when is detox necessary then? Detox is necessary for people who have used drugs or alcohol for a long time, especially heavily. Prolonged substance abuse use typically leads to the accumulation of harmful chemical toxins in the user body.
Without getting these chemical toxins flushed out of the person’s body before starting their addiction treatment program(s), the chances of developing withdrawal symptoms and relapse increase. So getting alcohol and drug toxins out of a patient’s body is important in dealing with the often dangerous withdrawal symptoms before commencing to the main rehab plan.

So do I need detoxification then?

Every addiction case is different from one another and many factors like the type of substance, the period of addiction, and some other factors come into play while deciding the treatment required.

In some mild addictions, it is possible for you to detox at your home without much professional help. In some serious cases, however, the help of a detox facility is a must or the consequences can even be fatal.

Also, an addict is generally unable to judge his or her own condition and even a serious addiction can seem negligible due to increased tolerance.

The best way of deciding if you need a detox program is by consulting a detox facility. They are experts having years of experience in dealing with people having different types of substance addictions.

Most people prefer to opt for a detox clinics programs due to a number of valid reasons.

Firstly, in a detox program, you’ll get full professional assistance and optimum care.

An individual trying to give up an addiction has to go through a lot of struggle- mentally as well as physically.

At this critical time, the medical and psychological support from specialists can be very helpful. Also, it ensures that the recovery process goes on efficiently but safely.

Secondly, a detox process often accompanies a lot of pain and suffering due to withdrawal, which can force you to relapse.

A detox program is designed in a way to strengthen the determination and will-power of the patient owing to their various consultation and psychological facilities.

Withdrawals during detox: Causes and symptoms

Alcohol and drug withdrawals are a set of symptoms that a drug addict experiences when he/she abruptly stops or decreases the intake of the drug for any reason.

Similar is alcohol withdrawal except in that here, the addicting substance is alcohol.

Drug or alcohol withdrawal is a result of the body getting accustomed to the drug or alcohol to such an extent that a sudden discontinuance of the consumption of the substance leads to the sufferings of various kinds.

This professional term is called drug dependence (or alcohol dependence). The dependence can not only be physical but also physiological. This dependence occurs when one habitually consumes the substance for a period of time.

The withdrawal symptoms may differ with the type of drug or alcohol consumed, the time for which the addiction has existed, and a few other factors. For example, withdrawal symptoms of opioids like heroin include:

  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Vomiting
  • and diarrhea etc.

Most common alcohol withdrawal symptoms, on the other hand, may involve:

  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Shaking
  • and insomnia etc.

The method in which the drug is taken into the body (like intravenous, oral, and so on) also decides the severity of drug withdrawal.

Though the pain and suffering generally start decreasing after reaching a certain level, withdrawals from alcohol addiction or for drug addiction can be very fatal.

So, flushing out the toxins from one’s body in an alcohol or drug detox facility under the supervision of licensed physicians are required.

Role of homeostasis in withdrawal:

Homeostasis is our body’s mechanism by virtue of which it is able to maintain a specific chemical composition inside the brain and the rest of the body.

When a person starts consuming a drug or alcohol, the homeostasis can no longer remain balanced and it leads to a condition similar to the illness.

However, as the drug (or alcohol) intake continues, the brain learns to work according to the new chemical conditions and a new set of homeostasis standards are adopted by the body by adapting the body’s level neurotransmitters, hormones, and other substances.

This brings a change in the way the person perceived the world and brings about emotional changes in him/her. Now, the person becomes an addict of the particular drug or alcohol and the counter-adapting and sensitization, which earlier opposed the substance now starts creating a craving for it.

Also, the level of tolerance rises and the individual needs more and more of the substance to feel the same effect. If at this stage, the addict stops taking the substance, the body will again undergo an acute imbalance of hormones and neurotransmitters which cause the withdrawal symptoms.

The addiction patient now craves for the next dose of alcohol (or drug).

Typical detox centers process

There are typically three steps for a substance dependency & abuse detox program process.

  • Step 1: Evaluation

The first step is evaluation. This is the stage where the facility gets to learn a lot about the patient and map out the plan for the detox. During this stage, a lot of assessments, tests, and research on the patient medical and substance use history are done. Below are some of the information typically collected during this stage.

  • Co-occurring assessment for substance abuse and mental health. And also to check for the use of both alcohol and drugs at the same time
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Psychological screenings
  • Family history
  • Social assessment
  • Types of drug or alcohol use
  • The method that one like to use a substance
  • How often one uses substances
  • The duration they have been using alcohol and drugs

This is the stage where the success of a detoxification program is built. If this stage is not executed well the whole program will likely that produce a successful long term result.

  • Step 2: The Detoxification

Also referred to as the stabilization stage. This is the detoxification process stage where the actual detox takes place. This stage is executed based on the information gathered and plans mapped out on the first stage. This stage consists of managing withdrawal symptoms, administering medications, watching the patient reaction to the detox, handling emergency situations, and amongst other care.

  • Step 3: Transition to treatment

This is the final step of the detox. In this step, the patient is helped with transitioning into a substance abuse treatment. Since detox is not a treatment the staff and facility will encourage the patient to seek long term treatment. The professionals can help transition you int a 28, 30, 60 or 90-day treatment program. you towards. There are options for 120-day treatment programs.

Duration: How long does detox typically take?

Though detox is the first and to most of the time, the most important step of your recovery process, it shouldn’t be confused with rehabilitation (also called rehab), which is an exhaustive process that takes somewhat between 30 to 90 days. And even 120 to 180 days for some addicts.

The rehab program is generally taken after detoxification.

The rehab program has a few disadvantages if you pick a residential clinic. First of all, you will have to live away from your kids and family for days and months.

Moreover, the cost of rehabilitation is very high and you are likely to spend 500 to 1000 dollars for each day of the rehab program.

Even though it is the detox program, however, it can opt independently without a rehab.

The duration of a detox clinic program may vary largely (generally  3 days, 5 days, and 7 days) depending on the type of substance you are addicted to, the period for which you have been consuming it, and on your medical conditions.

The drug heroin, for example, takes about a week to be completely removed from your body. Some of the drugs like LSD, however, don’t have withdrawal symptoms. Such substances can be detoxified in only in shorter periods.

Also, there is some detox that takes a few hours which is known as rapid detoxification.

This type of detox is very controversial and not recommended by organizations like the American Association of Addiction Medicine.  So if you decide to opt for a rapid detox program just be aware of some of the risks associated with it.

Alcohol abuse and addiction detoxification

Alcohol use disorder is a serious substance abuse problem in the country.  It is such a big problem that it is believed that as many as 88,000 Americans die every year due to alcohol abuse reports USA Today.

Alcohol detox is the process of flushing out alcohol toxins from a patient’s body in order to remove traces of alcohol.

The detoxification of alcohol is never easy, especially when the individual has developed a dependence on it. Not only is it difficult and painful, but can sometimes even be fatal.

The typical alcohol detoxification process

Going cold turkey, for example, can prove to be a deadly mistake. This is where detox centers for alcohol play a vital role. First of all, these clinic professionals will examine your condition through various tests so as to decide what measures will be needed for your detoxification.

A consultant will talk with you about your health and drinking history in order to determine your physical and mental health.

You will be given medicines and treatments to fight any withdrawal symptom or another issue that may surface during the detox.

Your progress will be carefully monitored and your blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and breathing pattern will be reached regularly. In good alcohol detox centers, you will receive the all-around medical as well as physiological care to help with your alcohol addiction.

Summary of typical process:

  • A medical test is done to know the level of the patient’s addiction; the chemicals present in his or her body & other diseases he or she might have.
  • In the second stage, medicines composed of Benzodiazepine (used to calm the central nervous system, & treat anxiety & insomnia), Naltrexone (reduces craving for alcohol), Campral (restores the normal functioning of the brain) & Disulfiram (consuming alcohol while under the influence of this medicine causes nausea, headache & weakness which reduces the patient’s urge to consume alcohol) are given to treat the withdrawal symptoms.
  • The final stage involves the recovery process.

Factors to be considered before choosing an alcohol detoxification facility

  • Inquire about the insurance policies accepted by them
  • Do good research on their treatment plan
  • Find out if the center offers counseling services
  • Know about the efficiency & experience of the treatment staff
  • Ask how they treat the withdrawal symptoms
  • Find out if any additional support is given after the program period ends.

Drug abuse and addiction detoxification

Drug detoxification, as carried out at detox facilities by professional drug addiction treatment specialists is the process that involves helping the body get rid of unhealthy substances or chemicals while also taking care of the withdrawal symptoms.

The drug detox process

According to the United States, Health & Human Services Department, the drug detoxification process involves the following three stages-

  • Evaluation

Evaluation is the first step detox for a drug addiction in which a set of medical tests and other important assessments are done on the patient to help put a plan in place.

  • Stabilization

After the tests and assessments are done, a drug detox program is developed for the patient according to his or her situation & needs. And this is the stage that it happens. During detoxification, the presence of medical professional staff close to the patient is required to give him or her support and administer drugs and manage the withdrawal symptoms.

  • Guiding the patient into treatment 

This is the final stage of the drug detoxification in which the actual recovery process begins. Both inpatient & outpatient treatment facilities are recommended for the patient.

Self-detox to get over drugs is most likely to fail, even if you get through the process, the impact might be short-termed. Professional treatment clinics not only help in removing toxins from the body, but they also provide other services that help in preserving the program’s effects for a very long time.

Also, different facilities have different methods of providing detox. So choose the right one that fits your needs.

Your needs can be based on a number of factors such as how long you have been an addict for, your age, gender, social issues, budget, etc.

Inpatient detox centers

Inpatient detox centers refer to those in which the addict is admitted into the detox center (hospital or clinic) and receive 24 hours of medical assistance. It is especially beneficial for patients with acute drug or alcohol addiction.

The advantages of inpatient detox programs are:

  1. Complete medical care and monitoring around the clock. Staff will be available for help in an emergency condition. So, inpatient detox programs are generally the safest detox programs.
  2. Since the patient is under complete supervision of the medical staff, he/she is completely separated from the substance-using environment. So, the chances of relapse decrease sharply.

The disadvantages of inpatient detox programs are:

  1. If you work in an office where your presence is compulsory, then your work will have to suffer if you opt for the inpatient detox program.
  2. If you have small kids, then you may have difficulty keeping yourselves away from them. It is easy to convince your kids about your absence for a few hours a day, but not for a few days at once.

So, both outpatient and residential detox centers programs have their own advantages as well as disadvantages.

There is no absolute answer as to which one is better.

You are free to choose the one which you find most suitable according to your unique circumstances.

Outpatient detox centers

In the Outpatient detox centers, the patient visits the detox center daily (weekends may be excluded) but doesn’t get admitted for night stay. This is recommended only when the addiction is not serious.

The advantages of outpatient detox programs are:

  1. You can get the benefit of a detox facility program without much compromising with any of your work or social life.
  2. You can stay with your kids and family and receive their emotional support. This way your relationship won’t suffer much during the detox process.
  3. Another benefit for some people is that outpatient detox cost is lower compared to residential care clinics.

The disadvantages of outpatient detox programs are:

    1. Since you receive the professional assistance of the medical staff only for a limited period, you are liable to risks of emergency conditions for most of the time.
    2. Since you are on your own and the addiction-creating substance is easily available to you, the chances of relapse are higher.

Finding the right detox center

Finding a detox clinic help is obviously the very first step towards recovering from substance abuse.

However, individuals suffering from drug or alcohol addiction can find it a very overwhelming task to find a detox help, mainly because his or her body and mind resists any change in the addicting habit. Some follow the referrals of their friends and family.

Many others start their search with their physician’s office while others may search online for the most suitable detox center.

One of the best methods of finding a detox program is via your doctor because a doctor typically knows specialists and professionals that deal with substance abuse treatment. So he or she can refer you a trustworthy addiction specialist.

Your doctor can efficiently diagnose whether substance addiction has caused any physical harm and make other recommendations in parallel to your detoxification.

Many addiction cases are quite sensitive and a detox carried out in a wrongful way can even cost the life of the individual.

So, if you are looking for a facility for your substance abuse detox for yourself or for a loved one, then you must ensure that the facility completely is licensed and accredited.

It can be done by finding treatment facilities that are accredited by a national agency like “the Joint Commission”, “the National Committee for Quality Assurance”, and “the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities”.

Also, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a location-wise database of licensed substance addiction facilities near you that provide both detox and treatment of addictions.

Part of finding the right clinic is also asking questions about what type of method they use. To find out whether the facility uses a social or medical detox method. And also about their staff credentials.

Does insurance cover addiction detox centers program?

You might find a detox center and you might want to know if insurance will cover the detox.
Well, major insurance companies typically cover a detoxification program for the treatment of substance abuse.
Since detox is part of the treatment for substance abuse treatment, insurance carriers are required to cover substance abuse treatment under the law as part of the Affordable Care Act so your insurance may cover your detox.
But be aware that when covered, your insurance may require that you pick from selected detox providers.
The recommended option is to speak with an addiction treatment center who can help with verifying your coverage.
You can call 866-579-8780 to be connected with a facility at no cost or obligation to you.

Get help now

Whether you are an adult or teenager, the road to addiction is possible and it firsts starts with getting the substance out of your body.

And the decision of whether to self administer detox or seek private detox centers help should be taken seriously for safety reasons.

As you read above, the benefits of a professional medically supervised detox program outweigh the financial cost and the issues that could arise if you try to do it by yourself at home.

To get your questions answered, get into a program, or for more guidance on this important issue, contact 866-579-8780 today to connect with an addiction admission professional.

Further reading

Detox Cost: