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The Detox Decision: 10 Questions to Help you Decide on Next Steps

If you have never dealt with drug or alcohol detox before, the process can be overwhelming and confusing. With seemingly endless options for detox programs around the country, knowing where to start and what questions to ask may appear daunting. Knowing your own needs and how to find a detox treatment program that can meet them is critical to the long term success of your sobriety. Let's take a look at 10 key questions to help you decide on the next steps of your detox destination. 


1. What Substances Am I Addicted to, and How Have They Affected My Body?


Understanding the specific drugs you are addicted to will determine the length and severity of detox symptoms, if any. It also will alert you to the potential adverse health risks associated with said withdrawals. Knowing how unpleasant and life-threatening withdrawals can lead to a higher outcome of long-term success and a lower risk of relapse. It will also ensure you are admitted into a detox facility that is able to adequately manage your detox and any additional health issues. 


2. Is It Safe to Detox On My Own or Do I Need Professional Help?


Always air on the side of caution and consult with a medical professional before attempting to detox on your own. Depending on the substance, detoxing without proper medical management can be fatal. Alcohol, benzodiazepines, and certain opioids are at the top of the list for life-threatening detox symptoms. It is rare that one should attempt to come off any substance completely on their own. The negative health effects, negative mental health effects, and the potential for relapse are all quite high when attempting a solo detox. A professional treatment plan, overseen by medical staff will make the entire process much more comfortable and most importantly safe. 


3. What Are The Potential Withdrawal Symptoms, and How Can They Be Managed?


Withdrawal symptoms can be a make-or-break point when it comes to a successful detox. When symptoms are especially severe, the rates of relapse grow exponentially. Knowing what to expect will give you the foresight to plan accordingly and seek professional help. With a medically managed detox, withdrawal symptoms can be addressed with medications to ease discomfort. Detox does not have to be an unbearable process.  


4. How Long Will Detox Take?


It is important to have a working knowledge of the time needed to successfully detox of substances. If you have a job, a family, or responsibilities, you may be wondering how long you will need to be away to come off all drugs. In general, most detox programs are 7 to 10 days long. This is the average length needed to remove the physical dependence. It is important to remember that while the physical dependence may be gone, there is a good chance there will continue to be psychological cravings. Following up detox with a residential treatment plan is a great way to mitigate these cravings and the potential for relapse. 


5. What Type of Detox is Best For Me?


The two main types of detox are medical and natural. Medical detox is supervised by medical professionals and entails using prescribed medication to manage withdrawal symptoms and aid in the detox process. Medical detox is a good choice for anyone with severe withdrawal symptoms, previous attempts to detox on their own without success, and/or chronic relapsers. Natural detoxification is when an individual is monitored by staff but no medication is used to aid in the process. Natural detox is a good choice for those without health issues and whose withdrawal symptoms are expected to be mild. Supervision during this process is helpful so if the withdrawal symptoms become too severe, the individual can be transferred to a medical detox program or the hospital. 


6. What Is the Cost of Detox and Will My Insurance Cover It?


While a lot of people put off detoxing due to financial concerns, in the long-run a drug habit will end up costing much more. The average cost of a medical detox program is $1,000 a day. With a total cost ranging from $7,000-$10,000, this can be out of range for a lot of people. Thankfully, insurance will typically cover the costs of detox. Insurance pays out based on a system called “medical necessity.” Substance abuse detox is almost always medically necessary and will be covered by insurance. There are exceptions to this however, so it is best practice to talk with your insurance provider to double check that your specific type of detox will be covered. You can also speak with a detox center to find out treatment will be covered. 


7. What Happens After Detox?


Detox is just the first step on the path to recovery. While some folks choose to return home and go about their lives following detox, this is not recommended for long-term sobriety. Following a detox program with a comprehensive treatment plan is the best bet. Detox treats the symptoms. Residential treatment treats the causes and conditions. If nothing else, getting involved in a 12-step fellowship or some other type of support group is highly recommended. 


8. How Do I Choose a Reputable Detox Center?


It is important to do your due diligence when deciding on a detox program. Make sure the program is licensed for detox and addiction treatment as well as accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting body. The two most prominent organizations are CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) and JCAHO (

Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations). When you have a shortlist of potential programs, call them and ask questions. By asking about their detox program, what medications they use for withdrawal management, their medical staff, living quarters, etc you can get a feel for whether it is a good fit. Read reviews online and check out their website. If you feel anything is amiss, move on to the next option. 


9. What Are the Potential Risks Associated With Detox?


When undergoing detox, there is a great deal of stress put on the body and brain. This can trigger medical responses or exacerbate underlying conditions. Alcohol and benzo withdrawals can trigger seizures, strokes, and hallucinations. Opiate withdrawals can bring on severe dehydration and organ failure. Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and insomnia can be worsened during detox. All of these reasons underscore the importance of a medical detox program. Supervision by medical professionals can mitigate these risks and ensure a safe detox. When speaking with a potential detox center, be open and honest about any underlying medical or mental health issues. 


10. What Are the Long-Term Benefits of Completing a Detox Program?


First and foremost, the cessation of withdrawal symptoms and the removal of a physical dependence on drugs or alcohol. As mentioned before, detox is just the beginning of the recovery process but without it, there is no long-term sobriety. Completing a detox program puts the individual back into a position to make informed decisions about their health and future. It gives those once controlled by drugs and alcohol a choice. 


If you are at the point of deciding to enter detox, then you are at the point of creating an entirely new life for yourself. A life free from despair. A life open to possibility. Use these ten questions to make an informed decision about your next steps and treatment options. Call Holland Pathways today to learn about our detox options and see how we can help you find long-term sobriety.