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What to Expect in Detox From Day 1 to Discharge

For many in the grips of substance abuse, the fear and pain of withdrawal symptoms can be a major obstacle towards stopping. Many will try, and fail, to detox themselves only to start using again when the discomfort becomes unbearable. For a lot of people in recovery, their first step began with admitting they were powerless to quit on their own and needed professional medical assistance. This is where detoxification programs come in. In this guide we’ll explore what to expect when entering a withdrawal management program and how it can help finally free you from the cycle of addiction. 


Day 1: Evaluation & Getting Settled


When you enter into a detox program, the first thing you’ll do is meet with a nurse for an assessment. During this process, they will ask questions about which substances have been used, the amounts, the length of time used, appropriate medical and psychological history, current withdrawal symptoms, and any needs or concerns the patient may have. None of these questions are intended to shame or pry but simply to provide the treatment team with all the variables necessary to create an effective detox plan. Depending on the substances being used and how far into the withdrawal process the patient already is, withdrawal management medication may be dispensed immediately. For clients coming off opiates/opioids, there may be a waiting period before medication is given so as not to induce precipitated withdrawals. Once the evaluation is completed, residents can get settled into their living quarters where they will be monitored and kept as comfortable as possible. 


Days 2-7: Medical Monitoring & Withdrawal Management 


Anyone that has been through drug and/or alcohol detox, will know that typically the first week is the peak time period of discomfort. As the body gets rid of toxins and the brain works to re-regulate neural chemistry, a number of withdrawal symptoms will appear. This is where the purpose of a detox program comes into play. The medical staff will be constantly checking the clients vitals and overall mental, emotional and physical well-being. As symptoms appear, they will be treated with appropriate medications to ensure medical safety and comfort. Coming off some substances pose a greater risk to health than others. This is why it is advised to have 24/7 medical supervision during the detox process. Alcohol and benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, etc) can be especially dangerous to detox from as they pose a seizure risk and can be fatal if severe enough or left untreated. Going through withdrawal in a detox program ensures that, should any complications arise, prompt medical attention can be rendered. 


Once the acute withdrawal phase has been managed and passed, the next step is stabilization and preparing for the next step of recovery. 


Day 8 and beyond: Stabilization and Next Steps


While some substances will require a longer detox period, the average length of stay in a program is 7-10 days. Typically around days 7-8, patients are starting to feel better and if tapering medications were used, they are discontinued while non-narcotic comfort meds (tylenol, melatonin, clonidine, etc) may continue to be given as needed. This is the beginning of the stabilization process. Also during this time, the case management team will discuss aftercare options following your discharge. These are intended to continue the recovery process in a supportive and provide accountability during early recovery. These options may include participation in an outpatient program, movement into a residential treatment program, or entering into the rooms of a 12-step fellowship. While not mandatory, they are highly encouraged and increase the likelihood of maintaining long-term sobriety. Relapse rates are high amongst those who only go through detox with zero follow-up care. 


As your time in detox comes to end and you are feeling better and hopeful, keep in mind that recovery doesn’t stop there. It will take action and the support of a community to stay sober. Utilize the resources offered by case management and stay vigilant for signs of restlessness, irritability or discontent as these can be indicative of a potential relapse. Addiction is a disease and detox is not a cure. It is the beginning of remission. 


If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse and needs detox, call Holland Pathways today. Our dedicated admissions team will help you find the path to recovery and our medical staff will make certain to keep you safe and comfortable.