Skip to content

Do I Need Medical Detox? 5 Differences from the Social Model

Not all detox is created equal! In the treatment field, there are two primary types of detox you will see offered. One is social detox and the other is medical detox. Both can be useful on the journey to recovery from substance use disorder but they are not the same and should not be used interchangeably. Understanding the differences between these models is essential for safe and effective treatment. Let’s explore the ins-and-outs of each type so you can make an informed decision about which detox is right for you. 


Medical Supervision


  • Medical Detox: During a medical detox, the entire process is supervised by licensed medical professionals. Before detox, a treatment team of medical and clinical staff work together to create a tailored treatment plan including the use of prescribed medication to ease withdrawal symptoms. You are then monitored 24/7 for any medical complications and to ensure safe withdrawal management. 

  • Social Model: The social model, on the other hand, does not involve constant medical supervision. It lacks the 24/7 monitoring of licensed medical professionals and there are not medications to ease withdrawal symptoms. It  relies on peer support and counseling without the direct involvement of healthcare professionals. Should medical complications arise, outside medical personnel must be called in. 


Medication Assistance


  • Medical Detox: Medications may be prescribed during medical detox to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Along with the primary withdrawal management medications, comfort meds may also be given to address secondary symptoms such as insomnia, muscle aches, and diarrhea. This pharmacological support is often the difference between a successful detox and a relapse midway through.

  • Social Model: The social model does not involve medication assistance. It relies on behavioral interventions and counseling as the primary means of support. 


Severity of Withdrawal


  • Medical Detox: Anyone suffering from physical withdrawal symptoms should seek the help of a medical detox program. If your body has become physically dependent on a substance, it is imperative that you work with medical professionals to manage your detox. This is especially true if you are dependent on alcohol or benzodiazepines as withdrawal can be fatal if not managed properly. Anyone with a long history of substance use or where the substances being used result in prolonged or severe withdrawal symptoms should also be in a medical detox program.

  • Social Model: The social model may be more appropriate for individuals with less severe addiction issues, where withdrawal symptoms are expected to be less intense. Social detox works well for those with a psychological addiction to a substance rather than a physical dependence. 


Duration of Detox


  • Medical Detox: Most medical detox programs average between seven to ten days. This duration can vary depending on the substance used and individual medical factors. The primary concern of medical detox is getting the individual safely through the acute withdrawal phase. Once medically stable, they may be encouraged to seek additional treatment in a residential or outpatient treatment setting. 

  • Social Model: In the social model, the duration of detox is more flexible and depends on gradual behavior change rather than medical stability. Generally social detox programs are longer than medical detox programs. 

Setting of Detox


  • Medical Detox: Often conducted in a specialized medical facility, medical detox provides a controlled environment where healthcare professionals can monitor and address any complications.

  • Social Model: The social model can be implemented in various settings, including outpatient programs, community-based support groups, or residential facilities. They do not require the same level of medical care. 


Find Out Which is Right For You


If you are considering detox for yourself or a loved one, call Holland Pathways today. Our experienced professionals can answer all your detox questions and help you decide which route is best for your specific needs.