Published on January 10, 2024

Medical Detox: When Is It Necessary?

Medical detoxification, more commonly known as medical detox, is a critical first step when taking on severe alcohol or drug addiction. Severe withdrawal can endanger the life of an addict, so it’s sometimes necessary to institute a medical detox. Medical detox isn’t a long-term solution for addiction. Rather, it is intended to manage an immediate need and right the ship. Nowadays, addicts who want to begin an addiction recovery program can choose (with the help of their recovery team) the type of medical detox that best fits their needs. This is usually a better option for addicts who would prefer an inpatient or residential treatment plan.

When Is It Necessary?

Typically, when someone has a physical and psychological dependence on a substance, a medical detox is recommended. At the Utah detox center you’ll get the help you need expelling toxic, addictive substances from your body under medical supervision. Those who are physically dependent on a substance tend to meet the following criteria:

  • Engaging in substance use regularly and in large amounts.
  • Having used a substance for an extended period of time.
  • Needing an increased amount of a substance to achieve the desired effects.
  • Craving a substance strongly when you don’t have it.
  • Having tried to quit but unsuccessful.

What to Expect

Before beginning a medical detox, the clinical staff will do a complete evaluation of the addict. This includes a medical physical, drug screening, and a mental health analysis. The staff needs to know what they’re dealing with in order to customize the treatment. A customized treatment plan can include medications like acetaminophen, Naltrexone, or Suboxone. The severity of withdrawal symptoms will determine how long a medical detox lasts. An alcohol detox typically takes up to a week, while an opioid detox can last as long as six months. When going through a medical detox the medical supervision can come from a physician or an advanced practitioner like a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant.

Is It Safe?

Medical detoxification is generally a safe procedure, although it does come with risks just as any other medical procedure does. Every step of the process is monitored by a licensed medical professional or medical team with experience in treating addiction. Vital signs like heart rate and blood pressure need to be monitored to detect and avoid any trouble. Here is a list of substances that medical detox is most often used to treat, however you’ll need to consult with a physician and addiction treatment team to learn more about your specific situation.

  • Alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms may include seizures, nausea, and elevated blood pressure.
  • Benzodiazepines. Withdrawal symptoms may include agitation, rapid heart rate, and hallucinations.
  • Opioids. Withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, vomiting, and muscle aches.
  • Synthetic drugs like fentanyl. Withdrawal symptoms vary greatly and are often unpredictable.

Addiction is a chronic health condition like any other, and it can flare up just like diabetes or lupus. A medical detox is used to treat addiction just like there are other treatments for other chronic conditions. Addicts who include medical detox in their treatment plan tend to have longer spans of sobriety and spend more time in treatment programs. 


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