Medical Detox : When it’s Necessary and What to Expect

Everyone has different needs when it comes to treating alcohol use disorder, a condition that can be diagnosed when your pattern of alcohol use is problematic and causes significant distress. It can range from mild to severe, depending on how many symptoms you have. The care you’ll need depends in part on where you fall in that range. However, when attempted alone, alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening. In the minds of many, the first step in breaking free from drug or alcohol addiction is to stop using whatever substance one has been abusing. However, it’s not always that simple. In some cases, when an adult has been using certain substances in high quantities or for such a long period of time that they no longer have control over their usage, there needs to be a more hands-on process. This is where medical detox may be the best course of action to help them begin their recovery journey. 

Painful withdrawal symptoms are intimidating enough to persuade many addicts never to enter rehab. In addition, withdrawal symptoms will make quitting drugs and alcohol cold turkey an impossible feat. Not only does withdrawal include excruciating physical and emotional pain, but depending on how severe the addiction is, withdrawal could be fatal. Learn more about whether you can safely detox at home or should seek help from a medical professional.

Medical Detox : When it’s Necessary and What to Expect

Withdrawal Can Be Brutal – Medical Detox Can Help

Both alcohol and opioid withdrawal can contain serious physical discomfort or even life-threatening symptoms. Those who are less chemically dependent will still endure withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, increased blood pressure, or a rapid heartbeat.

Have you ever experienced a hangover, the morning after you might have had one too many? The room is spinning, your stomach feels terrible, you have cottonmouth, you are sweating profusely, and even more aches and pains. In such a situation, you are experiencing a very slight form of alcohol withdrawal. 

Now, try to imagine how that hangover would feel if instead of one night, you had been drinking for the past several weeks, months, or even years. Plus, imagine drinking exponentially more alcohol for that time span, than the amount you drank the previous night. This should give the reader a good comprehension of how excruciating withdrawal can be.

What Does It Mean To Detox? 

Detoxification, or detox, is the process of letting the body remove the drugs in it. The purpose of detox is to safely manage withdrawal symptoms when someone stops taking drugs or alcohol.

Everyone has a different experience with detox. The type of drug and how long it was used affect what detox will be like. 

For many people, one of the biggest fears associated with addiction treatment is the fear of going through withdrawal. Giving up drugs or alcohol after a long period of heavy use can lead to uncomfortable symptoms, and without knowing what those symptoms are or how to handle them, the whole idea can be intimidating. The anticipation of withdrawal can be enough to derail a person’s motivation to enter rehab and attempt getting sober. Medical detox involves using medication and medical support to bring a drug or alcohol-dependent person to a non-dependent state. The person will receive specific medications so they are less likely to experience the severe side effects of withdrawal.

Medications For Drug Addiction Used During MAT

According to research, a select mixture of medication for drug addiction and therapy can successfully treat this life-altering disease. Here are some of the most frequently prescribed drugs used to treat opioid or alcohol dependence. 


Approved by the FDA for clinical use in 2002, buprenorphine is a drug used in MAT. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, which means that buprenorphine is designed to block opioid receptors before the receptor is activated. As a result, any opioid in someone’s system would be unable to attach to them. An antagonist, such as buprenorphine, is effective in rehab therapy because the drug will prevent any opiate from creating euphoric sensations.


Methadone is a partial opioid agonist, meaning the drug will produce similar effects as an opioid. Methadone is longer-acting than other opioids such as heroin, so the effects are tamer. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, a single dose can prevent cravings and withdrawal symptoms for up to one day and a half. Because methadone and other opioids are so similar, methadone is classified as a schedule II drug, patients can easily swap one opioid addiction for methadone. 


Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means that the drug blocks opioid activity at receptor sites. As a result, naloxone can prevent life-threatening overdoses. Naloxone is often used in medical emergency situations.


Naltrexone can be used to treat both alcohol and opioid addiction. Like the other drugs used for MAT, naltrexone blocks opioid receptors, so a patient with naltrexone will not experience intoxication if they consume alcohol or opioids. Such an attribute can be fatal, considering if someone consumes alcohol or opioids with naltrexone, that person may suffer fatal respiratory depression or even an overdose. 


Disulfiram evokes unpleasant effects when someone consumes alcohol. The effects will be felt between ten and thirty minutes after alcohol is consumed. Such unpleasant effects could include sweating, confusion, vertigo, anxiety, vomiting and more.

When Is Medical Detox Needed?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) advises inpatient detox for withdrawal from sedatives such as benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium, Xanax) and from alcohol. Withdrawal from alcohol and benzos can result in severe anxiety, agitation, and seizures. Supervised medical detox can provide the safest environment for you if you’re anticipating withdrawal from these drug types. 

SAMHSA also recommends inpatient medical detox for opioid withdrawal, which may have relatively less acutely dangerous health risks but can make you very sick and can result in some complications such as dehydration.

Given the inherently higher intensity of care that comes with supervised medical detoxification, such a setting may be additionally beneficial for you if you:

  • Have a co-occurring mental health disorder.
  • Have a comorbid medical condition.
  • Are pregnant.
  • Have had multiple and/or severe withdrawal experiences in the past, especially if each withdrawal attempt has been worse than the previous one.
  • Have been abusing multiple substances.

Is A Medication-Assisted Program Right For Me?

While no one can make this decision for you, and ultimately the need for medications is determined by our qualified medical staff, we highly suggest considering all facets of a medication-assisted treatment program. 

You should understand how it works and what it offers to see if our MAT program matches your needs. Some questions you can ask yourself are:

  • Do you have trouble maintaining your sobriety in abstinence-based treatment programs?
  • Do you commonly relapse upon treatment completion or while in treatment?
  • Do you want to be able to stay clean with the assistance of craving-reducing medications while working on your long-term goal of obtaining and maintaining long-term, total abstinence?
  • Are you willing to take medications as prescribed and for their sole purpose of helping you maintain your sobriety during treatment?

How To Seek Medical Detox Treatment

Depending on how intense one’s addiction is, sometimes medication-assisted treatment is the best, and sometimes only, way for an individual to endure painful withdrawal symptoms. Little Creek Lodge is a residential rehabilitation facility, designed to help men achieve a sober lifestyle. Situated in the serene forests of Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania, Little Creek provides treatment programs for the most prevalent substances, such as heroin, prescription drugs, benzodiazepine, cocaine, and more. In addition, Little Creek offers various residential programs – from intensive outpatient programs to recreation programs. As a result, Little Creek Lodge is able to provide individualized rehabilitation programs for anyone seeking sobriety.

The first step is often the most difficult! All you need to do is pick up that phone and contact Little Creek Lodge. 

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