Understanding what to expect in medical detox will alleviate some of your fears. Committing to quit using drugs is the first important decision. Treatment professionals are compassionate and caring. They know the goal is preventing relapse and completing treatment to begin a sober lifestyle.

What is Medical Detox?

Detoxification is the first step in recovery from addiction, usually followed by therapy, medication, and aftercare. Medical detox addresses the management of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms while the dependent mind and body are released from the abused substance. Medical detox programs are recommended for those who are experiencing a severe addiction. Understanding what to expect in medical detox is extremely important for the addict.

What to Expect In Medical Detox

The protocol for treatment is a standard process in most centers. The beginning assessment will explain what to expect in medical detox. Medical professionals will determine the severity of the addiction, take a medical history and substance abuse history, and screen for any co-occurring mental health disorders. In addition, a medical examination will address infectious diseases and nutritional deficiencies.

The initial assessment or evaluation by the medical team will determine the protocols for the detox program. Inpatient facilities offer the addict their room, make them as comfortable as possible, and explain what to expect in medical detox. Outpatient facilities offering medical detox create a planned schedule of appointments. All medical detox programs aim to make the patient as comfortable as possible during detox.

Stabilization is the next step of medical detox. Understanding what to expect in medical detox includes stabilization which includes stopping the use of the addictive substance. Sometime after the last usage, withdrawal symptoms will begin. The evaluation will determine if the patient will need medication to be comfortable and reduce symptoms. The stabilization process can extend from one to three weeks.

Preparing for medical detox involves a full explanation of what to expect in medical detox for withdrawal symptoms. Medical detox can reduce discomfort, but some symptoms are unavoidably uncomfortable. Therefore, the medical team will do their best to make the detox process as comfortable as possible. Following detox, additional treatment plans will include individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and aftercare programs.

What to Expect When Detoxing from Different Substances

Understanding what to expect in medical detox is vitally important. The treatment team will help the patient keep their mind on the sobriety goal. Each patient experiences a different journey in detox and treatment, but they are not alone and have the best care. Detox is different for different addiction types.


Detoxing from moderate to severe alcohol addiction requires medical detox protocols with intense supervision. Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol addiction usually start within six to twenty-four hours after the last drink. Alcohol is still in the addict’s blood in most cases. Knowing the withdrawal symptoms and what to expect in medical detox is helpful for the patient. Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol abuse can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens

Alcohol withdrawal is severe and, without medical supervision, could turn deadly. The patient needs to know what to expect in medical detox of alcohol as their blood pressure and heartbeat are affected, and seizures are common. While some addicts can detox from alcohol without medication, severe addictions may require medically assisted detox. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of the complications that could occur. Medications that may be relied upon during medical detox from alcohol can include:

  • Benzos
  • Barbiturates
  • Beta-blockers
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Naltrexone
  • Acamprosate


Withdrawal from opioids is unpleasant but not as life-threatening as other substances. The symptoms vary depending on the drug used and the addiction length. Withdrawal symptoms usually begin eight to twelve hours after the last dose of most opioids. Knowing what to expect in medical detox can help prepare. Heroin addiction can take three to five days, and methadone differs, with symptoms beginning about two days after the last dose. Common withdrawal symptoms from opioid addiction can include:

  • Rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure
  • Fever and sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle pain

Assisting with withdrawal symptoms with medications that could make the patient more comfortable is vital. The following drugs are commonly used in medical detox from opioids.

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Clonidine
  • Sedatives
  • Pain relievers and fever reducers
  • Anti-nausea or diarrheal drugs
  • Laxatives


Less dangerous than detoxing from alcohol or opioids, detoxing from stimulants presents different challenges. However, knowing what to expect in medical detox from stimulants will help when suicidal thoughts or depression occur. Depression symptoms can last longer with amphetamines than with cocaine. In fact, withdrawal symptoms can last from three to five days but, in severe cases, three to four weeks.

There are currently no medications approved for stimulant detox. Common withdrawal symptoms from stimulants can include:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Insomnia and fatigue
  • Irritability and lack of focus


Detoxing from benzos is complex and dangerous. Therefore, educating the patient about what to expect in medical detox is crucial. Although tapering off the drugs can reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms, detoxing with this method can take weeks to months. Withdrawal symptoms can include seizures and delirium. Therefore, some detox cases involve Librium or Klonopin to help with stabilization.

Find Help for Understanding What to Expect in Medical Detox in Tennessee

Deciding to become sober is the leading factor in considering what to expect in medical detox. Detox West in Tennessee offers medical detox programs that can meet your individual needs. Our understanding and compassionate treatment teams are aware of the anxiety and fear involved in committing to become sober. We offer many options for treatment and would appreciate the opportunity to address your needs and questions. Contact us to begin your sobriety journey now.