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How Detox Centers Treat Detoxification Symptoms

According to the SAMHSA TI P 45, “The Washington Circle Group (WCG), …defines detoxification as “a medical intervention that manages an individual safely through the process of acute withdrawal” and “a detoxification program is not designed to resolve the long-standing psychological, social, and behavioral problems associated with alcohol and drug abuse”, but, it does pave the way for those treatment needs.

What Causes Detoxification Symptoms

Depending on the primary drug a person is detoxing from, the symptom logy may involve different adverse physical or psychological detoxification symptoms. Drug-induced neuroadaptations that take place in the brain changes communications systems and neuronal circuits that reinforce drug use and cause the cravings that come along with it.

By coming to rely on the presence of the drug for “normal” brain functioning and system balances, ceasing use of the drugs disrupts the current adaptation processes, producing the rebellious symptoms of withdrawals. Healthy brain and physiological functions can only resume once natural balances are restored.

The Detoxification Process

Eliminating the drugs from the person’s system in a safe, controlled, and comfortable manner, according to the SAMHSA TIP 45, consists of the following three sequential and essential components:

  • Evaluation
  • Stabilization
  • Fostering patient readiness for and entry into treatment


detoxification symptoms

Evaluation allows for the detox center to understand your medical condition and history of abuse.

In the evaluation, the intake counselor helps to establish a detoxification plan for the unique needs of the individual based on things like:

  • Drug histories and current drugs being used, acute intoxication and/or withdrawal potentials, and relapse potentials.
  • Medical histories, biomedical conditions, and complications including IV use, and the need for specialized services to treat communicable diseases or infections
  • Co-existing mental health conditions
  • Readiness to change
  • Current living environments and support network such as family involvements in the recovery attempt.


The detoxification plan promotes the most safety, comfort, and support to be effective by treating detoxification symptoms with the utmost compassion and care. Stabilization involves counseling and support, continuous observation and management of physical, emotional, and mental health needs, with expediency including medical or psychiatric professional interventions and possibly medications.

Adjunct medications can be used to relieve detoxification symptoms of pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, insomnia, or anxiety in some individuals, but, the use of more powerful medications to alleviate unpleasant and painful detoxification symptoms and to stabilize physical and mental health conditions may be necessary including:

  • Agonist medications such as buprenorphine or methadone to reduce the cravings and painful symptoms of opioid withdrawals
  • Anti-depressants or anti-psychotic medications for mental health stabilization during stimulant withdrawals.
  • Benzodiazepines or anti- anxiety medications for alcohol use disorders and for stabilization measures in benzodiazepine dependencies.

Fostering Patient Readiness For and Entry into Treatment

How detox centers treat detoxification symptoms has a major influence on their willingness to enter treatment. Education, resources access, and counseling with early interventions promotes readiness for change, but, if the detoxification symptoms are not well tended to or managed properly, the patient may develop an overall mistrust in treatment effectiveness and prematurely terminate their recovery efforts.

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