What Happens at a Medical Detoxification Facility

Medical DetoxWhen an individual becomes dependent upon or addicted to the use of drugs, their physical body becomes so accustomed to the presence of the drug that they feel they cannot function without it. The need to obtain the drug becomes so strong in some cases that the individual is unable to begin a treatment program without the help of a medical detoxification facility.

The First Step

When the addict first arrives at the medical detox facility, he or she will be searched for any items that may harm them or any member of the staff. This may include:

  • Shoelaces
  • Clothing with drawstrings
  • Nail clippers or tweezers
  • Medications or drugs
  • Other personal belongings

It is important to remember that this not a judgment against the individual being admitted but a practice based upon the experiences of others.

Entering Detox

The detoxification process lasts approximately three to five days. During this time frame, the addict will suffer many serious side effects caused by the withdrawal of the drugs from their body. As the body purifies, the individual may suffer from a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Shaking, trembling and seizure-like spasms
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating and fever
  • Irritability that can lead to violence
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe bone, joint and muscle pain

A medical detoxification facility is staffed by medical doctors, nurses and others who are trained in how to help an addict through this painful and frightening process.


As with prescription medications, it can be dangerous for an addict to stop using illegally obtained or non-prescription drugs “cold turkey.” A medical detoxification facility has the ability to help the addict by weaning them off some substances through the use of synthetic medications designed for this purpose.

Supervision, Safety and Security

Addicts who are discontinuing certain drugs, like stimulants, can often become violent and angry. Their bodies want the drugs they have become used to and the individual will go to great lengths to get them. A medical detoxification facility has the security and supervision to prevent the addict from harming themselves or others during the withdrawal process.

Sleep Detoxification

Some medical detoxification facilities offer the option to use general anesthesia for the first few hours of detox as a means to alleviate some of the pain of the withdrawal process. An article published by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, however, references a study that shows those who underwent this option had very similar complaints during the remaining detox period as those who were treated with more traditional methods.

When an individual admits himself into a medical detoxification facility, he can expect that the next few days will be difficult. There is no easy road to recovery. However, with the right facility and an experienced staff, he can also expect to come out on the other side of the detox period physically ready to enter the rehab phase of the process. Drug detox is not rehab; this is the process that an addict must go through in order to be sober when they enter rehab. The rehabilitation portion of the process begins when the detox period ends. They are both important steps towards recovery. An individual who goes through the detox process and does not follow up with the drug treatment program will, most likely, relapse.