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Detox treatment options can range from going it alone (cold turkey) to getting medication and support from a doctor on an outpatient basis, to an inpatient, 24 hour a day nursing care medical detox clinic.

Some options you have for the withdrawal period include:

  • Cold Turkey – a white knuckle few days during which withdrawal pains are endured without assistance; not recommended for a detox from alcohol or sedatives, and generally very difficult for a detox from opiates
  • Tapering – People physically dependent on medications can sometimes gradually reduce their daily dosage over a period of weeks, minimizing the shock to the body and thus reducing the experience of withdrawal symptoms. This can work well for people who are physically dependent on, but not abusing, medications such as opiates or sedatives, although people addicted to benzodiazepines will almost always need to slowly taper a dose down over time.
  • Residential Medical Detox – People severely dependent on certain drugs and most people addicted to opiates, alcohol and sedatives will require a medical detoxification for a safe transition and a successful outcome. During a medical detox, patients benefit from around the clock nursing and care and the prescription of medications that can ease symptoms and increase safety.
  • Outpatient Medical Detox – Some people may be able to detox medically on an outpatient basis, under the consultation and care of a doctor and with medications prescribed for symptoms as necessary.
  • Rapid Opiate Detox - During a rapid opiate detox, opiate addicts are placed under anesthesia and given a cocktail of medications that accelerate the withdrawal period. Since this acceleration occurs while the patient is anesthetized, there is no discomfort. Rapid opiate detox sounds attractive, but remains very controversial; for its price tag, its efficacy and its potential risks
  • Suboxone or Methadone - As an alternative to a detox, opiate addicts can substitute from a drug of abuse to a medication of stabilization, such as methadone or Suboxone.

The Medical Detox Center

The American Psychiatric Association’s recommended continuum of care is:

  • Detoxification/stabilization
  • Rehabilitation
  • Continuing care

Although some residential treatment centers do have a detox clinic onsite - due to the specialized and clinical nature of the services offered during a detoxification period, people generally need to first go to a specialty detox clinic.

A medical detox center will have nursing staff available around the clock to administer doctor prescribed medications (such as benzodiazepines) and to ensure relative comfort.

Some detox clinics will offer initial addiction treatment programming, but the detox period is basically considered a readying/stabilizing period, so that people can begin addiction treatment once finished with detox.

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Page last updated Aug 05, 2010

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