What Is Medical Detox and How Does It Work?

Medical Detox by Waismann Method

Medical detoxification, or medical detox, is the fundamental first step in rehabilitation from any drug or alcohol addiction. Since suffering through withdrawal symptoms is the primary deterrence for people seeking addiction help, having an accessible and effective medical detox is an absolute necessity. Medical detox is imperative for individuals who are currently physically dependent on a substance.

Medically Supervised Detoxification

Inpatient medical detox helps ensure the smooth stabilization of the patient throughout the detoxification. Protecting yourself or your loved one against medical complications associated with the acute withdrawal stage is vital. Therefore, the best way to do that is to seek treatment that provides a real medically supervised detoxification.

If you or a loved one is currently having drug or alcohol use issues, a medical detox program can significantly help you start the path to a healthier future. No matter what treatment center you choose to start your recovery program, learning about the components of different medical programs allows you to find the medical detox that best fits your health needs.

What Is Medical Detox?

You may hear the term “detox” used to describe any purging from your body, from unhealthy food to toxic substances. But a medical detox for drugs or alcohol is something much more complicated. It’s an event that medical professionals should always manage.

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An accredited hospital provides patients with around-the-clock supervision and management of vitals and other physical responses. A physician with extensive detoxification knowledge oversees a medical team that delivers preventive and therapeutic care.

Detoxification in a Hospital

One of the most significant differences between traditional rehab facilities and hospital detox is that hospitals can provide the highest level of care possible in terms of detox services rendered. Physicians collaborate with the hospital team to ensure patients receive the best-individualized care possible while undergoing the challenging detoxification phase of treatment. The nursing staff closely monitors vital signs, manages symptoms, controls medication, and assists with proper rest and nutritional intake, among other critical aspects of care.

How Does Medical Detox Work?

A well-managed medically-assisted detox can make the journey toward recovery significantly more palatable. Also, for those with co-occurring health conditions, if you experience a medical crisis during your detox, you will be glad you chose a hospital environment for your detoxification. Having immediate medical support around the clock is essential since some patients experience severe withdrawal symptoms requiring medical intervention.

Regardless if you are seeking inpatient in a residential program or another type of drug and alcohol treatment, medical opiate detoxification is often the first step. While detox is not supposed to be an addiction treatment, those who complete medical detox are more likely to adhere to mental health care or whatever emotional treatment is adequate for their specific case.

How Do You Know a Medical Detox Is Necessary?

Although inpatient medical detox is often the safest option, there are specific cases where individuals with particular health histories are more likely to have complications, making supervised detoxification a must. Some health conditions that often require a higher level of medically assisted detox are:

  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Smokers
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Polysubstance use
  • Anxiety and depression

Getting through an alcohol or drug detoxification is not just a matter of willpower; it is much more. Occasionally, going through an unsupervised withdrawal can be challenging, even placing your life at risk. Entering a program that provides medical support and guidance through withdrawal is always the best option.

Which Substances Often Require Medical Detox?

Certain substances require more treatment, including medical management and supervision for potentially risky withdrawal symptoms.

Below are examples of different substances and their possible side effects.

alcohol bottlesAlcohol

Alcohol inhibits the central nervous system activity, directly compromising essential body functions such as regulating temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, stress responses, and motor skills. Additionally, alcohol withdrawal can increase body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety levels. It can also cause tremors, seizures, and hallucinations. The most severe form of alcohol withdrawal is called delirium tremens. Delirium tremens can be fatal and often needs acute medical intervention.


 Save Download Preview Tablet with the chemical formula of BenzodiazepinesBenzodiazepines are prescription sedatives mainly used to treat anxiety or unremitting seizures. For example, Xanax, Ativan, Valium, and Klonopin are the most common brand names. “Benzo” withdrawal is often accompanied by sleep disturbance, irritability, anxiety, panic attacks, tremors, sweating, difficulty concentrating, dry retching, nausea, heart palpitations, headache, muscular pain, and stiffness. When patients take high dosages or are long-term users, seizures and psychotic reactions are possible.


Prescription bottle with backlit OxycodoneOpioids are medications often utilized to manage pain and illicit drugs such as heroin. Since external opioids mimic the body’s natural endorphin production, when you start using opioids, your system shuts down the production of endorphins, making the body depend on external drugs. Once the intake of external opioids is discontinued, the body starts going through withdrawal symptoms. Opioid withdrawal is extremely uncomfortable and, in some cases, dangerous. People can become dehydrated, blood pressure can reach dangerous levels, and the lack of sleep can lead to hallucinations.

During medical detox, the use of certain medications can significantly alleviate withdrawal while also decreasing cravings. However, it’s essential to remember that these medications should only be administered by a medical professional and on a patient-by-patient basis.

Medications commonly used during medical opiate detox include:


Clonidine belongs to the class of drugs called antihypertensives. It works by changing some of the nerve impulses in the brain. As a result, the blood vessels relax, and blood passes through them more efficiently, lowering blood pressure. When the blood pressure decreases, the amount of blood and oxygen going to the heart increases.


Naltrexone is a medication used to treat opioid dependence, and it works by blocking the effects of opioids, which helps to reduce cravings and the urge to use. Naltrexone is available in tablet and injectable form, and its oral form is typically taken once daily. Some people may experience side effects such as nausea, fatigue, or headaches when taking naltrexone, but these are typically mild and go away with time.  This medication is an effective treatment for opioid use disorder, and it can help people minimize cravings so patients can achieve and maintain sobriety.

Vivitrol is the monthly injectable form of naltrexone. While naltrexone must be taken daily, Vivitrol can last for one month.

How Long Does Medical Detox Last?

The length and intensity of the withdrawal depend on many factors, including the type of substance, duration, frequency, and quantity of use, plus individual characteristics such as age, health history, present condition, etc. When rapid detox is the chosen detoxification method, inpatient care usually lasts anywhere from seven to 10 days.

Finding a Medical Detox Near Me

When people search for a detox facility, they are likely to search for a “medical detox near me.” The issue with that search is that although the location might be convenient, the results might not be. Every detox center is different. Even those with the same specialty, like detox under sedation, will measure success differently and take different paths to get there. You must choose a treatment facility to help you get through a withdrawal safely, successfully, and as comfortably as possible.

Medical detoxification centers should:

  • Be fully licensed and accredited by the state in which the hospital is located.
  • Admit you to a private hospital room’ where strangers do not compromise your comfort and care.
  • Provide adequate time for a comprehensive medical evaluation and physiological stabilization.
  • Have a team of board-certified professionals and experienced staff who can respond to medical needs.
  • Determine the length of hospital stay based on your unique health needs and not a pre-set protocol.
  • Provide several medical detox options.
  • Include inpatient recovery care for a few days post-detox to ensure your comfort and safety through the regulation period.

Medical Detox Programs at the WAISMANN TREATMENT™

Michael H. Lowenstein, MPH, M.D. – Rapid Detox Physician and Waismann Method® Medical Director

Michael H. Lowenstein, MPH, M.D. – Rapid Detox Physician and Waismann Method® Medical Director

Most patients who come into treatment for a drug or an alcohol-related condition will require supervised medical detoxification. WAISMANN TREATMENT provides opioid detoxification in a private full-service hospital, where assistance from a medical team is available 24 hours a day. Furthermore, the medical director, Michael H. Lowenstein, M.D., has over two decades of experience and detoxed thousands of patients previously suffering from opioid dependence. Dr. Lowenstein and his medical team are equipped to handle complex detoxification, including for patients with pre-existing medical conditions. Every detox procedure is individualized to each patient’s specific health needs.

Remember, freedom from opioids is within your reach. Whether you have been through different drug rehabs, struggled with suboxone maintenance, or presently dealing with a fentanyl addiction, WAISMANN TREATMENT can help you get where you want to be. Reach out to a knowledgeable and compassionate intake coordinator today and determine which medical detox is the right option for you.


Are you struggling with drug addiction? Call to learn more about the best medical detox treatment options! 1-888-987-4673

Reviewed by Clare Waismann, Registered Addiction Specialist (RAS), Substance Use Disorder Certified Counselor (SUDCC), founder of Waismann Method® Advanced Treatment for Opiate Dependence and Domus Retreat®. Clare Waismann is an authority and expert on opioid dependence, opioid use disorder, substance dependence, detoxification treatments, recovery, and other topics covered on RapidDetox.com.