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Medically Supervised Detox Programs

Doctor supervising a detox program to a patient

Published: September 14, 2023

Medically supervised detox programs may be vital to addiction treatment for you or a loved one. These programs can ensure that recovery begins optimally for anyone who wants to transition to a sober lifestyle.

Find out more about detox treatment options for substance use disorder, what happens during a detoxification program, the costs of detox facilities, and medical care choices below.

What Is Medically Supervised Detox?

Medically supervised detox means that a person addicted to a substance is working with medical professionals to help them begin recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.

Trying to go through the detoxification process on your own can be dangerous and sometimes even fatal.

Taking advantage of medical supervision at an accredited detox treatment facility will help you through the worst symptoms, keep you safer during the detox process, and reduce relapse chances.

Detox Symptoms Treated in Medical Detox

Withdrawing from any substance will produce many detox symptoms. These will be affected by your genetics, health conditions, co-occurring disorders, level and frequency of addiction, what type of substance you’re addicted to, and other factors.

Some of the more common detox symptoms include:

  • Cravings
  • Headaches
  • Changes in vitals like heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels
  • Body aches
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in appearance
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea/vomiting

Addictions Treated in Medically Supervised Detox

While any drug addiction can be treated with drug detox, it is medically necessary for recovery from some types of substance abuse.

Medical detoxification helps the body remove the substance before moving into a treatment program.

Drug addictions that require detox before treatment include:

  • Alcohol
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Opioids

What Happens During Medical Detox?

Hearing the words ‘medical detox’ may be a little intimidating, so it’s essential to understand what it looks like in action. There are a few steps and processes that contribute to ridding your body of the substance you’re addicted to.

Clinical Stabilization

Clinical stabilization means getting your body to a good base level as you begin detoxing. You may receive medications to help adjust your vitals, like your heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation levels.

This step ensures you are in the best condition possible to begin substance abuse treatment.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, happens when your body needs to rely on a medication that mimics the effects of the drug of your addiction.

For more severe addictions, it can allow medical professionals to wean your body off a drug and its impact. Doing so gives your body time to adjust to each level of withdrawal and stabilize its response.

Commonly used MAT medications can help reduce cravings, discomfort, insomnia, anxiety, and depression, along with other symptoms of withdrawal.

These MAT medications may treat your withdrawal symptoms:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone
  • Hormone therapy
  • Bupropion
  • Varenicline
  • Nicotine replacement
  • Acamprosate
  • Disulfiram

Patient Monitoring

Throughout the process of medical detox, medical professionals will check your vitals to monitor how your body is responding to treatment. This can be done at your chosen treatment center through inpatient detox or outpatient treatment programs.

They may adjust medications, IVs, and other factors to ensure that your body is receiving the support it needs.

Fluid & Supplement Restoration

As you enter a state of detox, you may be losing out on important nutrients and hydration levels. You can also be dehydrated and missing nutrients as part of detoxing.

To fix this, you’ll usually be given IV fluids. These may contain additional nutrients, and you may be given supplements as well.

Common supplements administered during detox may be:

  • Vitamins A, B, C, D, and E
  • Thiamine
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Electrolytes
  • Calcium
  • Amino acids

What Happens After a Detox Program?

Detoxing is the first of many steps in your recovery. Establishing a treatment plan for how you’ll move forward once you no longer have that substance in your body is important.

Follow-Up Treatment

Once you’ve detoxed, you’ll usually enter into a rehab program. It may start as an inpatient or intensive outpatient program, then transition to an outpatient program.

You’ll undergo education and therapy as part of the programs to help you understand the drug’s effects on your body, why you became addicted, and how you cope without relapsing.

Nutrition Planning

Drug addiction wreaks havoc on your body. Once you’ve gotten rid of the substance, you must give yourself the necessary nutrients to become healthy.

It can be tricky to get what you need out of food, because you may experience cravings, upset stomach, low appetite, and the urge to overeat.

You may work with a registered dietician or nutritionist to develop a healthy eating plan that fits your budget and lifestyle. Speak with your healthcare provider to decide how best to fill your needs for nutrition.


Aftercare follows drug rehab treatment. It can include sober living or residential treatment arrangements. You may attend individual therapy or support group meetings.

Benefits of Drug and Alcohol Detox

When you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, detox is a vital first step. It removes the toxic substance from your system and sets you up for a more successful recovery path.

It’s tempting to think that once you’ve rid yourself of a substance, you’re on the road to recovery. But detox doesn’t begin to address all the factors that go into treating addiction. It removes the substance but not the root causes, like environment, biology, and behavioral health issues.

Detox doesn’t teach you about how drugs or alcohol affect your system. It doesn’t explore why you chose addiction. It doesn’t solve how you avoid relapse. It just gets you to the base of the stairwell. You still must climb the rest of the steps.

Once you’ve detoxed, it’s vital that you work through additional programs and treatments to continue recovery care.

Medical Detox vs. Other Forms of Detox

Can you detox successfully at home? Maybe. But it can be a life-threatening choice, especially if your addiction is severe.

People often try to self-detox by quitting a drug cold turkey. The withdrawal symptoms can be brutal. Many end up relapsing to offset the withdrawal symptoms.

Because their bodies are no longer accustomed to the dose or frequency of the drug they were last taking, the effects can be devastating.

You may be able to do at-home or social detox successfully, especially if your addiction isn’t severe. But if you’re addicted to alcohol, opioids or benzodiazepines, you can’t safely DIY this process.

Cost of Medically Supervised Detox Programs

The costs of medically supervised detox programs vary too much to set an accurate price. The length of a program, what your health insurance covers, whether you’re inpatient or outpatient, where you live, your military service status, and more affect the bottom line.

The minimum amount of time for a detox program is seven days, and costs start at $250/day. For medically supervised detox, the starting cost is approximately $500/day.

Without health insurance, the cost can increase to $1,000/day for outpatient care.

If treating your addiction requires an inpatient treatment program, you’ll most likely have to go through some type of detox.

Finding a High-Quality Medical Detox Program

To improve your chances of recovery, you want to find the best options available to you. You can find a high-quality medical detox program through local resources, including your insurance company.

If you’re struggling to locate a detox center that fits your drug addiction needs, you can call our helpline or visit our directory for help with finding a high-quality medical detox program in your state.

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