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Does My Substance Use Require Medical Detox?

Most people with substance use disorder (SUD) require some form of inpatient detox. Every form of acute withdrawal includes unbearable cravings. Relapse and withdrawal symptoms pose too high of a risk. In some cases, withdrawal symptoms can end in death.

Rather than taking that risk, people can check themselves into a detox facility. First, they must decide whether to enter social detox or medical detox. This article will break down the meanings, benefits, and downfalls of each drug and alcohol detox model.

Does My Substance Use Require Medical Detox?

Medical detox is an option worth considering when looking for a drug & alcohol detox program.

What Is Social Detox?

Social detox allows patients with SUD to safely detox from substances without the use of medications. During the process, health professionals will constantly monitor patients. Patients will meet with psychologists for individual therapy. This usually comes in the form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). 

Social detox programs often use holistic therapies as well. Music therapy and art therapy can serve as an outlet and distraction from the acute withdrawal symptoms. Patients only receive emotional support, therapy, and a controlled environment to ensure a successful substance detox. If a patient develops dangerous symptoms, the social detox facility will send them to the nearest medical hospital for stabilization.

Benefits of Social Detox

Unlike other treatment options, social detox offers a low cost. For those without fiscal resources, this can be the most manageable option. Insurance may also help cover the costs of social detox. It depends on the individual insurance company as to whether they prefer social detox or medical detox. 

Additionally, social detox lowers the chances of addiction transfer. Individuals will not as easily replace one substance with another. Examples: trading z-drugs for benzodiazepines, suboxone for heroin, benzodiazepines for alcohol, etc. This information may be more pertinent for people who have used multiple substances in the past. 

Downsides of Social Detox

Most people with SUD cannot safely partake in social detox. This type of program is only appropriate for those with mild addictions. Anyone with a moderate or severe addiction needs the extra care afforded at medical detox. Those patients need the availability of medication to regulate their symptoms. 

Additionally, social detox poses an inherent risk for patients. Acute withdrawal symptoms can change for the worse without any notice. If a detox center does not keep up with the 24-hour care, a patient can die from lethal symptoms. This applies if a facility is understaffed as well. 

Patients and support systems should evaluate whether they are willing to take these risks. They should also consult with a medical professional. A doctor or nurse can provide an educated perspective on the patients' needs.

What Is Medical Detox?

There are very few differences between social detox and medical detox. Medical detox offers all the same benefits as social detox. It includes psychiatrists and medical doctors on staff. Rather than simply pushing through difficult symptoms with willpower, they prescribe medications to manage acute withdrawal. If a patient starts exhibiting more dangerous symptoms, the medical team will alter the patient's dosages or meds. 

Substances that usually require medical detox include:

Benefits of Medical Detox

Medical detox offers assistance for patients with multiple mental health diagnoses. Doctors and psychiatrists can create an effective medication regimen for patients who need long-term mental health care. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can decrease acute withdrawal symptoms. Patients experience less lethargy, mental distress, and pain. This helps people with low pain thresholds. Medical detox can also help people without strong social systems. Social detox heavily relies upon support – therefore, it may not be ideal for patients without family or friends in their corner.

Downsides of Medical Detox

The cost of care is the biggest barrier to medical detox. With the increased resources, the cost falls in a higher cost bracket than social detox. Insurance can mitigate this issue, though. Most insurance plans will cover at least some of the cost of medical detox. If a person's insurance does not cover detox, many facilities offer payment plans.

Additionally, some programs may promote anesthesia-assisted rapid opioid detoxification. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) admonished this practice due to the resulting deaths. Reputable medical detox programs will not endorse or provide this service. 

Selecting Your Treatment

Though individuals may prefer one treatment model over the other, their general physician and the medical professionals at a detox center should make the decision for them. They have the training and knowledge to evaluate a patient's circumstances. They will be able to predict their withdrawal symptoms based on their substances used, length of use, potency, frequency of intake, and underlying medical conditions. Individuals should express their preferences to them but ultimately follow their guidance.

Find Expert Detox Care Today with

When entering into treatment for substance use disorder, you need to ensure you're getting the right treatment for your needs. Individualized care can make the difference between long-term recovery and relapse. This includes finding an affordable program in the desired location that offers the specific services needed.

When it comes to social detox or medical detox, your preferences are less important than your medical provider's recommendation. They have expertise and education in the process. You can find both with

Our directory makes the hunt for drug detox easier than ever. With, your search for medical detox, social detox, and other detox programs will be successful, efficient and quick.

Don’t try detoxing by yourself. Start your search today!

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