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Healing, Strengthening, and Advancing the Lives of LGBTQ People Seeking Recovery

Drug Detox: Necessary, But Not Enough

Drug Detox: Necessary, But Not Enough

If you’ve been struggling with drug and/or alcohol abuse, detoxification (detox) is the first step to overcoming your addiction. And while detox is a necessary, life-saving step in your recovery process, it’s just the beginning. Read on to learn about what detox involves, how it works, and what to expect afterward. 

What Is Detoxification?

Drug and alcohol detoxification is the first step in a comprehensive rehabilitation program. This stage of treatment focuses on physiological healing after a long-term addiction. Put more simply, detox is the process of letting the body remove the drugs in it. 

A professional detox program, sometimes referred to as “medically managed withdrawal,” uses various medications and therapies to help patients safely manage the side effects that come from quitting drugs and/or alcohol. 

By itself, detox can help patients stop abusing drugs, but true recovery from addictive behavior requires treatment and aftercare. That’s because addiction is both psychological and physical in nature. Psychotherapeutic treatment addresses the causes of addiction, as well as changes to the brain as a result of chronic drug abuse. Addressing these various facets of addiction makes recovery more effective. 

How Long Does Detox Take?

In broad terms, detox can take anywhere from a few days to several months to get through the withdrawal symptoms. 

The length of withdrawal depends on several factors including: 

  • Type of substance the user is addicted to
  • The duration of the addiction 
  • The severity of the addiction
  • Method of abuse (snorting, smoking, injecting, or swallowing)
  • The amount of a substance the user takes at one time
  • Family history
  • Genetic makeup
  • Medical conditions
  • Underlying mental health conditions

Side effects of detox

Many people are hesitant to quit drugs due to fear of the side effects that result. In most cases, it’s impossible to avoid these side effects completely. However, a medically supervised detox can help limit them. In addition, medical supervision can help prevent the most dangerous complications of drug and alcohol withdrawal.

Some of the most common side effects include:

  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Body discomfort
  • Mood swings
  • Poor sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating

Can I detox at home?

In most, if not all, cases, detoxing at home is not recommended. This is especially true for those addicted to alcohol or benzodiazepines as withdrawal symptoms from these substances can be deadly. Quitting either without medical supervision can lead to serious issues including seizures and severe dehydration. 

Home detox is also not recommended for those with a severe addiction, those who are addicted to more than one substance, or those with a dual diagnosis. 
Both professional inpatient and outpatient detox programs can help prevent the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms through support and monitoring. These programs may also include medications designed to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

The Process of Detoxification

Everyone’s detox needs are different. As such, a good detox program will provide a personalized program for each individual. Still, in most cases, the process involves three steps: evaluation, stabilization, and preparation for treatment.


Upon entering a detoxification program, a medical team screens patients for physical and mental health issues. In addition, the team will conduct a comprehensive review of the drug, medical, and psychiatric histories. This information helps form the foundation for the long-term treatment plan. Doctors will also use blood tests to measure the quantity of drugs in a patient’s system to determine the amount of medications required.


After evaluation, the medical team’s goal is to stabilize the patient with medical and psychological therapy. With this objective in mind, doctors can prescribe addiction treatment medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications. 

The medications prescribed for each patient will vary, however, some commonly prescribed drugs include:

  • Benzodiazepines for anxiety and irritability 
  • Antidepressants for mood stabilization
  • Clonidine to reduce sweating, cramps, muscle aches, and anxiety. It can also stop tremors and seizures
  • Naltrexone to block the pleasurable effects of alcohol on the brain
  • Disulfiram to reduce alcohol cravings by inducing nausea and vomiting after drinking

Preparation for Treatment

The last step of the detox process is preparation for treatment. Doctors discuss treatment programs with patients and give them an idea of what to expect from each type.

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What Happens After Detox?

By itself, detox is rarely enough for a person to achieve long-term recovery. That’s because addiction affects the reward center of the brain, altering motivation pathways and leading to emotional and physical dependency. Detox helps individuals reach physical stabilization, but it’s also important to find psychological balance through therapy and complementary treatments.

An effective treatment program should address a person’s drug abuse and any medical, psychological, vocational, or legal problems that come with it. In addition, a good treatment program should be tailored to an individual’s age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and culture. 

Medication may be part of the treatment program, however individual and group behavioral therapies are the most common forms of substance abuse treatment. These therapies help patients reframe preconceived ideas about what recovery means. Doing so helps them return to being a functioning family member, employee, and citizen. 

Like other chronic illnesses, some people will relapse. That doesn’t mean treatment has failed. Rather, it may indicate the need to make adjustments in the treatment program.

Finding the Right Treatment Program

Following drug detox, it’s essential to find the right treatment program. A program can either be inpatient, where patients stay in a specialized facility and receive round-the-clock care, or outpatient, where patients attend sessions and/or meetings during the day and return home at night. Both types of programs have their advantages and disadvantages. 

As a result of their intensive structure, inpatient treatment can help patients kick start their new sober lives. These programs offer activities like group and individual therapy, medication treatments, journaling, and complementary programs like yoga and meditation. While the success rate of inpatient programs is high, they’re expensive, time-intensive, and may not be covered by insurance. 
Outpatient treatment is a good option for those with unaccommodating schedules who have a strong home support system. These programs include group therapy sessions, 12-step programs, and talk therapy. Together they provide patients with a safe space to share personal stories and emotions. Patients in these programs are usually required to attend a certain number of hours of group therapy per week (usually about 10 hours).

Detox And Treatment At La Fuente Hollywood

La Fuente Hollywood Treatment Center is an LGBTQ-affirmative substance abuse treatment center in Los Angeles. We provide a full continuum of care including detoxification, inpatient, outpatient, and sober living.   

Our drug and alcohol detoxification programs are overseen by Board Certified addiction medicine doctors so our patients can begin their treatment programs safely and comfortably. 

Both our inpatient and our outpatient programs include individual and group therapy sessions. La Fuente’s clinical program has been carefully crafted over time and is informed by evidence-based treatment modules that include motivational interviewing, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and family systems therapy. We also offer mindfulness training, therapeutic yoga, and relapse prevention therapy. 

Our treatment is non-judgmental, therapeutically sensitive, and LGBTQ-centered. In order to achieve these goals, our staff members are trained to help clients who have experienced societal pressures, family distress, and toxic shame. 

If you’d like to learn more about our options for detoxification, inpatient, or outpatient treatment, complete the form below. A member of our staff will be in touch within 24 hours to answer any questions you may have.

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