Detox from alcohol or drugs should take place in a safe and comfortable environment under the supervision of medical professionals. If necessary the doctor in charge prescribes medicines to manage the symptoms of withdrawal. The doses will be reduced over time until the patient has detoxed and their body is free of drugs or alcohol.

It is dangerous for people with a serious dependency to give up alcohol or drugs without medical supervision. This is known as going ‘cold turkey’ and withdrawal symptoms can be severe.  Unsupervised withdrawal from alcohol can even lead to seizures and heart failure.

Where does detox take place?

Detox can take place at:

  • A private residential rehab clinic, as the first part of inpatient care;
  • A community-based detox centre;
  • Within a general hospital. 

Detox at a private residential rehab clinic

Residential alcohol and drug rehab clinics provide a safe, medically supervised environment for detox, away from substance abuse triggers within the person’s home surroundings. This is the fastest route to detox and is conducted at the same time the treatment and psychotherapy programme begins. It is important to start the psychotherapy gently, in parallel with detoxification so that patients are embedded into their recovery programme as early as possible.

How long does detox take?

According to the National Treatment Agency (NTA) detoxification takes on average:

  • Opiates: 2.4 weeks
  • Alcohol: 1.8 weeks
  • Stimulants: 2.1 weeks
  • Benzodiazepines: 3.4 weeks

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Rehab Guide Entry was last reviewed and updated on: