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Medical Detox

What is Medical Detox?

Medical Detox is treatment for drug and alcohol withdrawal where symptoms managed by a clinical professional. Detoxification, often simply called “detox,” involves carefully tapering the body from the harmful side effects of withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. Detox is a crucial step in rehabilitation and recovery. It allows your body and mind to safely eliminate toxins or addictive substances so that you are no longer under their influence. Depending on the severity and type of substance addiction you have, the detox process may be uncomfortable and present potentially severe health complications. For this reason, it is advised to never attempt detoxification by yourself or “at-home,” but only under the supervision of medical health professionals as found in a certified detox center like Landmark Recovery. You should always talk with a doctor or recovery expert before attempting to quit a substance “cold turkey.”

The road to addiction recovery can be long and challenging, but the programs and staff at the Landmark Recovery’s detox centers are here to help you. Our clinical staff will monitor you throughout detox and can administer medications to help you feel more comfortable and stable while drugs or alcohol is removed from your body. Our state-of-the-art facilities deliver proven and personalized therapy programs in a supportive environment to give you the best chance at achieving long-term sobriety. Detox is typically the first step in the recovery process, but an important one.

Detox is necessary when you’ve been using large amounts of a substance for an extended period of time. One way to know if you require medical detox is by determining whether you’ve developed a tolerance to the substance and need more and more of it in order to achieve the high or desired effect. If you’ve tried to quit using a substance but found yourself unable to control the cravings you have for it, detox can be a powerful tool to improve your recovery chances.

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What Are Symptoms of Withdrawal from Drugs or Alcohol?

When you become dependent on substances like drugs or alcohol, removing them from your body can cause physical, psychological, and behavioral withdrawal symptoms. The severity of your withdrawal symptoms depends on the substance(s) used, the amount used, length of use and your overall health. General symptoms include nausea and vomiting, nervousness, depression, headaches and heavy sweating. More severe symptoms could include hallucinations, muscle aches, thoughts of suicide and seizures.

Withdrawal symptoms from an alcohol addiction typically develop four to 12 hours after your last drink. Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can last between a few days and even a few weeks. They often peak in intensity around two to three days after your last drink.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • sweating
  • intense worry, nervousness, anxiety
  • shaking hands (tremors)
  • trouble sleeping
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • increased heart rate

A nurse talks with a patient hooked to an IV for drug detox.

Landmark Recovery’s detox centers provide a safe environment to help manage moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol and drugs like opiates and sedatives. The detoxification program also serves to prepare you for appropriate ongoing treatment within our facility with the goal of restoring you to a healthier state of life.

Depending on the severity of the addiction and type of substances that have been used, Landmark clinicians may prescribe specific supplements designed for detoxification, including food and drink as well as prescription detox medications. Depending on usage history and intensity, detoxification often lasts for the first 10 days of treatment.

At Landmark Recovery, our detoxification period is monitored 24/7 by registered clinicians, with both a psychiatrist and an internal medicine specialist monitoring the patient daily and available on call throughout the day and night, as needed. While detox itself is not a cure for substance use disorder, it plays in important role in getting your ready for a recovery program. Those who complete medical detox are more likely to stay in treatment longer and make a successful recovery.

How Long Does it Take to Detox from Alcohol?

A recovery from alcohol addiction will typically begin with detox to eliminate alcohol from your body. While it only takes about a day after your last drink for alcohol to leave your body it can take several days before you find relief from withdrawal symptoms. This is because long-term alcohol usage impacts brain chemistry. Over time, the body develops a tolerance to alcohol, which means you need to drink more and more in order to feel buzzed or drunk.

The brain responds to increased alcohol intake by producing higher amounts of neurotransmitters. When you stop drinking there will be a period of time, often several days, when the brain continues to produce these neurotransmitters, which causes withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue

Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Powerful tremors
  • Delusions
  • High Fever

What are DTs (Delirium Tremens)?

Delirium tremens, often called the DTs, are experienced by about 5% for people who have used alcohol over a long period of time. The DTs typically start two to three days after someone stops a drinking binge. Symptoms of delirium tremens include: tremors or seizures, hallucinations and confusion, sweating, trembling, nausea, confusion, irritability and impaired consciousness.

You may be at increased risk of experiencing DTs if you have consumed higher amounts of alcohol in the weeks prior to withdrawal, have underlying health issues, are over the age of 40, are in poor health, and have a psychiatric disorder.

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How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your Body?

Determining how long a particular drug stays in your system and could be detected by a urine test depends on several factors. These factors include your age, weight, activity level, what drug you’ve used, how much you’ve used and for how long. Most drugs will stay in your system and will be detectible for at least a few days after use. Drug testing, when carefully collected and interpreted, provides information that can help doctors create an addiction treatment plan. At Landmark Recovery, we utilize drug tests to see what substances a patient has used and to monitor their progress while in treatment.

Drug Testing

The most common drug test used is the SAMHSA-5, which includes amphetamines, marijuana (THC) cocaine, opiates and phencyclidine (PCP). Many substances much undergo metabolism in the liver before they can be eliminated in urine. Blood and breath tests reflect moment-to-moment serum levels of a drug, offering the earliest and shortest detection window. Urine offers a longer detection window, which drugs can be detected in hair much longer. The detection windows for alcohol and drugs varies largely due to their degree of fat solubility. THC, a highly fat-soluble compound, can be detected in urine for weeks after last usage in people who use it daily. Here’s a look at detection windows according to drug and test method.

Drug detection windows


Medication-Assisted Treatment

Depending on the patient, the staff at Landmark Recovery’s detox center may recommend the use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for the withdrawal process. Typically, these detox medications help to mitigate the negative side effects of drug and alcohol withdrawal and along with clinical health monitoring eliminates the possibility of death or relapse during this period. Some examples of commonly used detox medicines include:

Anticonvulsants and Anti-Nausea Medications

Withdrawal from drugs can induce serious physical side effects including seizures, nausea, and diarrhea. Clinicians at our detox center will administer appropriate levels of anticonvulsant and anti-nausea medications to ease the patient’s transition during one of the most difficult parts of recovery. These include GabapentinTegretolZofran, and Dramamine to name a few.


Campral has been on the market since it was initially approved by the FDA in 2004 and is generally used during alcohol detox to treat symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Campral has been shown in clinical studies to be an effective tool for patients to achieve long-term sobriety from alcohol. It works by stimulating the GABA receptors in the brain, like benzodiazepines, while also subduing the NMDA receptors. This makes withdrawal from alcohol easier to cope with, restoring the brain to a stable state.


Suboxone, most often used in treatment for opioid addiction, is a combination of two different drugs: buprenorphine (an opioid activator) and naloxone (an opioid antagonist). This combination of opposing forces provides a way for addicts to gradually wean themselves off of their pre-existing addiction while minimizing the effects that full-on withdrawal would otherwise trigger. Suboxone is administered with a light film or pill and is intended for the treatment of opioid dependence.


Buprenorphine, while used as a part of Suboxone, can also be administered by itself. Buprenorphine works with the same opioid receptors that heroin affects, but it is limited and not nearly as potent. Buprenorphine is effective during medical detoxification for withdrawal and cravings.

medical equipment for drug detox

Is Detox Dangerous?

Detox can be a dangerous and potentially life-threatening process without the proper help and support. Withdrawal from alcohol can produce complications such as convulsions, where the body goes into epileptic seizures, and cardiac arrhythmia, where the heart goes into spasms, two possibly fatal outcomes for heavy drinkers who go cold turkey. This is why hospital and treatment center staff will sometimes advise individuals to continue drinking before checking in for treatment.

At Landmark Recovery’s detox center, patient withdrawal is medically managed in a supportive residential environment with 24/7 care providers available to monitor for possibly life-threatening withdrawal symptoms such as seizures and DT’s.

What is Medical Detox Like?

Upon admission to our detox facility and programs, Landmark staff will perform a comprehensive evaluation of your health history and addiction. This will include a physical exam and psychiatric exam. A discharge plan including intensive outpatient services and alumni support will also be crafted to ensure that appropriate care continues after detoxification. Within 24 hours of admittance to our detox center, the intake clinician or primary addiction counselor will complete a biopsychosocial evaluation and compile a master treatment plan for you. We’ll ask that your family members discuss the appropriate ongoing treatment options. It’s important that you have a strong and caring support network.

Patients can be discharged from the medical detox center when the following criteria are met:

  • Patient no longer meets all elements of medical necessity as defined by the ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine) criteria for addictive, substance-related, and co-occurring conditions.
  • The individual and family are not involved to the best of their ability in the treatment and discharge planning process and there is no reasonable chance of improving this condition
  • The patient is actively suicidal, demonstrates violent behavior, has an acute, life-threatening illness or condition that requires transfer, or the patient is pregnant.

How Can I Get More Information about Drug and Alcohol Detox?

If you or a loved one needs help, please call our confidential admissions line now at 888-448-0302. We can often arrange for you to begin treatment at one of our rehab facilities near you within a few days. Addiction is a disease and seeking help is not weakness. The detox centers at Landmark Recovery provide the tools and environment you need to help you reclaim your life from drug or alcohol addiction but not until you take that all important first step and contact us today.