8 Things to Expect in a Drug and Alcohol Detox Center

8 Things to Expect in a Drug and Alcohol Detox Center

With over 20 million Americans having addiction problems that need treatment, it’s no surprise there are over 10,000 mental-health treatment facilities in the United States, most of which offer drug detox services or referrals. Although supervised medical detox is well known to be the safest kind, planning a stay in a drug detox center can be unnerving. Besides the inconvenience of several miserable days of acute detox followed by several weeks of recuperation, you also face the embarrassment of having to open up in detail about your problem—and the embarrassment of admitting you just couldn’t handle it on your own. It’s all such unfamiliar territory.

If you’ve planned well, by the time you actually check into the detox facilities you’ll already have gotten familiar with them by visiting the premises and meeting the people. But if you’re just starting to learn about detox and what it does, here are a few points on what to expect from any good detox center.

1. Expect to be treated with respect.

No matter how low you’ve sunk under the influence of addiction, even if it’s done damage to your brain, you are still a human being with intelligence, dignity, and unique abilities and dreams. No drug detox service worth half its fee will treat you as a helpless incompetent who needs to be told what to do every step of the way. They don’t just want to get you sober and turn you loose—they want to help you discover new ways to become your best unique self, so when the full detox process is over, you’ll have more to live for than escaping the problems you’ve been “self-medicating.”

2. Expect to be under competent medical supervision.

“Medical detox” means exactly what it says: every reputable drug detox center has quick access to licensed medical professionals in case of emergency. Depending on the drug of addiction and the patient’s physical condition, almost anything can happen during a detox: so doctors are on quick call to treat dangerous withdrawal symptoms, as well as to advise on whether “cold turkey” detox is safe or slow weaning off the drug is needed.

3. Expect advance details on what physical and mental effects your withdrawal should manifest.

The detox center’s staff will brief you. While effects vary widely from drug to drug and person to person, most withdrawal experiences start within 48 hours of the last dose and involve a few days of intense effects opposite to those of the drug’s, usually to the point of physical illness. (The most common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, chills, heavy perspiration, tremors, altered sleep patterns, intense anxiety and aching all over.) After the worst abates, the patient will continue to feel weak, and usually restless, drowsy or tense, for several more days.

4. Expect to stay for several weeks of recuperation.

The mind takes much longer to “detox” than the body—long after immediate physical cravings are gone, temptation to reach for the old familiar crutch in times of stress (and even in pleasant “always had a drink” situations) will persist, often for a year or more. You won’t be kept at the detox facilities that long, but up to three months is common. You need a long rest away from situations that remind you too much of “needing a pill.”

5. Expect intensive therapy to be part of the process.

If all your “mental detoxing” consisted of avoiding temptations, you’d be ill-prepared for the day you have to go back and face them again. (Sorry, but the world won’t reward your successful detox by making the rest of life easier for you.) The detox center will have therapists and counselors to help you explore wrong thinking that led you into addiction, and plan better ways to deal with stress. Re-entry still won’t be easy, but you’ll be facing it armed and ready, rather than as a victim.

6. Expect to meet—and get to know—others undergoing drug detox.

Group therapy as well as individual counseling should be part of the detox center’s program. In addition, once you’re well enough to get out of bed you’ll have opportunities to socialize with fellow patients. Don’t get involved in gripe sessions (there may be one or two sour apples who went into detox because their boss told them it was that or be fired, and who remain convinced it was all someone else’s fault), but do share and listen. By learning about others’ struggles and what they’ve overcome, you’ll be detoxing also from the idea that the whole world revolves around you and that your problems are uniquely impossible to deal with.

7. Expect to have some fun in your spare time.

Of course, this is a hospital and not a resort: there are rules to follow and scheduled appointments to attend, and sticking out the full time you committed to will be vital to getting the most from your treatment. But a fair amount of recreational time, equipment and facilities will be provided. You’ll likely be limited in how many and which of your own things you’re allowed to bring; so if access to a well-stocked library or a tennis court is important to you, by all means look for a center that supplies such facilities. Do confirm rules in advance; you don’t want to wind up in a “what do you mean the courts are only open in the afternoons?” argument just when you’re starting to feel better.

8. Expect to be encouraged to get your whole family involved.

Whether anyone wanted to admit it or not, your whole household, and sometimes the extended family, were likely part of the larger problem and should be part of the larger cure. Perhaps long-term family therapy sessions will start right at the drug detox center while you’re still recovering; in any case, try to arrange for regular visits during your inpatient stay. There’s nothing like regularly seeing someone in person to be assured they still have time for you and are looking out for your interests.

Long after your stay in the detox center is finished, you’ll need ongoing sobriety support from your family as well as organized peer groups. If you particularly liked your center and the people there, see if they have an alumni program with special events. Whether or not you visit this center again in sobriety, by the time you leave you’ll be thoroughly prepared to expect the best for your future!

Inland Detox, the top drug and alcohol detox center in southern California, is located in the Temecula Valley. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, please call (888) 739-8296 for more information.