Understanding The Detoxification Process

The detoxification process is a crucial first step on substance use disorder recovery. Learn more about it in this comprehensive article.

Table of Contents

The Importance of Detoxification

In 2022, 48.7 million people over the age of 12 had a substance use disorder (SUD). For those navigating substance use disorders, the detoxification process marks a pivotal first step toward recovery.1

The detoxification process allows the body to remove any lingering traces of a substance. Detoxification serves as the cornerstone of healing, offering a pathway for sustainable recovery. By addressing withdrawal, it sets the stage for comprehensive rehabilitation.

At AM Behavioral Health, we understand that every journey toward recovery is unique. Our focus is on meeting you where you are with personalized support. To help individuals build a foundation for sustainable wellness, we offer various types of care — from detox to aftercare — supporting your full recovery.

Detoxification Process

Understanding Detoxification

The detoxification process is a critical phase in addiction treatment. Since various substances can lead to physical and psychological dependence, the detoxification process helps address these dependencies by eliminating the substances from the body. This occurs over the course of several days or weeks.

Professional supervision during detox is crucial to ensure safety and effectiveness. This often involves medical monitoring and support to manage withdrawal symptoms, which also provides a way of addressing any complications that may arise.
With proper care, individuals can safely detoxify and embark on the path toward lasting recovery.

Common Substances That Require Detox

Detoxification is crucial for various substances that individuals may become dependent on. Some of the most common substances that require detox include:


In 2022, 177 million people in the United States reported drinking alcohol within the past year. Although not everyone who drinks alcohol develops an alcohol use disorder, it can be dangerous due to how accepted alcohol is in America’s culture.2

Alcohol dependence can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. These include:
  • Tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite


Opioids can be natural or synthetic, meaning that they are man-made. Many types of opioids are legal but intensely regulated due to their danger for dependence, such as the case with many prescription painkillers. There are also many forms of opioids that are illegal, though.

In 2021, over 75% of all substance overdoses to occur were associated with opioids. Opioid use disorder first became a widespread concern in the 1990s.

Some of the most common opioids seen in opioid use disorder (OUD) include:3

  • Heroin: A highly addictive illegal opioid derived from morphine.
  • Oxycodone: A prescription opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain.
  • Hydrocodone: Another prescription opioid used for pain relief.
  • Morphine: A powerful opioid often used in medical settings to manage severe pain.
  • Fentanyl: A potent synthetic opioid that is much stronger than other opioids, often implicated in overdose deaths due to its high potency and availability on the illicit market.
  • Codeine: A milder opioid used in prescription cough medications and for mild to moderate pain relief.

OUD Withdrawal Symptoms

Whether from heroin or prescription painkillers, opioid dependence can result in intense withdrawal symptoms.
This includes those such as:
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Intense anxiety


Benzodiazepines are most often prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Although they are beneficial for treating many conditions, prolonged use can lead to physical dependence. Some of the substances most often connected to benzodiazepine dependence include:

Some of the substances most often connected to benzodiazepine dependence include:
  • Alprazolam
  • Diazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Clonazepam
  • Chlordiazepoxide
Unlike some other substances often associated with a substance use disorder, benzodiazepines often include an extra step during the detoxification process. This is a tapered dose, as it can be more dangerous to eliminate all use of the substance at once.
This is just one example of why medical supervision is so essential during the detoxification process, as it can prevent potential harm to the individual during recovery.


In 2021, 53,495 overdose deaths were associated with cocaine. Cocaine, like amphetamines, is a type of stimulant.

Cocaine withdrawal can cause significant psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and intense cravings. The detoxification process from cocaine often involves psychological support and counseling to address these symptoms.4


Drugs like methamphetamine and prescription stimulants (e.g., Adderall) can lead to dependence with prolonged use. Amphetamine withdrawal may include symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and increased appetite.

Medically supervised detox can help manage these symptoms and support individuals through the process.


Cannabis withdrawal is often less severe than other substances. However, those with a substance use disorder or cannabis dependency may still experience symptoms such as:
  • Alprazolam
  • Diazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Clonazepam
  • Chlordiazepoxide
The detoxification process from cannabis may involve counseling and behavioral therapies. These help to address these symptoms and support long-term abstinence.

What Are the Risks Associated With the Detoxification Process?

Detoxification, while crucial for recovery, still may carry certain risks for some individuals.
These risks highlight the importance of comprehensive, individualized care during detoxification, with close medical supervision. Psychological support and a tailored treatment plan also help to ensure safety and promote successful recovery.
Some of the most notable risks of detox without medical supervision include:

Medical Complications

Withdrawal from certain substances can lead to severe physical symptoms. This includes those such as seizures, dehydration, and heart problems.
In some cases, medical complications resulting from unsupervised detox can pose a medical emergency. This is seen most often when severe heart problems occur. Our team at AM Behavioral Health is here to ensure that you are safe and supported during your recovery.

Psychological Distress

Detoxification can trigger intense psychological symptoms, such as suicidal thoughts or intense anxiety.
Most often, these symptoms occur as a result of the brain’s chemistry reverting back to natural levels. Since substance use can increase dopamine in the brain, returning to a natural level can feel like an intense drop for those with substance use disorder.
As a result, psychological symptoms are often present in the detoxification process, especially for substances like stimulants.


Without proper support and guidance, individuals undergoing detox may be at risk of relapse. This is because the discomfort of withdrawal can be overwhelming. As a result, many individuals may try to seek relief through substance use.

Dual Diagnosis Complications

Individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders may experience more severe symptoms during detox. As a result, they will need integrated treatment to address both substance use and mental health issues concurrently. This way, they can receive holistic and integrative care.

Social Challenges

Detoxification can strain relationships and disrupt daily routines. This can lead to social isolation and many difficulties in day-to-day life. This includes maintaining employment, housing, and healthy relationships.
The detoxification process can help individuals start to work through these challenges.

Underlying Health Issues

Detox may uncover undiagnosed health problems. This includes liver damage or infections. In many cases, these underlying health issues may involve extra treatment or care.

Overdose Risk

In some cases, individuals may be at increased risk of overdose following detox. This is due to decreased tolerance levels. As a result, it is crucial to educate and support individuals on the risks of substance use after detox.

The Detoxification Process at AM Behavioral Health

Beginning the detoxification process at AM Behavioral Health is a pivotal step toward finding balance and peace following a substance use disorder. We believe in your resilience and capacity for change.
As a result, we ensure that our detoxification process includes several aspects to best support you.

The Importance of a Supportive and Compassionate Environment

At AM Behavioral Health, we understand that detoxification can be a challenging and vulnerable time. That’s why we prioritize creating a supportive and compassionate environment where you can feel safe, respected, and empowered.
Our team of dedicated professionals provides around-the-clock care. Each team member is focused on supporting you where you are through encouragement, reassurance, and emotional support.
Our goal is to help individuals navigate through withdrawal symptoms with confidence and dignity.

Involvement of Family and Loved Ones In the Process

We recognize the important role that family and loved ones play in the recovery process. By including family members, we empower individuals to build a strong foundation of support. This extends beyond the detoxification process and into long-term recovery.

Availability of Counseling and Mental Health Support During Detoxification

At AM Behavioral Health, we understand that detoxification is not just about addressing physical dependence – it is also about addressing the underlying psychological and emotional aspects of addiction.
That’s why we offer comprehensive counseling and mental health support services during detoxification. These work to help individuals:
  • Address the root causes of their addiction
  • Develop coping strategies for managing cravings and triggers
  • Cultivate resilience and self-awareness for sustained recovery

Holistic Approaches to the Detoxification Process

At AM Behavioral Health, we embrace holistic approaches to detoxification. Our team recognizes the importance of addressing the whole person—mind, body, and spirit.
Because of this, our programs combine a variety of holistic approaches with our evidence-based treatments. This helps to best meet your unique needs.
Depending on your treatment plan, complementary therapies are often incorporated into treatment. Nutrition and exercise are prioritized as essential components of the detoxification process.

Co-Occurring Disorders and Detoxification

Co-occurring disorders can present unique challenges in both diagnosis and treatment. This is because each condition can increase the severity of the symptoms of the other. When it comes to the detoxification process, it is crucial to address any co-occurring mental health disorders.

Here are some key considerations:

Integrated Treatment Approach

Treatment for co-occurring disorders often needs an integrated approach in order to address both the mental health disorder and the substance use disorder at the same time.

This might involve:
  • Medications
  • Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Support groups
  • Other interventions tailored to the individual’s specific needs

Assessment and Diagnosis

Proper assessment and diagnosis are essential for effective treatment. Mental health professionals need to thoroughly evaluate the individual to identify both the substance use disorder and any co-occurring mental health disorders.

This can involve:
  • Psychiatric evaluations
  • Medical history assessments
  • Screenings for both substance abuse and mental health conditions

Safety Considerations

Detoxification from substances can be physically and emotionally challenging. This is especially true for individuals with co-occurring disorders. Safety considerations are essential during the detox process to ensure that individuals receive appropriate medical care.

Individualized Treatment Plans

Treatment plans should be tailored to address the unique needs and circumstances of each individual with co-occurring disorders.

This might involve a combination of:
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Behavioral interventions
  • Social support

Continuum of Care

Recovery from co-occurring disorders is often a long-term process. It requires ongoing support and treatment.
A continuum-of-care approach may involve transitioning from detoxification to:
  • Residential treatment
  • Outpatient programs
  • Sober living arrangements
  • Ongoing therapy or support groups
  • Alumni groups
Integrative and holistic care does not end after the detoxification process itself stops. Instead, these options help to promote sustained recovery and continued wellness.
Detoxification Process

Overcoming Challenges in the Detoxification Journey With AM Behavioral Health

Detoxification is a pivotal step in the journey to recovery from substance use disorders, but it’s not without its challenges. From coping with cravings to managing setbacks and maintaining motivation, individuals face various hurdles along the way.

Dealing with Cravings and Triggers

Cravings and triggers can be challenging aspects of the detoxification process. However, they can be managed in order to best help individuals meet goals.
Some of the ways that cravings can be treated are through:
  • Identifying triggers
  • Developing coping skills
  • Building a support system
  • Engaging in healthy activities

Start The Detoxification Process with AM Behavioral Health Today

A detoxification process guided by medical professionals is essential to a healthy journey toward recovery. By helping the body remove any lingering traces of substances remaining in the body, detox can provide an invaluable start for recovery.

Our team is dedicated to providing you with the treatments you need, be that detox or continuum of care later in your healthcare journey. Here, you’ll experience an innovative treatment plan tailored to your unique needs, goals, and experiences.

Take the first step toward healing today by beginning the detoxification process with AM Behavioral Health.