Drug Detox – The First Step in Recovery from Drug Addiction

Not all addicted people require detoxification before treatment. However, long-term abuse of certain substances can lead to physical dependence. Physical dependence is when the body’s central nervous system develops a tolerance to a certain drug. Physical dependence is usually associated with sedatives such as opiates (heroin and opiate prescription drugs such as oxycontin and tramadol) and benzodiazepines (i.e. diazepam, alprazolam, etc). Where a physical dependence to a drug is evident, a rehabilitation period will be required.

What is a Drug Detoxification?

A controlled withdrawal is the process of allowing the body to rid itself of a drug whilst managing the symptoms of withdrawal. It is the first step in a recovery program and should be followed by treatment that looks at changing behaviour and cognitive function; however a drug detoxification alone is not full treatment.

How Long does the Process Take?

Unfortunately, there is no one answer here. The length of any given treatment again depends on the severity of use and also whether or not medication is necessary. In most cases, our experienced staff will be able to give each client an idea of idea of how long the detox will take after an assessment of their personal situation.

Why is Medication Required in a Drug Withdrawal Program?

For those who require a cleansing period prior to our comprehensive drug addiction treatment programme, severe withdrawal symptoms may be experienced and medical complications may arise.

A key component of any detoxification treatment is ‘stabilization’. This term covers all the medical and psychological interventions that occur in an effort to help the client come to a place of physical and psychological balance. Medication that has a similar effect to the drug may be prescribed in order to regulate the symptoms of withdrawal. This medication would be tapered off gradually during the detox program.

The possibility of medical complications and the need for medication in some cases are the reasons that detox is best done at an inpatient centre such as The Cabin Chiang Mai.

What are Withdrawal Symptoms?

Different drugs have different withdrawal symptoms, but in most cases you can expect extreme mood swings, physical discomfort, feelings of anxiety and of course severe drug cravings among others. Some withdrawals are more dangerous than others. Detoxing from heroin or other opiates for example is not as risky as detoxing from benzodiazepines. While the withdrawal symptoms for opiates will be very uncomfortable, they pose little risk of serious physical health risk, especially when monitored by a professional.

Detox from benzodiazepines, however, can result in serious seizures that can be life threatening.

What Should You Expect during Detox?

Each person will experience very different symptoms depending on the severity of their drug use, the length of time they have been using, and of course their drug of abuse. However, some aspects of rehabilitation are similar across the board regardless of the individual factors.

During treatment at The Cabin, each client will be monitored by our round-the-clock medical team and action will be taken to soothe the withdrawal symptoms as best as possible. In the cases of severe drug use, medication which mimics the effects of opiates or benzodiazepines may be given for a period of time to help the body as it learns how to function normally once again.

During the initial period without drugs, a long-term drug user is likely to experience a number of both psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms. The body and the brain functions need a period of time to readjust to functioning without the drug present and the adjustment period can lead to various withdrawal symptoms.

Who Needs Detox before Addiction Treatment?

Detox necessity will depend upon a person’s medical condition, history of substance abuse and their age. As mentioned above, not all drug use will require a person to go through a medically supervised detox. Through an initial assessment with The Cabin’s medical and clinical team we will be able to determine which clients require a medically supervised withdrawal programme before starting rehab.

Detox is Only the First Step in Addiction Treatment


While the reduction of the thirst for drugs is a great first step, it does not deal with the underlying issues of the disease of addiction including learning how to cope with craving and triggers in the future. In most cases, there were reasons for which people turned to drugs, whether internal or environmental, and it is important to understand the reasons behind this and how to cope in a more healthy manner in the future.

Many addictions occur in part because of present or past experiences such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, physical or mental abuse or mental health disorders by which using drugs often starts as a way to mask one’s feelings about these things. Even after detox, these feelings persist and can put you at risk of relapse.

During treatment at The Cabin, our clients will learn new coping skills taught by our experienced counselling staff using methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), 12 Steps and mindfulness therapy among others to increase the chances of long-term recovery from addiction. Find out more about drug rehab here.


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