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Detox is time-limited treatment to assist with withdrawal from alcohol and drugs.

A medical intervention designed to assist with withdrawal from the physiological and psychological effects of alcohol and drugs. Withdrawal treatment can be performed in an inpatient, residential, or ambulatory setting and provides medically safe, professional, and supportive care, while also preparing and motivating individuals to continue treatment in an outpatient setting (Stein et al., 2017).

Alcohol Withdrawal

If an individual enters a detox program or hospital, the doctor or mental health professional will likely evaluate the severity of your alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which can be categorized into 3 stages:


Stage 1 (mild): Mild symptoms, such as headache, tremors, anxiety, and insomnia.

Stage 2 (moderate): Mild symptoms plus rapid breathing, rapid pulse, profound sweating, fever, and confusion.

Stage 3 (severe): Moderate symptoms plus impaired attention, disorientation, auditory or visual hallucinations, and seizures.


Without appropriate treatment, an individual can progress from the first stage to the second and third rather quickly, which is why alcohol detox is needs to be medically supervised. Withdrawing from alcohol can be uncomfortable and, in certain cases, cause serious health risks (Sclar & Thomas, 2019). 

Opiate Withdrawal

Opiate withdrawal symptoms may range from mild to severe, depending on the level of dependency. Withdrawal from an opioid drug may roughly adhere to the following timeline, although it can vary from person to person.


Early Withdrawal Symptoms:

Normally start within 6-12 hours for short-acting opiates, and within 30 hours for longer-acting opiates:

Anxiety and agitation

Excessive yawning and sweating


Heart racing


Muscle aches

Nose Running

Tearing up

Trouble falling and staying asleep


Late Withdrawal Symptoms:

Generally peak within 72 hours and usually last approximately one week:



Drug cravings


Nausea and vomiting

Stomach cramps


There are several detox options which include pharmacological and psychological treatment under the supervision of both medical and mental health professionals. Detox can be performed in outpatient, hospital  or residential setting, but is only the first step. Relapse is a very real possibility unless armed with the tools to stay on the path of recovery. Motivational Interviewing is an excellent therapy modality to explore once detox is completed (Lautieri, n.d.). 

Dr. Justin Capote

If you want to know more about Detoxification, listen to psychiatrist Dr. Justin Capote give an overview of the important aspects of this important mental health service.

Justin Capote, MD, is Board Certified in both adult psychiatry and consultation-liaison psychiatry and was appointed to the American Health Council Board of Physicians for his outstanding contributions to improving mental health. Dr. Capote has extensive experience working in hospital, community, and emergency room settings. He has expertise in treating conditions related to medication overuse and misuse, withdrawal syndromes, age-related comorbidities, and common psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety, anger, and depression. Dr. Capote is a graduate of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and a member of the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry.


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