How Does Outpatient Detox Work?

outpatient detox centers

For people who lead demanding lives but also struggle with the cessation of their drug or alcohol usage, inpatient treatment is not always be the answer. In these particular types of situations, outpatient detox may be the most ideal solution.

When a person undergoes outpatient detox, he/she visits a facility during regular hours for detox treatment and leaves at the end of the day. Outpatient detox is probably the least invasive method of treatment for issues with alcohol and drug abuse, and it is a solid solution for people who cannot afford to completely change their lives for rehabilitation.

What to Expect in Outpatient Detox

When you decide to engage in an outpatient detox program, a couple of different things will initially happen. First, the medical staff involved in your course of treatment will create an effective, personalized plan that focuses on your needs and personal situation. Second, the chosen course of treatment will heavily depend on a number of factors that are specific to you and your needs. Likewise, these factors will be used to determine if you are a suitable candidate for outpatient detox. Some of the factors include:

  • The substance you’re struggling to stop using
  • How long you’ve been addicted to the substance, and the addiction’s severity
  • The state of your physical and mental health
  • Your gender
  • Your age
  • Your familial, friendly, and romantic relationships

If medical personnel determines that your personal life could support outpatient detox, it is likely that it will be recommended as a treatment option to you. (Note: Your personal life is considered suitable for outpatient detox is you generally have reliable transportation, a stable housing situation, and a network of strong supporters in your social circle.)

How Does Treatment Work for Each Type of Drug?

Detox is not an easygoing process, and there are going to be points throughout it that you will likely find difficult or challenging. However, it’s important to keep the end goal in mind as you navigate the process of outpatient detox: your recovery.

It might help to look at it another way, such as envisioning a happy, more focused and stable version of yourself that does not depend on drugs to function. This is the essentially the goal you should work toward as you progress through treatment.

You will experience withdrawal symptoms while in recovery, but the effects will be heavily mitigated and lessened with the help of medical staff. Depending on your usage habits, these are the withdrawal symptoms that could be experienced to some degree as you rid your body of alcohol and drug-related toxins:

Alcohol: There is a chance while in treatment that you will become nauseous, and help will be administered to curb these effects, along with copious amounts of fluid. If symptoms become severe enough, you will likely be given medication to assist with the discomfort associated with withdrawal. Along with nausea and discomfort, you might also experience the following symptoms in the beginning of your outpatient detox treatment plan: anxiety, tremors, shakiness, increased blood pressure and heart rate, change in sleep pattern, and dehydration.

Benzodiazepines: Treatment for this benzos tends to be slower in pace, as it requires a gradual, steady weaning from the substance. In some cases, alternative drugs might be administered to aid in the weaning process including chlordiazepoxide or diazepam. Utilizing a different drug in place of the usual one serves the purpose of enabling the weaning process and reducing the impact of withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, these symptoms might include aches and pains in the muscles, grogginess in memory and focus, irritability, anxiety, inability to sleep or rest, and changes in sleep pattern

Opioids: When it comes to opioids, patients are assessed on a regular basis using the SOWS (Short Opioid Withdrawal Scale) to ensure symptoms are properly controlled. Drugs such as methadone and buprenorphine are used to mitigate opioid withdrawal symptoms which are likely to include excessive sweating, watery eyes, diarrhea, cramping and discomfort in the muscles, anxiety, vomiting and nausea, changes in sleep pattern, and cold/hot flashes.

Stimulants: When patients slowly come off of stimulants, they are extremely susceptible to developing anxiety and depression or other illnesses. Therefore, medical staff closely monitors them for signs of their onset. Particularly, staff will make sure that your water intake is ideal, and that you are taking adequate amounts of B and C vitamins. Symptoms that might be experienced include irritability, pain and discomfort in the muscles, changes in sleep pattern, and changes in appetite.

What Will Outpatient Detox Be Like for You?

As you progress through outpatient detox, you will experience three integral phases in the process. These are evaluation, stabilization, and preparing for your new life beyond recovery, or preparing for further treatment.


Once you agree to enter outpatient detox treatment, you will be given a thorough examination that will be used to determine the current type and amount of drugs in your body, as well as what type of care is necessary.


Stabilization is a large chunk of the detox process, and depending on your personal situation, it can take anywhere from a few days to multiple weeks. Help and medication will be administered during this process to make your withdrawal symptoms much more manageable. Any drugs administered to help your detox treatment will later be gradually tapered back off at the end of treatment.

After Detox

If you feel confident in your ability to maintain your sobriety and resume a life without drugs or alcohol, treatment will officially end once outpatient detox is over. However, it’s highly possible that you will require further guidance even beyond initial phase of detox. For many people, the next step in the journey towards recovery is inpatient or outpatient treatment.

When outpatient detox is drawing to a close, medical personnel will help you better understand your options following detox. With these suggestions in mind, you can weigh out each of the possibilities and potential benefits with a medical professional before making an informed choice.

If you’re ready to find out how treatment can dramatically reshape your life, contact us today. It’s never too late regain control over your life and future. Call 866-802-6848

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.