Death rates from drugs and alcohol have reached an all-time high in the United States. In the past 5 years alone, opiate overdose fatalities have increased by 45%. Though not as stark in numbers, alcohol-related deaths have been on the steady incline, as well.

If you’re ready to break free from the deadly grips of drugs or alcohol, making the decision to get sober is a big step. The journey to sobriety is long and hard, but you will come to know a healthier and happier life you never imagined at the height of your addiction.

Choosing between detox and rehab is fundamental in the early days. What is a detox program and how is it different from rehabilitation. Which option is best for your recovery?

Read on to find out.

Understanding Detox

You’ll often hear people say: “Why can’t addicts just stop drinking and using drugs?”

If it were that simple, addiction and alcoholism might not be as rampant as they are.

Unfortunately, many people become physically dependent on drugs and alcohol. If they stop using, they can experience painful, adverse symptoms. This is otherwise known as the phenomenon of withdrawal.

Detox is often necessary to help addicts and alcoholics overcome withdrawal. Before exploring the difference between detox and rehab, let’s discuss withdrawal symptoms.

What Is Withdrawal?

Long-term, heavy use of drugs and alcohol can change the brain and body. When addicts abruptly stop using drugs or alcohol, their bodies respond in a number of ways.

Alcohol withdrawal usually begins within 6 hours of a person’s last drink. Shaky hands, sweating, and anxiety is common. Nausea, vomiting, tremors, and seizures can occur in more severe cases.

Heroin and opiate withdrawal can occur within 12 hours after the last dose. But it’s also not uncommon for withdrawal to set in sooner.

Withdrawal from heroin or opiates often causes:

Heroin, opiates, and alcohol are not the only drugs to cause withdrawal symptoms. Fatigue, restlessness, and depression are common during cocaine withdrawal. These, including vivid dreams, can also occur during methamphetamine withdrawal.

Often these symptoms are too painful and uncomfortable to bear. Many will resort to using drugs to relieve their withdrawal symptoms. This worsens the cycle of addiction, making it harder to achieve sobriety.

What s a Detox Program?

Detox is a process that involves cleansing the body of drugs, alcohol, and other toxins. Though it is not a cure for addiction, it is a monumental first step.

Not only does detoxification free the mind and body from chemical dependence. It also reduces cravings, protects the nervous system, and increases chances for survival.

Withdrawal can sometimes lead to complications, such as dehydration and high blood pressure. In more severe cases, it can even lead to death. This is why medical detox is crucial if you are physically dependent on drugs or alcohol.

Detox under medical supervision ensures that the patient feels comfortable during the process. When a patient enters detox, medical staff will assess their individual case. Doctors will then determine whether a patient requires medical or rapid detox treatment.

Medical Detox

During medical detox, patients gradually wean themselves off drugs or alcohol. By doing so in a medical facility, they’ll have no way to obtain illicit drugs or alcohol. They’ll also undergo counseling and begin forming a treatment plan for after detoxification.

Doctors can administer medicine to ease withdrawal symptoms. Often these medications are non-habit forming. They’re meant to relieve symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, headaches, and insomnia.

Doctors will also monitor a patient’s vitals round-the-clock and prevent potential complications. Patients receive IV fluids and routine blood tests, as well. Sedation is not always necessary, but doctors can administer it in some cases.

Rapid Detox

Rapid detox involves the administration of medicine that resembles the abused drug. This form of detox is not meant to induce the mind-altering, euphoric effects of drugs and alcohol. Rather, it’s to help severely addicted patients wean themselves off comfortably and quickly.

For example, methadone treatment is commonly administered during heroin detox. Methadone is an opiate with long-lasting, non-psychoactive effects. It binds to nerve receptors the same way heroin does and can reduce cravings for up to 8 hours or longer.

Doctors can implement other medications that help speed up the detox process. These medications flush the system of drugs and other toxins more rapidly. During rapid detox, doctors also monitor patients for potential complications.

How Long Does Detox Last?

There are detox programs for different substances and each varies in treatment length. The length of treatment generally depends on the severity of a patient’s addiction. Complications can also prolong detox treatment.

Detoxing from alcohol can range anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Physical withdrawal symptoms tend to peak after about 72 hours. But heavier, long-term drinkers may feel the physical symptoms for longer.

Drug detoxification can take anywhere from several days to several weeks. The length of treatment time depends on which abused substances are still in the body – and the extent of the abuse.

Physical withdrawal symptoms, generally speaking, usually taper off after around 10 days. The standard length of stay is usually 3 days. It can be more or less depending on your individual case.

Emotional withdrawal symptoms tend to last longer than the physical symptoms. This is why it’s important to have a post-detox treatment plan in place.

Is Self-Detox Safe?

Many addicts and alcoholics attempt to self-detox without medical supervision. While it is possible to self-detox, it is not a safe approach.

Because detox can lead to complications – and even death – it’s important to do so under the care of a doctor. If you’re not sure if you should enter a detox program, talk to your doctor.

Now that we understand detox treatment, what’s the difference between detox and rehab? We’ll explore that next!

Understanding Rehab

Not all drug addicts and alcoholics will experience withdrawal when they stop using. Even if you don’t need to enter a detox program, treatment is still vital to getting and staying sober.

Unfortunately, many believe that because they don’t need detox, they can get sober on their own. Though it is possible to achieve sobriety without outside help, the risk of relapse is still high.

In fact, alcoholics who receive treatment are more likely to stay in remission for 3 years. This same study also shows that those who don’t undergo treatment are more likely to relapse. Detoxing from alcohol helps as a good first step – but further treatment can help prevent relapse.

No matter the extent of your addiction or alcoholism, it is still a disease. Like any other disease, you need to treat it as such.

What Is Rehab?

There are many forms of treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction. There are support groups and 12-step programs. There’s psychological and psychiatric counseling.

All these forms of treatment work towards one objective:

To help a recovering addict or alcoholic stay sober.

But many in recovery will find that they need a more intensive treatment program. That’s where rehabilitation programs come in.

Rehabilitation programs are settings where recovering addicts and alcoholics can focus on themselves. It’s where those in recovery begin to rebuild themselves and their lives. It’s heavily counseling and educational based – but there are many more facets to rehab.

What Can You Expect at Rehab?

For someone in recovery to stay sober, they have to relearn how to live a life without drugs or alcohol. It’s important that they learn coping skills and tools to help them in the outside world.

Both detox and rehab consist of round-the-clock medical supervision. But the difference between the two is that patients in rehab have access to 24/7 counseling as well.

Those in rehab treatment will spend a lot of time talking one-on-one with a counselor. Individual therapy creates a private, judgment-free space. This allows for someone to explore issues that have contributed to their addiction.

During individual therapy, you’ll also form a treatment plan for after rehab. Your therapist will help you set goals as part of your post-rehab plan. These goals are ultimately meant to help you stay sober and rebuild your life.

Here are some ideas of goals you can set during and after treatment:

Some residents are able to return to their homes and jobs after rehab. Others may transition into sober living or “halfway houses.” No matter where you go, it’s important to transition into a sober and healthy environment.

You’ll also learn ways to stay sober after rehab. Before leaving rehab, you may want to have a family member dispose of old paraphernalia. You may also need to cut off toxic relationships that will stand in the way between you and your sobriety.

What Other Types of Counseling Are Available?

If you decide to enter rehab treatment, you’ll not only spend a lot of time in individual therapy. You’ll spend a great deal of time in group therapy as well.

Mutual understanding and connection are among the most profound benefits of group therapy. You’ll feel less alone in the company of others with similar struggles. You’ll also receive support and learn to use group therapy as a healthy coping tool.

Trauma counseling can help you overcome the trauma that you used drugs and alcohol to cope with. It will also help you learn to cope with future trauma and stressful situations in a healthy way.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help you modify your way of thinking. In fact, CBT for addiction is immensely effective. It can help you overcome addictive behaviors by examining your patterns of thought.

There’s also family therapy available in rehab. It not only helps you repair relationships with relatives, spouses, and children. It teaches you and your family how to nurture sobriety and positive changes.

How Long Does Rehabilitation Treatment Last?

There are detox and rehab facilities everywhere across the United States. Where you decide to undergo either is up to you. Many choose to get sober close to home, while others find it beneficial to go to other cities or states.

It’s often required that a person complete a detox program before entering rehab. This is not always the case and it varies on an individual basis, as well as on a facility’s policy.

The standard length of stay at a residential treatment facility is typically 14 days. 30 days of treatment at a residential facility is also common. However, it’s also not unheard of for some patients to stay as long as 6 months to a year in some facilities.

Detox and Rehab: Which Option Is Right for You?

Addiction and alcoholism can take a lot away from a person – far beyond their physical health.

Relationships, jobs, and reputation are often affected once addiction starts to wreak havoc. When you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, you can even feel like you’re not who you once were.

Every person has to hit their own bottom before they can admit that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol. There can be a great amount of loss with that.

But there is hope. The first step is admitting you have a problem with drugs or alcohol. After that, the next step is making the decision to do something about it.

Completing detox and rehab may be the best treatment plan for you. If you’re still not sure which is the right option for you, contact us today. We’re here to help you get started on the path to recovery!



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  • This is one of the best Detox facilities I have every been too. The doctors and nurses are fantastic and will make you comfortable and treat you individually. The food, rooms and the space itself are all top notch. It is a very safe and comfortable space to get well and all the therapists and staff are so nice, smart and accommodating. I can't say enough good things about Coastal.

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  • Thank you Costal Detox, 9 months sober now and loving every bit of it! I hate how mean I was while detoxing but then again it’s all part of the process. The staff were so caring and kind - helpful in so many ways! The environment was so comfortable and pleasing to be in!

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    Addison R.
  • Thank you Costal Detox, 9 months sober now and loving every bit of it! I hate how mean I was while detoxing but then again it’s all part of the process. The staff were so caring and kind - helpful in so many ways! The environment was so comfortable and pleasing to be in!

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    Addison R.
  • My loved one went to went to Coastal Detox and did awesome there. Great clinical and BHT department. Staff is wonderful as well as the food. Every client gets one on one attention from staff members. The holistic services are very effective. Highly recommend Coastal Detox.

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    Haley O.
  • Every staff member made this process easier. In the darkest hours they shined light. Judy was absolutely amazing. They helped so much and my family will forever be grateful to everyone there. If you or your loved one needs help, rest assured that they will get the best care.

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