How Can You Prepare for an Alcohol or Drug Detox?

Once an addict makes the commitment to taking steps toward recovery, they must begin making a plan for the first stage: detox. This involves a lot of moving parts: looking into programs, deciding which detox is right for you, getting finances in order, and determining how you should prepare things at home while you’re away.Knowing how to cope with all of these parts can make the process go much smoother. Being educated on how to prepare for a drug or alcohol detox can save your life and motivate you to follow through.

Detox Defined

There are two types of detox, but generally, a drug or alcohol detox indicates a structured process that helps alleviate symptoms of withdrawal. The two types of detox are sub-acute and acute.Sub-acute detox is for individuals with less severe addictions that may not need 24-hour supervision and medical care. There is more freedom involved and it can take less time than acute detox.Acute detox, on the other hand, is for addicts with severe addictions. They will have a higher risk of respiratory failure, seizures, and other harmful side effects. This means that they will require care around the clock.The severity of your addiction will determine what type of detox you undergo and the state of withdrawal you have. These criteria include:

  • What substance is being abused
  • How intense the addiction is
  • Any co-occurring disorders
  • Physical health
  • State of mental health
  • How old you are

The length and difficulty of a drug or alcohol detox will vary from person to person. No two individuals have the same experience. However, the goal of each detox remains the same: to rid your body of the toxins that have been put into it.

What Happens When You Start Detoxing?

Before the detox process can begin, you will be evaluated by one of the mental health professionals on staff at the treatment center. This evaluation will give the professional essential insight into what you need during your detox and help them create a plan for the detox and what occurs after. After this evaluation, you will be cleared for detox, a case manager will be assigned to you, and you will be introduced to the staff.The evaluation will be given over to the appropriate party for your medications to be prescribed. These medications will be used to alleviate some of the discomforts you will feel during withdrawal.From there, you will begin the detoxing process. The withdrawal symptoms you feel will usually be determined by the substance of your addiction. Some general symptoms for different substances include the following.


Alcoholics usually face the highest amount of sleep disturbances during withdrawal. They also experience depression, anxiety, confusion, seizures, fevers, and possibly hallucinations. Detoxing from alcohol can take anywhere between four to seven days, depending on the severity of the addiction and the individual’s body.


Those with a marijuana dependency disorder often face several withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include depression, restlessness, sleep disturbances, irritability, anxiety, and a decrease in appetite. Physical symptoms such as fever, chills, headaches, tremors, or abdominal pain may also occur.


Addiction to stimulants results in withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, intense cravings, lack of pleasure, and an increased appetite. There are usually little to no physical symptoms, helping to speed up the detoxification process. Patients can be cleared within as little as three days.


Opioids have more physical side effects during withdrawal compared to other substances. This is partly because opioids are used to alleviate pain or discomfort. Common withdrawal symptoms of opioid addicts include agitation, muscular pain, body aches and pains, depression, nausea and vomiting, and increased cravings. The average opioid detox lasts between three to seven days, depending on the person.

Preparing for Detox

In most cases of detox, an individual makes the decision to begin detoxing within twenty-four hours of being admitted to a facility. This means that there is typically not much time to prepare beforehand. However, you can prepare during the process.The best thing you can do for yourself and your body is to get in the right mindset and be open to the whole process. This can be difficult, as you may want to stop and return home when the pain and discomfort set in. Remind yourself of what brought you to this point and what finishing will mean for you.If you have sufficient time, you can do one thing to make your transition go more smoothly. Make sure you pack well and enough for your detox journey. Plan on packing clothing for at least one week, but pack more if you are transitioning to residential treatment once the detox is complete.Pack for the appropriate weather, bring any documents you may need such as your ID and insurance card, and also bring the necessary toiletries. Double-check your luggage to ensure you have not packed any prohibited items, including anything containing alcohol.

Deciding to undergo a drug or alcohol detoxification is an important first step in the path to recovery. Addiction can be ugly and can discourage you from any sort of sobriety, but it is possible. Detox is the first step. You must determine what detox is right for you by undergoing an evaluation at a treatment center. Once this is determined and a plan is made, you will begin the detox process. Symptoms differ depending on the type of substance abuse and the severity of the addiction. There are things you can do to prepare for detoxing, but the best thing you can do is keep your mind open to the process. For more information on detox and a look into the programs at Northstar Transitions, give them a call at (303) 558-6400.

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