How Does Outpatient Detox for Drugs and Alcohol Work?

outpatient therapy

When experimenting with recreational substance abuse, nobody intends to become dependent on alcohol and drugs. Despite knowing how addiction occurs, most individuals don’t realize that it’s happening or grasp the full implications of the disease until it’s too late. In the beginning, substance abuse continues because users enjoy the effects of alcohol and drugs; whether it’s alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, benzodiazepines, or some other substance, those who recreational abuse substances are always wanting to experience stronger effects from the drugs they’re using. This leads them to consume increasingly large doses, developing a physical and even psychological dependency at the same time. At the point of addiction, recreational substance abuse stops being fun and becomes a compulsion or a means of keeping withdrawal symptoms at bay.

In the years that we’ve been learning more about alcohol and drug addiction, we’ve also been refining addiction treatment, developing better and more effective therapies that help those suffering from addiction to overcome chemical dependency. Addiction recovery often means participating in an inpatient or outpatient treatment program at a rehabilitation center. While inpatient programs—in which those in treatment live on-site at the facility for the duration of the program—have shown to be the most effective, outpatient programs can offer those with familial or employment obligations the flexibility to incorporate addiction recovery into their existing schedules. However, before beginning an actual treatment program most addicts entering recovery will need to complete a preliminary detox program.

Most detox programs are medically supervised, requiring the individual to relocate to the facility for the duration of the detox period. During detox, individuals will experience the onset of withdrawal symptoms, which sometimes become so severe that physicians will administer medicinal treatments in order to alleviate withdrawal. Over the course of detox, drugs and other toxins work their way out of the individual’s body as the addict is physically cleansed. As withdrawal symptoms subside, the individual becomes ready to progress into the actual treatment phase of recovery by beginning an inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment program.

What is Outpatient Detox for Alcohol and Drug Addiction?

While this process tends to be the most common route of recovery, outpatient detox is an alternative option that might be preferred for some individuals. Whereas most detox programs are considered inpatient treatments and require the individual to reside in a detox facility for the duration of detoxification, outpatient detox is much like an outpatient treatment program, allowing individuals to continue to live at home while regularly commuting to a treatment facility in order to receive detox treatments. In both inpatient and outpatient detox programs, individuals suffering from dependency might receive medications in order to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Medications that are most often prescribed for withdrawal during a detox program are often benzodiazepines such as chlordiazepoxide, oxazepam, and halazepam, but other medications like buprenorphine are not uncommon. The medications used to assist with withdrawal are typically chosen due to being relatively long-acting, seen as having less addictive potential than shorter-acting benzodiazepines.

In the first visit of an outpatient detox program, individuals often undergo a comprehensive physical exam, which allows the presiding physician to determine one’s level of health and assess individual needs during the outpatient detox period. This includes determining whether medicinal intervention will be needed during detoxification and choosing the most appropriate medication. The withdrawal symptoms that tend to become most severe during detox include confusion, anxiety, nausea, sweating, insomnia, and general discomfort. Oftentimes the individual is required to stay at the facility for a few hours to be monitored, ensuring that medications prescribed for detox don’t produce adverse effects. Over the course of an outpatient detox program, the individual will continue to periodically visit the detox facility to meet with the physician, which is an opportunity to monitor one’s progress and address any problems or concerns. Most often used for alcoholism or benzodiazepine addiction, outpatient detox tends to be recommended only in instances where one’s addiction is mild to moderate; when addiction is severe with the potential for life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, outpatient detox is not advised or available.

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The Pros and Cons of Outpatient Detox

Although detoxification is an important part of the recovery process, outpatient detox is not the best solution for everyone. However, it does offer an attractive alternative to inpatient detox program for certain individuals. Unlike an inpatient program, outpatient detox affords individuals much more freedom and independence, putting responsibility for continuing to abstain from substance abuse during detoxification solely on the individual who is detoxing. For those who must continue to work or have familial obligations, outpatient detox might be preferable since it doesn’t require those beginning addiction recovery to reside in a detox facility for the duration of the detox stage. This also keeps individuals from having to explain their absence to those they may not want informed of their dependencies from which they’re recovering, affording them a level of privacy in recovery. What’s more, with the assistance of medication to alleviate mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms it’s not always necessary to have round-the-clock medical supervision during detoxification.

On the other hand, those who suffer from more severe addictions will find that outpatient detox isn’t the safest or most effective option. Whereas outpatient detox offers minimal supervision, inpatient detox programs are often supervised by physicians, which prevents those who are detoxing from experiencing withdrawal symptoms that are so severe as to become life-threatening. In short, the medical supervision of an inpatient detox program eliminates or minimizes the danger of detoxification, especially in instances of severe alcoholism and benzodiazepine dependency. What’s more, since inpatient detox means constant supervision, medical care is continuous and allows for ongoing modifications, such as increasing or decreasing medications whenever necessary to provide the most benefit to individuals suffering from withdrawal. This also means harmful behaviors that might compromise one’s recovery can be mitigated.

Though it doesn’t offer the high quality of medical care as an inpatient detox program, outpatient detox remains a viable option for individuals who only alternative would be to continue in active addiction. If you or someone you love is suffering from chemical dependency and would like to learn more about detox program, call Recovery Hub 888-220-4352. Our recovery specialists have helped numerous individuals find their way to a healthy, sober live through a high-quality addiction treatment program. Let us do the same for you today.

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