When is Medical Detox Necessary?

When someone decides to get sober they usually think they just need to go to rehab. This can be true, but usually, there are important steps before rehab. Medical detox usually is the first step in recovery. More than likely, if you are getting sober, a rehab will require at least a few days in an inpatient detox center to ensure stability and reduce withdrawal. Detox can be vital for someone’s chances of recovery.

Medical detox is the process of slowly bringing someone off of addictive substances in a controlled medical environment. Detox significantly reduces the negative side effects of withdrawal in addition to keeping the patient safe. Some people attend medical detox because it is comfortable and separates the person from their drug of choice, but for some, medical detox is extremely necessary. Some drugs can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms which require a tapering drug to reduce the risk of lethal symptoms. It is important to learn the risks of withdrawal before attempting to taper by yourself or quit cold turkey. Even if you do not plan on going to rehab, medical detox may be necessary.


Alcohol withdrawal is one of the most deadly forms of drug withdrawal. The body becomes physically dependent on alcohol over time, which means a person can no longer function normally without it. This is why many alcoholics will experience tremors if they do not drink. This is just one symptom, and the real dangers are not so obvious.

Alcohol withdrawal has a high risk of causing seizures. Even if a person feels ok, their brain may be struggling to function without alcohol. A seizure can come on suddenly without any warning or other signs, so it is very important to ask a doctor before quitting drinking. Even if they try to taper off of alcohol, they are still at risk for seizures.

In a medical detox center, doctor’s use controlled tapers to efficiently bring someone off of alcohol and end dependence. Ativan is the most commonly used drug, among other benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are most famous as anxiety medication, but they are also anticonvulsive drugs. Benzos will prevent seizures, reduce withdrawal symptoms, prevent tremors, and assist with sleep.

NEVER try to quit alcohol cold turkey.

Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan)

Benzos are another drug that causes extremely life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Even if someone is ending a prescribed dose of benzos, they are still at risk of seizures. Someone who abuses benzos has an extremely high chance of having a grand mal seizure, which is the most deadly. Not only can seizures cause brain damage, falling or getting in a car accident while having a seizure can be deadly.

Benzo withdrawal can also cause delirium, confusion, sickness, and tremors. In some cases, people have even experienced coma induced by benzo withdrawal. It is extremely imperative to be treated by a medical professional if you are quitting benzos. Even tapering on benzos has a risk of seizure. In a medical detox center, doctors can monitor one’s stability and prescribe the correct dosage of tapers to reduce the risk of harm.

medical staff


Barbiturates are similar to benzodiazepines. They are anticonvulsive sedative drugs. Once often prescribed for sleep, they have become much more rare. This is because barbiturates have a high risk of overdose as well as deadly withdrawal. Withdrawal from barbiturates is very similar to benzos and can even be more severe. Those dependent on barbiturates have a high risk of seizure, delirium, or even coma.

Always talk to a doctor before quitting barbiturates. In a medical detox, tapers will be prescribed to make withdrawal more comfortable and safe.

Heroin and Opioids

Heroin withdrawal is rarely life threatening, though it is unexplainably painful. Opiate withdrawal is often regarded the most painful withdrawal. Because of the pain and psychological torment of opiate withdrawal, medical detox is always recommended. Those suffering withdrawal will often take massive risks to “get well.” They may commit crime which can result in injury, death, or incarceration. There have been rare cases of inmates dying in jail from opiate withdrawal due to dehydration.  

Though most opiate withdrawal is not itself dangerous, there has been a recent surge of synthetic opioids which cause more dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Fentanyl and Carfentanil have become popular street drugs. These drugs are used on cancer patients or as tranquilizers for large animals. These were never intended for regular use. Now that there has been an influx of abusers of these drugs, the results of addiction to these powerful opioids is being observed. In some cases, these drugs cause seizures and users take even greater risks while withdrawing.

In medical detox, doctors will prescribe tapers, usually Suboxone, Subutex, or methadone. These drugs are not true opiates but give the body what it needs to prevent withdrawal. This can make the withdrawal period much more manageable and comfortable. Tapers reduce nearly all symptoms and other drugs are prescribed to assist with sleep and anxiety. It is highly recommended to seek medical detox for opioid or heroin withdrawal.

Seeking Treatment for Alcoholism and Addiction

If you or a loved one has a problem with alcoholism or addiction and want to experience recovery in a thriving community with lots of people just like you, then call the professionals at Stout Street today at 866-722-7040. Our trained staff is standing by to take your call and help you in any way we can. We know how difficult of a decision this can be and we know what it takes to ensure you find your own person path in recovery.  You no longer have to do it alone, so give us a call today and find the happy and sober life you’ve always dreamed of.