Medically Supervised Alcohol Detox Programs: What to Know

Medically Supervised Alcohol Detox Programs: What to Know

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Detox involves removing harmful toxins acquired through substance use from the body. People with alcohol dependence may experience overwhelming withdrawal symptoms.

That is why medically supervised alcohol detox programs are the best option for individuals committed to long-term recovery and sobriety.

These programs provide the care you need to complete detox successfully and continue with the next phase of the treatment.

Today, we will discuss everything you need to know about medically supervised alcohol detox programs. Read on to learn what it entails and how to choose a program that fits your needs.

What Happens in Medically Supervised Alcohol Detox Programs?

Before diving into alcohol rehab, you should understand some facts.

First, detox in itself is not a treatment. It is just a step in the ladder some drug-dependent individuals take before treatment.

Second, detoxifying some substances can be uncomfortable, while discontinuing others can cause severe or even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. For this reason, you should never detox from alcohol on your own.

Lastly, the detox process varies from one person to another. The average detox takes about seven to ten days. But some people can take as few as five days while others take several weeks.

Medically Supervised Alcohol Detox Programs: What to Know

Your detox duration will depend on how your body responds to the process. You might experience withdrawal symptoms during this period.

You may receive some medication to ease pain or discomfort or even to help quit your use of alcohol completely.

Your medical supervisor will monitor your heart rate, breathing, and other vital functions during detox.

After freeing your body of harsh toxins from alcohol use and overcoming the most difficult part of withdrawal, you can proceed to a formal treatment program and start your healing journey.

Medically Supervised Detox for Alcohol

Unsupervised alcohol withdrawal can be risky. In other words, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, painful, and life-threatening.

Individuals struggling with alcohol use disorder (prolonged alcoholism) are more likely to undergo withdrawal phases.

The first phase begins some hours after the last drink, and symptoms range from abdominal pain to nausea, vomiting, and sweating.

Symptoms become more severe in the second phase, including high blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and disorientation.

Individuals in the third and last alcohol withdrawal phase experience delirium tremens. Not everyone experiences this condition, but it could be the riskiest part of alcohol detoxification.

Those undergoing delirium tremens manifest high fever, seizures, extreme agitation, and hallucinations.

Although these symptoms can be severe, most go away within a week if you complete detox under medical supervision.

Addiction therapy session in progress

While undergoing detox, your clinician will monitor all aspects of your health to increase your chances of recovery. A comprehensive clinical assessment is key to healing.

If, for example, your clinician finds that you struggle with anxiety or depression, they will collaborate with you to find appropriate treatment for these issues.

Most alcohol-dependent persons have Vitamin B1 deficiency, an issue that a clinician can identify in detox and address properly.

Your clinician may also administer medication to help with discomfort if necessary.

Lastly, detox in a medically supervised setting is highly recommended for safety. If you have never tried alcohol detox, you may not know the risks of completing the process alone.

Detox calls for commitment, due diligence, and medical care if your body exceeds its physical limits.

The Process of Detoxification

Everybody has different detox needs. Medically supervised alcohol detox programs  are designed to help those struggling with alcohol dependence receive individualized care.

The process usually involves the following steps:


Clinicians screen patients for physical and psychological health problems. They use blood tests to determine the amount of alcohol in the patient’s system.

Doing this helps to know the amount of medication a patient needs.

Medically Supervised Alcohol Detox Programs: What to Know

The medical team also thoroughly evaluates the patient’s medical, psychiatric, and alcohol use history. This information establishes the foundation of the patient’s long-term treatment strategy.


Stabilizing the patient through medical and mental therapies comes next. Stabilization aims to protect the patient from harm. Clinicians may prescribe addiction therapy medications to avoid complications and lessen withdrawal symptoms.

Preparing entry into treatment

Preparing for actual treatment is the last phase of detox. Doctors explain to their patients the process and what to expect. Inpatient treatment offers the highest chances of success after detox.

Type of Medically Supervised Alcohol Detox Programs

There are two basic types of detox programs:

1. Outpatient detoxification program

In an outpatient program, you receive treatment during the daytime but live at home. The program can be as simple as visiting your medical provider regularly for checkups and medication.


Outpatient detoxification is safe and effective for individuals with mild-to-moderate alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

It also is less expensive and less time-consuming. Individuals who enroll in outpatient rehabilitation treatment after detox in an outpatient setting can attend the same facility for both phases of treatment.

Medically Supervised Alcohol Detox Programs: What to Know

Besides, outpatients get more social support than inpatients, except those in disruptive family settings or job situations.

Unlike those undergoing an inpatient detox program, they can work and continue with routine activities.


Although an outpatient alcohol detox program allows patients the freedom to function normally, it increases their risk of relapse because they can easily buy alcoholic drinks.

Outpatients may also miss some of their detoxification appointments and eventually fail to follow through with the process.

Outpatient detox cannot work for everyone. According to research, outpatient detox is unsafe for people struggling with alcohol addiction at risk of life-threatening withdrawal complications like delirium tremens or those with alcohol-related medical conditions such as cirrhosis and pancreatitis.

It may also not work for people with suicidal or homicidal thoughts, disruptive families, or those who cannot travel to the treatment facility daily.

2. Inpatient detoxification program

Patients unfit for an outpatient detox program are candidates for inpatient detox. With inpatient programs, you remain at a hospital, detox clinic, or rehab over the entire detox process. You receive care round the clock to help you through.


One advantage of inpatient settings is that they offer continuous medical care and supervision from professional staff.

Inpatients enjoy easy access to treatment for life-threatening complications. They also cannot access alcohol in an inpatient setting, which makes this environment perfect for withdrawal from alcohol.


Inpatient detoxification is much more expensive compared to outpatient detox options. The cost of admission, care, and time taken off work can be overwhelming for an average earner.

How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?

Inpatient care also tends to relieve you of personal responsibility, which may encourage unnecessary dependence on medical staff.

How to Choose a Program

Start by listing your needs. For instance, if you have a physical or mental health condition, you may need services for that.

Alternatively, an inpatient detox program would be more suitable if you have struggled with alcohol use disorder (AUD) for years and lack a good support system.

After making a list of your needs, look at the quality of care and cost. Your ideal program should be one that you can pay for, have a high success rate, and have licensed, qualified staff.

Holistic Therapy for Addiction Treatment: Everything You Need to Know

Compile a list of questions to ask different programs, such as:

  • Which insurance do you take?
  • Can you send a sample treatment plan?
  • Do you offer medical services and counseling
  • Is there an aftercare program once I’m done with detox?
  • How do you support patients to prevent relapse?

Does Insurance Cover Medically Supervised Alcohol Detox Programs?

Yes, medical insurance may cover some services. However, how much you will pay out-of-pocket depends on your insurance plan and the detox program you choose.

Your insurance provider may cover essential medical services only. They will investigate your case and determine the treatment you qualify for.

Medicare Part A pays for mental health care, including hospital treatment for AUD. Medicare Part B covers outpatient services for AUD.

You can only know what you qualify for by calling your insurance provider. Ask about what your plan covers, including detox and outpatient or inpatient rehabilitation, copays, and other costs, and how they decide what to cover.

What Medications Can Help During Detoxification?

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend some medications to help during detox with medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

MAT combines drugs, behavioral therapy, and counseling to treat substance use disorders.

Medications administered during detox offer such benefits as:

  • Lower your risk of relapse during detox from alcohol.
  • Prevent overdose if you relapse.
  • Relieve alcohol withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, depression, and restlessness.
  • Provide some relief during the detox process.

Understanding the Difference Between Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction

Acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone are some FDA-approved drugs used during alcohol detox.

These meds help relieve the overwhelming feelings of anxiety, depression, and withdrawal symptoms you experience during detox.

Complete medically supervised alcohol detox programs may include peer support and psychological therapy. So, enroll in a rehabilitation center to continue treatment after detox.

Let Us Help You Find Suitable Medically Supervised Alcohol Detox Programs Near You

A medically supervised alcohol detox program may be what you need if you struggle with AUD.

At, we can provide you with resources, help you find a rehab center that suits your needs, and design an individualized treatment program that works for you.

Contact us to start your path towards recovery.

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We provide an easy and effective way to receive education and treatment services for drug addiction.

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