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How Healthy Does Detox Get Me?

How Healthy Does Detox Get Me?

Detox must be part of a treatment program that may include medically assisted detox and therapies

To get sober, an addict must start somewhere, of course, but stopping the drug use is just the first step. When the addict stops the use of the substance he is addicted to, and allows his body to rid itself of the drug while managing the symptoms of withdrawal, that is called detoxification, or detox.

After this important first step it is key to understand that detox by itself is not going to keep the addict sober. Ridding the body of the drug must be followed by treatment with a behavioral-based therapy and/or a medication, if available, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns. “Detox alone with no follow-up is not treatment.”[i]

Addiction is such a complicated disease. This is why it can be challenging to get sober and stay sober. If you are an addict, this may seem like an impossibility – but it is not. You can work toward good health, beginning – but not ending – with detox.

Why It’s Complicated

Addiction affects multiple brain circuits, including those involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and inhibitory control over behavior, NIDA says, which is why it is considered a brain disease. Addiction changes the brain itself. Science has proved that drugs can alter the brain’s structure and function, resulting in changes that persist long after drug use has stopped.[ii]

While a person initially chooses to take drugs, over time the effects of prolonged exposure on brain functioning compromise that ability to choose, and seeking and consuming the drug become compulsive, often overriding a person’s self-control or willpower.

People are different in many ways, and one of the ways is that some are more vulnerable to addiction. There are many reasons and this can depend on:

  • genetic makeup
  • age of exposure to drugs
  • environmental influences

Approaches to Treatment

There are many approaches to treatment that can lead a person to recovery – each plan is created with the individual in mind. These may include medically assisted detox and behavioral therapies, as well as good follow-up for long-term recovery.

Medically assisted detoxification can help for certain drug, alcohol and nicotine addictions. For instance, methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone are effective in helping individuals addicted to heroin or other opioids. Acamprosate, disulfiram and naltrexone are medications approved for treating alcohol dependence. Nicotine replacement products (available as patches, gum, lozenges or nasal spray) or an oral medication (such as bupropion or varenicline) can be an effective component of treatment of nicotine addiction.

Research indicates that most addicted individuals need at least three months in treatment to significantly reduce or stop their drug use and that the best outcomes occur with longer durations of treatment.[iii] This time in treatment should be followed by counseling and participating in support groups.

To work toward your healthiest self, you will need to put in some time and effort long after the detox. Recovery also requires lifestyle changes that will aid in your long-term recovery. Some of the things you can do to help your self are:

  • Continue your aftercare plan, with your counselor and support groups.
  • Maintain healthy diet, exercise and sleep habits.
  • Get involved in sober recreational activities that are fun.
  • Cultivate supportive relationships with other sober people.
  • Volunteer and help others, which will give you a sense of purpose.

Steps for Recovery

Research has revealed 13 basic principles that underlie effective drug addiction treatment, NIDA outlines. Here are some of them:[iv]

  • Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior.
  • No single treatment is appropriate for everyone.
  • Treatment needs to be readily available.
  • Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just his or her drug abuse.
  • Remaining in treatment for an adequate period of time is critical.
  • Behavioral therapies — including individual, family or group counseling — are the most commonly used forms of drug abuse treatment.
  • Medications are an important element of treatment for many patients, especially when combined with counseling and other behavioral therapies.
  • An individual’s treatment and services plan must be assessed continually and modified as necessary to ensure that it meets his or her changing needs.
  • Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug abuse.
  • Treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective.
  • Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously, as lapses during treatment do occur.

On the Road to a Healthier You

It will help you in your recovery if you realize from the beginning that getting and staying sober is a long-term commitment. Recognize that relapse is always on the horizon and that your healthier and reasoned approach to recovery will help guard against that. For recovery success, remember these guidelines:[v]

  • Avoid tempting situations.
  • Develop a positive support network.
  • Create a healthy schedule.
  • Don’t get complacent.
  • Don’t view relapse as a failure.

The detox is an important first step but to become your healthiest you must follow up with therapy and an aftercare plan. If you would like to talk about any of these aspects as you make your way to health, call our admissions coordinators who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


[i] The National Institute on Drug Abuse, Frequently Asked Questions, revised August 2015, www.drugabuse.gov/frequently-asked-questions#detox

[ii]  “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition),” The National Institute on Drug Abuse, last updated December 2012, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment

[iii] Id.

[iv] Id.

[v] “5 Ways to Avoid Addiction Relapse,” by Donna M. White, LPCI, CACP, last reviewed July 18, 2013, PsychCentral.com, psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/07/18/5-ways-to-avoid-addiction-relapse/