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What’s the Difference Between Detox and Rehab?



Drug and alcohol misuse is an ongoing problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 12% of Americans 12 and up reported using an illicit drug in the past month in 2018. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 14.5 million people in the same age group had alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2019.

Luckily, help is possible in the form of professional addiction treatment. For those who decide to seek treatment, it’s important to be as educated as possible about a particular treatment program. For example, understanding the difference between detox and rehab can help you better determine the next steps in your recovery.

What is Detox?

While some people may use the terms detox and rehab interchangeably, the two are not the same. Detox, which is short for detoxification, is the term used for the process that helps someone first stop using drugs or alcohol. Detox is the formal process that an individual undergoes when drugs and alcohol leave their body. Ideally, the detox process should happen under medical supervision.

During detox, a person is likely to experience symptoms of withdrawal or the process in which the brain and body re-adjust to life without addictive substances. These symptoms can include:

  • A range of mood changes such as anxiety, depression, and agitation
  • A variety of physical changes in the body, including flu-like symptoms (exhaustion, nausea, and headaches)
  • A possible struggle with cravings for drugs or alcohol

Detox under the watch of health care professionals is considered the safest route. The first step of a medically supervised detox process is an evaluation of the person in recovery to determine their current physical and psychological condition. The findings from that evaluation can guide their care plan while they are undergoing detox to stop their drug or alcohol use.

During the detox process, medical and clinical personnel will help the individual with their withdrawal. This can include providing medications to make the experience safer and more comfortable. Finally, the detox facility will suggest a long-term treatment plan to ensure the individual’s continued sobriety.

What is Rehab?

After someone has successfully gone through detox and removed drugs or alcohol from their body, they should consider a treatment program, also known as rehab. These programs help equip the person in recovery with the necessary tools so that they don’t start drinking or using drugs again. Treatment also provides the necessary support to help the person on their sober journey for the long term.

Rehab can happen in many different settings, from a residential facility, where the person lives for a certain period while they undergo therapy and learn coping skills, to outpatient options, which allows the person to live in their own home and keep working. The most appropriate type of treatment for an individual will depend on their level of addiction and the stability of their home life, as well as whether they have previously completed treatment.

Life After Detox and Rehab

Because addiction is a chronic condition, people should expect to treat their recovery like any other life-long health concern such as high blood pressure or asthma that requires ongoing management. There is no cure for addiction.

If detox is the first step in recovery from addiction, rehab is a sprint. Life after both is a marathon. Maintaining a life free of addiction requires a plan, lifestyle changes, and possible alterations to that plan as a person’s situation evolves. Both detox and rehab are all part of an ongoing healthier living process. There are steps that someone living with addiction can take to improve their chances of long-term sobriety, which can include:

  • Create a sober friend group. A network of peers can provide advice and assistance when someone has a challenge or a relapse.
  • Consider a new job. If the individual’s workplace contributed to their addiction, it might be time to reconsider if that job is the right fit during recovery.
  • Talk about challenges. An addiction can often be linked to past challenges or traumas. Talking to a mental health professional can help uncover what led to the drug or alcohol use and prevent relapse.
  • Build a support system. Most individuals seeking treatment can expect to maintain some level of contact with an addiction support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, to help with maintaining their sobriety.
  • Commit to helping someone else. Many people find being a sponsor to someone as beneficial to their sobriety as having a sponsor.

Building on a belief that spiritual development and healthy recovery can bring inner peace to clients overcoming addiction and substance abuse, Into Action Recovery Centers takes a people-centered approach to addiction treatment. Our onsite medical detox center is conveniently located in Houston, Texas, where experienced master’s level counselors and medical professionals lead our treatment programs.

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