Posted By
Jun 10

What happens during a drug or alcohol detox?

People who are physically dependent and addicted to alcohol or drugs, often need to go through a detoxification (detox) process, as an important first step in their recovery from addiction. At Aurora Recovery Centre, our professional medical detox facility supports you throughout your detox process. Twenty-four-hour care ensures that you’re as comfortable as possible and can transition smoothly from your medical detox into programming. 

The importance of transitioning directly from detox into programming is critical, as many people, once detoxed, experience all the emotions, feelings, and mental chatter they’ve been suppressing with drugs and alcohol. This overwhelm creates an intolerable situation that propels people back to their coping tools of alcohol and/or drugs. Therefore it’s imperative that they’re immediately connected to the resources and support provided by inpatient rehab

Detoxing in a safe space

The purpose of detox is to approach the physical side of an addiction as the first step, which ensures that you’re prepared to address the psychological features of your addiction

Medically supervised detox means that the experience of being physically unwell won’t interfere with your ability to address underlying mental health problems. 

Our team of doctors, nurses, and clinicians work diligently to facilitate a supportive environment while you detox. Aurora is the only private treatment centre in Manitoba with a 24/7 medical detox unit. As an essential first step on your journey into recovery, medically supported detox is the safest and most comfortable way to go through withdrawal. 

What is detox?

Detox is the process that safely removes alcohol and drugs from the body, ensuring that a person is physically stable and ready to begin their residential treatment program.

Alcohol and/or drug addiction results in people’s bodies adjusting to having these substances in their system. With the removal of the substances, using a variety of medical supports, the brain and body go through a variety of changes that cause some people  to experience a set of unpleasant symptoms known as ‘withdrawal symptoms’.

Substance withdrawal can be accompanied by challenging physical and emotional symptoms, and may be potentially life-threatening. The detox process is designed to minimize the negative impact of withdrawal symptoms, and make the experience as safe and comfortable as possible. The most effective form of detox is one that is medically assisted and supported by trained specialists. According to research, a medically supervised detox has always been considered the “gold standard” and the most supportive way to begin treatment.  It’s important to clarify that medical detox will mitigate but does not always eliminate the discomforts associated with detoxing. 

Medications, along with 24/7 monitoring, are used to safely assist you in your detoxification process. Our medical detox facility follows professional procedures and protocols to safely help you through your withdrawal experience. Our credentialed staff is trained in a variety of protocols for detoxification from all substances, including specialized training in complex, multi-substance withdrawal.  

Attempting to detox on one’s own is often unsuccessful and creates an experience  of unnecessary withdrawal symptoms and frustration. While it may be appealing to attempt to handle the situation privately, it can create a deep sense of frustration, which in turn fuels the addictive cycle and the need to use alcohol and drugs. 

What happens during a medically assisted drug or alcohol detox?

Medical assessment

medical assessment for alcohol detox

A medically assisted detox requires patients to have a comprehensive medical assessment in order to build an accurate picture of their specific needs. During this assessment, a medical professional will gather information on your medical history and details about the longevity and severity of your addiction. This information will be used to develop a personalized detox plan that will support you throughout the process. Rest assured that our professional staff have navigated a wide variety of situations and will be able to provide exactly what you need.


With the cessation of alcohol and/or drugs into your system most people begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. The type of withdrawal symptoms that are experienced, as well as their level of intensity are dependent on how long you’ve been addicted to alcohol and/or drugs, the type of substances that you’re addicted to, the quantity you’ve been consuming, and your overall physical and mental health.

Each person experiences detox in their own individual way, and our detox staff are there to support you. Interestly not every detox a person experiences is the same each time and will require different levels of care. Withdrawal can result in a wide variety of physical and psychological symptoms and we endeavor to make you as comfortable as possible.

Physical withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Nausea, diarrhea and vomiting
  • Shaking and shivering
  • Muscle and bone aches
  • Exhaustion
  • Elevated temperature and/or chills

Psychological withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Cravings for the substance being detoxed

The most severe withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium

In order to mitigate the discomfort of withdrawal, you’ll be given measured doses of medication as part of the detox process. While there’s no medication that prevents all withdrawal symptoms, some types of medication are able to ease anxiety and depression, enable sufficient sleep, and mitigate the majority of problems that arise. Because your detox is personalized, you’ll be medically managed each step of the way.

What Prescriptions Are Used During A Medically Assisted Withdrawal

Some of the medications most commonly used during detox include:


Since 2002, Suboxone has been approved for the treatment of opioid use disorder. It is equally effective to methadone in treating withdrawal symptoms. Its active ingredient, buprenorphine, is a partial activator of the opioid receptor, and thus carries less addiction and overdose risk than methadone (though the risk is not zero). 


The mainstay of treatment in alcohol withdrawal is, Benzodiazepines. They are safe, effective and the preferred treatment for alcohol detox. They are cross-tolerant with alcohol and modulate anxiolysis by stimulating GABA-A receptors. During withdrawal from one agent, the other may serve as a substitute. They are proven to reduce withdrawal severity and incidence of both seizures and delirium tremens. The dose is tapered to nil as the medical team determines it is no longer required. 

How Long Does Medical Detox Last?

The average medical detox lasts for three to seven days. The length and intensity of detox depends on many factors including:

The Type of Substances Used:

The type of substance used determines the withdrawal process. Alcohol withdrawal, for instance, can be experienced in just a few hours after the last drink and may require a taper of substitute medication that lasts several days.

Duration and frequency of use:

The longer an individual has used a substance, the more likely there will be effects of physical dependence. Similarly, the more frequently an individual uses, the more likely physical reliance on a substance will develop. For drugs like benzodiazepines and opioids, physical dependence can develop in as little as six to eight weeks with regular, frequent use.

Quantity of substance used:

Heavier substance use tends to promote faster tolerance as the body must take more drastic measures to acclimate itself to the presence of a large amount of a drug.

Individual factors:

Body chemistry, metabolic rate, weight, and individual genetics influence the onset of  withdrawal symptoms, and the response of that withdrawal to treatment.

Supporting you 24/7

Research, as well as our own experience, has demonstrated that supportive and compassionate care is just as important as the medication in ensuring a successful detox. Your recovery journey begins in our medical detox unit where we introduce you to principles that will allow you to build sustained recovery.  Each person in our medical detox unit is carefully monitored, twenty-four hours a day, for the duration of the process.

What to Expect in Detox

Medical detox for addiction provides stabilization for a chronic condition, but by itself does not change the long-term course of the illness. While detox alone is not considered addiction treatment, it is an essential piece of the treatment process for many people. 

Millions of people are in long-term sustained recovery and you can be too! Whether you have struggled with dependence on opioids, alcohol or other drugs, Aurora Recovery Centre can offer a multitude of professional resources to take you out of the darkness of addiction and into the light of recovery.

Once your detox is complete you’ll be well equipped to begin building new neural pathways and create a life worth living. 

As a full-service addiction recovery centre that focuses on biological, physical, spiritual, and psychological well-being, using evidence-based modalities, we pride ourselves on creating sustainable recovery. Using a recovery management system and tailoring treatment to each individual has yielded excellent results. 

All therapeutic groups, individual counseling sessions, and psycho-educational components are presented from a strengths-based perspective that builds on the individual’s existing assets. We bring compassion and understanding to the treatment process supporting your recovery with respect and dignity. With quality expertise and compassionate, respectful healthcare, anyone can Recover For Life.

The good news is that addiction is a treatable illness and millions of people are in quality, sustained recovery. Would you like to join them? If so, we can help regardless of whether or not you feel ready or have tried before.

Contact us now for your CONFIDENTIAL CONSULTATION to determine what level of care you require. We’re one hour north of Winnipeg Rehab Centre. Please call us at 1 204 642 8058.

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