Detoxification, which is a set of interventions aimed at managing acute intoxication and withdrawal, is distinct from treatment for substance abuse. Detoxification is, however, a form of palliative care for those who wish to become abstinent or who must observe mandatory abstinence as part of a hospitalization or involvement with the legal system. Detoxification is not treatment for substance abuse, but is a precursor for many who enter rehab for drug or alcohol abuse, dependence, or addition.
Detoxification is a broad process that is comprised of three essential components. The first, evaluation, involves the client (patient) being tested by medical professionals for the presence of substances of abuse in the bloodstream, such as alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription drugs used nonmedically. In addition, the concentration of the substances of abuse is measured. The patient is also screened for co-occuring mental and physical conditions. Another part of the evaluation involves a thorough assessment of the patient’s medical and psychological conditions as well as social situation in order to develop a comprehensive, individually tailored treatment program to commence following detoxification. The evaluation serves as the basis for the patient’s initial treatment plan once detoxification is complete.
The second stage is stabilization, which includes medical and psychosocial processes of assisting the patient through acute intoxication and withdrawal. The aim is to achieve a medically stable, fully supportive and substance-free state. Medications are often used to assist in the patient’s stabilisation. During the stabilization phase, the patient is educated as to what to expect during the active treatment period, as well as what their role needs to be both during treatment and in recovery. Family, employers, and other people of significance to the patient are also involved by practitioners, when appropriate. The third stage is preparation for entry into treatment. During this phase of the detoxification process, practitioners prepare the patient for entry into active treatment by stressing the importance of following through with the complete treatment process and continuum of care.