How Do I Know If I Need Detox?

Medical Detox for Drugs and Alcohol

Medical drug or alcohol detox is the first step in recovering from a substance use disorder. However, it can often be hard to know if you really need alcohol or drug detox. Generally, most people who are dependent on or addicted to drugs and alcohol can benefit from both medical detox and drug or alcohol rehab. Use this guide to determine whether or not detox is the right choice for you.

Understanding Dependence and Tolerance

The first thing to consider when thinking about drug or alcohol detox is dependence. Dependence occurs when your body gets used to constantly having drugs or alcohol in your system. This means you will need that substance to function normally. Otherwise, you’ll begin to experience a number of behavioral, physiological, and cognitive symptoms better known as withdrawal.

Over time, you’ll need more and more of the drug you’re taking to prevent these symptoms from occurring, which is known as increased tolerance. Both dependence and increased tolerance are signs that a detox program might be right for you.

Withdrawal Symptoms Related to Dependence

Depending on what drug you’re taking, you could experience a wide range of withdrawal symptoms. At best, these symptoms can be irritating; at worst, they can be deadly. That’s why detox is a good choice if you have withdrawal symptoms when you try to cut back on your drug use.

In many cases, people can’t handle the withdrawal symptoms on their own, so they end up taking a large dose of alcohol or drugs to get rid of them. This can sometimes lead to a deadly overdose. Even if an overdose doesn’t occur, it becomes extremely hard to end the cycle of abuse without help.


With opioids, some of the symptoms you might experience include:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Body and muscle aches.
  • Tearing and sweating.
  • Trouble sleeping.

Alcohol or Benzodiazepines

Both alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal can lead to life-threatening complications, including:

  • Seizures.
  • Delirium tremens.
  • Hallucinations.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Fever.


Drugs like cocaine and amphetamines fall under this category. Typically, they produce withdrawal symptoms like:

  • Anxiety and irritability.
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.
  • Extreme hunger.
  • Psychomotor retardation.
  • Paranoia.
  • Depression.

Understanding Addiction

Addiction is a little different than dependence. While dependence is a physical need to have more of a certain drug, addiction is a mental and emotional reliance on a drug. Those who are dependent on drugs aren’t always addicted, but those who are addicted to drugs are nearly always dependent as well.

Knowing if you have an addiction can be tricky as you might not be aware of just how toxic your drug use has become. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine whether or not your drug use qualifies as addiction.

  • Do you spend a lot of time thinking about drugs or alcohol?
  • Do you take drugs or alcohol to ease your anger?
  • Have you ever had an overdose?
  • Have you tried to cut back on your drug usage in the past but were unable to?
  • Do you use drugs to help yourself fit in?
  • Have you ever taken drugs without knowing what they were?
  • Has being high or drunk ever caused you to make a mistake at work or school?
  • Have you ever stolen money to pay for drugs or alcohol?
  • Have you ever been hospitalized or arrested for drug or alcohol use?
  • Has your drinking or drug use affected your personal relationships?

People suffering from both dependence and addiction can benefit from detox. Just keep in mind that detox is only the first part of recovery. After you’re clean, you’ll need to enter an alcohol or drug rehab program to learn the skills, behaviors, and attitude required to achieve long-term sobriety.