Are Some Drug Detox Methods Safer Than Others?

Published: 07/9/2014 | Author:

Once addiction takes hold, the only way to break it starts with an all-out drug detox. Unless addicts eliminate all traces of the drug from the system, addiction maintains a foothold in their lives. The various drug detox methods available all work to accomplish the same end, though some may be safer than others. The most commonly used drug detox methods include:

  • Going “cold turkey”
  • Medication therapies
  • Rapid detox
  • Holistic detox

Ultimately, the severity of withdrawal symptoms determines how dangerous a detox will be. This factor carries a lot of weight in terms of which drug detox method will be safest to use.

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Drug Detox Methods

According to SAMHSA, a drug detox method entails a series of interventions designed to alleviate the effects of acute withdrawal. In the process, drug toxins are cleared from the body.

The overall effect works to minimize any potential harm that can develop as the body adjusts to the absence of drugs. Most importantly, drug detox methods should manage the detox process in as safe a manner as possible.

Cold Turkey

Cold turkey involves cutting out all drug use altogether. While it is possible to succeed in this way, the potential for relapse is highest with this method.

Safety-wise, going cold turkey can bring on life threatening withdrawal effects for people coming off long-term addictions. Dangerous withdrawal effects can also occur when detoxing from certain types of drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamines.

Overall, the cold turkey method poses the least amount of danger when a person is in the early stages of addiction.

Medication Therapies

Detox Methods

Medication therapies reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Opiate and alcohol addictions in particular can exert a considerable degree of damage to brain and body functions. In essence, the higher the potential for damage the more difficult and dangerous a drug detox method can be.

Medication therapies offer a type of physical support for damaged brain functions. These drugs can also help reduce the intensity of withdrawal effects and drug cravings.

Medication therapies commonly used include

Rapid Detox Method

As one of the newest drug detox methods, rapid detox is designed to shorten the withdrawal period while at the same time eliminating the discomfort associated with withdrawal. On average a rapid detox withdrawal period runs somewhere around two hours while the patient remains under anesthesia through the whole process.

Safety issues to consider include:

  • Potential for life threatening symptoms to develop
  • Potential for death
  • Drug cravings persist after the detox process completes

Holistic Detox Method

The holistic detox method uses herbs, minerals, mediation and vitamins as purifying agents to rid the body of drug toxins. While this approach may work well for mild addictions or during the early stages of addiction, long-term drug users open themselves up to experiencing dangerous withdrawal effects.


Regardless of the drug detox method used, following up with needed psychosocial treatment is a must. Psychosocial treatments include:

  • Ongoing psychotherapy
  • Drug counseling
  • 12-Step support group work

As the risk of overdose can skyrocket whenever a person relapses after detox, recovering addicts place themselves at grave risk when needed psychosocial treatments are lacking.

To find detox centers that offer these treatment methods , call 800-483-2193(Who Answers?) now!


  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2006). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment: 1 Overview, Essential Concepts, and Definitions in Detoxification. 
  2. National Instititute on Drug Abuse. (2006). Study Finds Withdrawal No Easier With Ultrarapid Opiate Detox.
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