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What Is the First Day of Detox Like?


Beginning detox treatment can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know much about the program. It can be helpful to have a guide for the first day of detox itself so you will understand what to expect and be aware of what the staff at the facility will expect from you. In addition, you may want to know what to bring to the facility, how your care program will be determined, and what you should expect going forward.

Let us help you find the safest, most effective detox program for your needs. Every patient is different and requires specialized care, and we want to see you treated in the best possible program for your recovery.

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How Can I Prepare for Detox Treatment?

One of the best ways to get ready for your first day in detox is to prepare. Reading articles like this one can help, as can talking to experts, other people who have experienced the program, and loved ones.

  • Talking to your doctor before you begin detox treatment can be extremely helpful. This will allow you to get the point of view of a medical professional who also knows your history. Your doctor may even have some suggestions for the detox programs that could best suit your needs.
  • You might consider talking to some other individuals who have attended addiction treatment and/or detox in the past. Support groups, such as 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, may be good places to find others who have gone through withdrawal in a medical treatment center. These programs can often allow recovering individuals to make lifelong, positive connections with other people in the same situation. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, programs like these add a level of community-based support to a person’s recovery, which is invaluable.
  • Discuss your desire to seek detox treatment with your loved ones. In many cases, they will be relieved to see you are taking your recovery seriously and that you are seeking medical help for the difficult process of withdrawal.

You can also prepare for detox by calling 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) . Our treatment advisors are happy to answer any questions you may have as well as to find facilities that will offer the types of care you need. We can even locate facilities that will accept your insurance program.

Visiting Your Detox Center

It helps to visit the detox center of your choice before you commit to attending treatment there. If the facility permits this option, it can allow you to determine if you will be comfortable there and if you will be able to attend the full amount of your treatment program.

The NIDA states that those who stay in treatment for the entirety of their programs are more likely to have positive outcomes than those who leave early. As such, you will want to learn as much about the facility as you can before you commit.

What Should I Bring to the Facility?

Different detox programs have different rules, but in general, patients are asked not to bring any drugs, alcohol, weapons, or offensive material to the facility. Those who choose inpatient care will need to pack for a prolonged stay, which usually includes

  • 7 days of comfortable outfits, including pajamas and a bathrobe.
  • Comfortable sneakers and shower shoes.
  • Toiletries and personal grooming products. Patients are discouraged from bringing any bathroom products that contain alcohol and any grooming products that would be unnecessary in treatment (lots of makeup, etc.).
  • Books, journals, and letter writing equipment.
  • An alarm clock.
  • A form of ID, checks or credit/debit card, and doctors’ notes. Patients are asked not to bring more than $20-$50 in cash in most facilities.

Many facilities allow patients to bring cigarettes, cell phones, and laptops while others do not. It is important to check with the program you are attending before you choose to bring one of these options. If you need to bring medications of any kind, you will likely be permitted, as long as they are unopened and you have your prescription from your doctor stating that you need the medication.

The First Day of Detox: Intake and Assessment

First Day of Detox

You will likely need to fill out intake paperwork prior to receiving treatment.

The first day of detox is usually focused on intake and assessment. When you come in to the facility, you may have to fill out some paperwork. This may include insurance forms, as detox is a medical treatment program that is often covered—at least partially—by most insurance plans (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). Afterwards, you will be assessed for the severity of your symptoms.

Different drugs cause different types of withdrawal syndromes. These syndromes can also vary in intensity based on the amount the individual used, whether or not they used more than one drug, and other factors. As a result, the medical staff at your detox center will need to determine how severe your dependency is, whether or not you are likely to experience extreme withdrawal symptoms, and which course of treatment will best benefit your needs.

  • In the case of opioid withdrawal, there is a scale called the Clinical Opioid Withdrawal Scale (or COWS) that doctors use to determine the severity of one’s dependence. According to the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, the physician must both ask the patient questions about their symptoms and make their own observations to create an accurate portrayal.
  • Cocaine, methamphetamine, and other stimulants can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, some of which can occur early on in detox. This is called the crash period. During this time, some individuals even experience a temporary psychosis, which could mean the facility’s staff will need to help keep you calm and safe until the symptoms pass.
  • Benzodiazepines and alcohol can also cause varying degrees of intense physical and psychological symptoms, ranging from tremors to seizures and confusion to hallucinations. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your caregivers will provide you with medications in order to keep you stable.

The assessment period will involve certain tests, such as blood chemistries, x-rays, an EKG, and drug testing. The staff may also test you for any diseases associated with substance abuse, such as hepatitis C or HIV. Once all these tests come back, you and your doctor can decide together on a course of treatment.

Will My Care Differ in Inpatient vs. Outpatient Detox?

Depending on if you choose inpatient or outpatient detox, your care may differ somewhat, although intake and assessments will be the main part of your first day in treatment. If you choose outpatient care, your first day will obviously be shorter and you will be able to go home to your family afterward. According to the NIDA, this is often a more suitable choice for someone with a strong social support system and/or a job.

If you choose inpatient care, however, you will be given meals, sleeping accommodations, and other important amenities in order to live your daily life at the treatment facility. You may also be given time to reflect and rest, as starting an intensive treatment program for addiction can be overwhelming. Whatever program you choose, your care on the very first day will be focused on getting you acclimated to your treatment and on creating an individualized program for your recovery.

What Else Should I Know?

The more knowledge you have going in to detox, the easier it will likely be. This is why researching the program of your choice—as well as detox in general—is so helpful. Here are a few more tips you should know.

  • Detox is NOT a treatment for addiction. While many people choose to attend this program at the beginning of their recoveries, it actually helps patients put an end to their drug dependence, not their addictions. The NIDA describes detox as a program that safely manages the symptoms of withdrawal. However, the program must be followed by rehab, or it will do little to help you put an end to your substance abuse.
  • Don’t expect everything to be explained or to become easy all at once on your first day of treatment. Allow yourself to become familiar with your surroundings, especially if you have chosen inpatient care. Make sure you are comfortable with the medical staff and take time to get to know the facility. After all, detox is a process, just like addiction treatment, and it won’t be over in a day.
  • Ask any questions you may have about detox before you begin the program. You can always ask more questions after, but it helps to be as informed as possible.
  • Many detox programs encourage family involvement in recovery and offer family/couples therapy or other programs. Other options, however, may have a stipulation on how long patients need to be in treatment before they can communicate with their families. Make sure you understand the rules of your program of choice.

Want to Find the Best Detox Center for Your Needs?

Call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) today. Our treatment advisors are standing by, ready to help you find the best options for your safe recovery.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What To Ask- 5. How do 12-step or similar recovery programs fit into drug addiction treatment?
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)- What helps people stay in treatment?
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). Health Financing.
  4. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs- Wesson, D. R., & Ling, W. (2003). The Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS).
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)- Types of Treatment Programs.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction: What Science Says- 8: Medical Detoxification. 
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