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What is detoxing?

Posted by Alex Molyneux
on 04 Jan 2023

What’s included?

  1. Introduction
  2. What is detoxing at home?
  3. What is detoxing at rehab?
  4. What happens during a medically assisted detox?
  5. What is detoxing doing to my body?
  6. How long does detox last?
  7. How can Delamere help with detox?

Juice cleanses, fasting, saunas. Detoxing has been popular for thousands of years as a method of ridding the body of harmful poisons, toxins or drugs. Dating back to 2000 BC, detoxification practices have been adopted around the world from acupuncture in China to Ayurvedic medicine in India. Despite the controversy behind some current techniques, detoxing is used in modern medicine to treat both alcoholism, drug overdose and poisoning. But how does it actually work? What is detoxing and what does it do to our bodies? 

What is detoxing at home?

There are many different ways for someone to purge their body of toxins and eliminate waste. Let’s start with the natural methods we can use at home. Eating or avoiding certain foods; drinking water or juices; using supplements or laxatives; visiting the sauna at the gym and reducing your exposure to environmental toxins are all popular detoxification choices. 

Juice and soup cleanses have come under fire in recent years for actually doing more harm than good. As well as containing very few calories which can negatively affect your metabolism, fruits that have been juiced are devoid of nutrients and can cause spikes in blood sugar. 

In general, people who eat a healthy, balanced diet, keep hydrated and exercise regularly, have no real reason to detox. Our livers are brilliantly designed to do the heavy lifting for us in terms of processing toxins. That said, adopting any of these approaches could have other health benefits such as weight loss, water absorption and disease prevention. 

After a prolonged period of overindulgence with alcohol or drugs, it’s tempting to try a detox programme at home. However, if you have become dependent on a substance, this can be very dangerous. It’s important to seek the advice of a medical professional.

What is detoxing in rehab? 

In contrast, a medical detox can be lifesaving. Detoxification is often the first part of a residential rehabilitation programme. It typically involves the careful clinical management of fluids, medication and nutritional support to help someone safely withdraw from acute intoxication. 

The perceptions of detoxification has changed significantly in the last fifty years. After the American Medical Association (AMA) classified substance abuse as a disease, several methods of detoxing evolved that took a more humane approach to treating alcoholism and drug abuse. 

The wide variety of drugs available and the increase in polydrug use (using two or more substances together) has led to the development of numerous approaches, but detoxification can be broadly categorised into three stages (1):


The detox process begins with testing for substances in the bloodstream and screening for other mental or physical conditions. This forms the basis of the treatment plan.


This part of detoxification is designed to get someone through the physical and mental withdrawal process safely, either by using medication or other therapeutic methods.

Entering into treatment

Following clinical detoxification, a continuing care plan is put into place which is designed to support recovery and prevent relapse.  

Feel like you need to detox? Speak to the team at Delamere

What happens during a medically assisted detox?

A drug or alcohol detox typically involves a team of medical professionals who will be responsible for ensuring toxic substances are eliminated from your body in the safest and most effective way. This begins with assessing your needs, identifying any coexisting medical conditions, understanding the extent of your addiction and recording any risks to withdrawal. 

The type of detoxification process is dependent on many factors, such as personal preference and lifestyle, but most people require some form of substitution therapy. This involves swapping the harmful substance with a less toxic or addictive drug. Some common medications include methadone, in place of heroin, and naltrexone for alcohol and opioid addictions. 

Giving these medications alongside other clinical support, such as managing nutrition and fluid intake, can help to prevent the negative withdrawal symptoms associated with detoxing. For instance, vitamin B12 (thiamine) is often prescribed during alcohol detox and N-acetylcysteine can help to prevent liver failure in drug overdose. Our medical team will monitor your condition around the clock to ensure all of your physical, mental and emotional needs are met. 

What is detoxing doing to my body?

If you’ve been pumping your body full of chemicals for years you may wonder what happens to your body when you start to remove them. Everyone experiences a different intensity of symptoms. Typically, the longer the abuse, the worse the effects. However, there is a general scientific explanation for what’s going on under the bonnet. 

Substances are designed to alter the brain’s function and change physiological processes. When the body has become dependent, it goes through a series of changes when that toxin is removed. As well as helping to rebalance the mind, detoxification has an effect on numerous bodily functions, such as restoring gut bacteria and allowing the liver to regenerate. Toxins are naturally excreted into the lymphatic system, kidneys and blood before being eliminated which is why it is important to get plenty of fluids during the detox. 

How long does detox last? 

The detox process can vary in length due to the type of substance used, the frequency of abuse and the amount of drugs or alcohol your body has endured. It is also very dependent on your individual characteristics, such as height and weight, sex, metabolic rate and genetics. Typically, a clinical detox takes around one week to complete. 

The first 6 to 12 hours 

You will experience the first withdrawal symptoms. Even though these are being medically managed they can still be unpleasant. Cravings, headaches, nausea, anxiety, insomnia and fever are all common.

24 to 72 hours

Withdrawal symptoms intensify and reach their peak in the case of drugs like opioids and alcohol. Methamphetamine and cocaine withdrawal can take much longer, and cravings may recur over several months. 

Three to seven days

Side effects of detoxification continue to improve until the body is no longer physically reliant on alcohol or drugs. The psychological impact of addiction must then be managed with intensive psychotherapy. 

How can Delamere help with detox? 

The majority of people who stay with us need to first undergo a clinical detox. Our purpose-built retreat set in forest surroundings ensures this process is safe, comfortable and discreet. Every guest has their own private ensuite room and can enjoy all home comforts while their alcohol or drug detox takes place.  

Our multi-disciplinary healthcare team can prescribe any medication you need. You will be carefully monitored 24/7 and your protocol can be regularly adjusted to guarantee your continued comfort. Detoxification usually lasts for one or two weeks depending on your addiction and previous dosage. 

We take a holistic approach to therapy. Once the detoxification stage is complete and you no longer suffer with cravings, you can take part in one-to-one counselling sessions and group therapy to understand the cause of your addictive behaviour. Our therapeutic techniques are varied. You will have access to the latest evidence-based somatic healing practices and behaviour modification tools for lasting recovery.

If you need help to detox safely and comfortably, call us confidentially to speak to a member of the team today. Contact Delamere


1. Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2006. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45.) 1 Overview, Essential Concepts, and Definitions in Detoxing. 

About the author: Alex Molyneux

Alex is the Admissions Manager at Delamere. Alex has organised more admissions into treatment than most. Find out more about Alex on our team page.

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