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What’s The Difference Between Detox And Rehab?

difference between detox and rehab

While medical detox has a similar goal to rehab, that being the ultimate recovery of a person suffering from one form of substance abuse or another, there is a marked difference between the two processes. It’s crucial to make this distinction because addiction is a behavioral health issue that has an impact on the body as well as the mind.

Rehab is a term used to describe a facility or center that provides people with access to the care and treatment services they need to break the cycle of addiction. On the other hand, detox is a medical procedure or process, but it’s the first step to starting the recovery journey, but not the main addiction treatment program.

While the detoxification process can aid in the body’s physical recovery from drug misuse, by purging the body of toxins from substances, rehab is the main form of treatment intended to aid in one’s actual physical, emotional, and mental recovery, to break the cycle of addiction. In other words, drug and alcohol detox can be offered as part of a rehab program, but rehab is more than just detox.

There Is More To Recovery Than Just Detox

In the case of some addictive substances, including benzodiazepines and alcohol, withdrawal can cause life-threatening symptoms, such as seizures, without the help of medical professionals.

For this reason, finding a detox program within a detox center or addiction recovery center that can offer medical supervision is highly recommended.

Knowing the difference between detox and rehab can help you or a loved one recognize the steps and levels of care that are best suited for their needs. This will make things a little easier during the recovery process. The team at Legends Recovery Center Of Ohio is ready to help.

What Is Medical Detox?

Medical detox for substance abuse in OhioMedical detox is the first necessary step of the recovery process for people who have developed physical dependence or addiction through frequent, excessive substance use. Regardless of how long the person has been abusing drugs and alcohol, whether it’s been a few years or even a few weeks, toxins have built up in the body over time, which have to be purged before official treatment can begin.

In some cases, detox requires the use of specific medications, either to help stop the urges or cravings to take more of the substance, or to deal with the more debilitating and agonizing withdrawal symptoms that come once the person stops taking the substance.

Depending upon several factors, such as the type of substance taken, the natural threshold of the person, and genetic predisposition, medical detox typically lasts from five days to a week. Patients who undergo a medical detox need to be thoroughly screened to know the specific information that is essential not only to purge the toxins from the body but also to determine if any adverse reactions could come up during the withdrawal phase. A standard detox program will offer:

  • A physical and mental health assessment
  • Care and supervision by a medical team
  • Treatment for withdrawal symptoms (Medications)
  • Nutritional support
  • Treatment for any medical issues that arise

Withdrawal Symptoms

The kind of withdrawal symptoms would primarily depend on a few factors, such as what type of substance was taken, how long it was taken, whether was it taken with anything else, and in what quantities. The severity and manifestation of withdrawal symptoms could also depend upon the person as well. Some people have a higher threshold for pain and discomfort than others, and these people tend to only be bothered by the most severe of symptoms, while others with a lower threshold could feel every symptom that would come out.

People who undergo detox could experience a few or all of the symptoms listed below, which is why it is always best to work with specialists when undergoing a medical detox.


Alcohol is perhaps one of the most common and one of the earliest substances to ever be abused. Many are initiated into its use during the schooling age, and the habit is carried over onto the adult years. Alcohol abuse comes with the following symptoms:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tachycardia (abnormally fast heart rate)
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors and tics
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased chance of grand mal seizures

There are also instances where people experience more severe symptoms, and these are associated with delirium tremens syndrome. These symptoms include:

  • Extreme agitation
  • Fever
  • Vivid and lasting hallucinations
  • Severe confusion or disorientation
  • Seizures


The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that as of 2020, more than two million Americans are addicted to opioids, and at least 90 Americans die due to opioid overdose every day. Withdrawal symptoms from opioid addiction include:

  • Muscle pain
  • Runny nose
  • Teary eyes
  • Profuse sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Severe melancholy akin to depression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Vision problems


Data from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health reveal that from 2015 to 2016, at least 30.5 million people in the US used benzodiazepine. Of this figure, around 2.1% misused it and eventually got hooked on it. Some cases are so severe that hospitalization is often required for those seeking treatment. Withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepine addiction include:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Anxiety
  • Blurred vision
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Increased sensory sensitivity
  • Loss of libido
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Mild to moderate depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Restlessness
  • Vivid nightmares
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Sore tongue
  • Lingering metallic taste in the mouth
  • Tinnitus (persistent ringing in the ears)
  • Profuse sweating
  • Tachycardia (abnormally fast heart rate)
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Seizures


According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, in 2018 alone, at least 5 million Americans misused prescription stimulants, and these are just the documented cases of stimulant abuse, with many more undocumented cases all over the country.

Stimulant addiction withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Tremors and tics
  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Dehydration
  • Impaired senses
  • Slurred or slowed speech
  • Slowed movement
  • Impaired reaction time
  • Impaired cognition
  • Bradycardia (slowed heart rate)
  • Increased irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Fluctuating appetite
  • Fluctuating weight
  • Impaired memory
  • Unexplained body aches
  • Vivid dreams or nightmares
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia

Common Drug And Alcohol Rehab Programs To Treat Addiction

Above all else, a drug detox program can offer greater safety during the detoxification process. It can also help connect a person to further treatment for their addiction.

Residential / Inpatient Treatment

Residential treatment is 24-hour care provided in a center for recovery; it may or may not include detox.

Outpatient Program (OP):

Outpatient treatment refers to a structured program involving services such as counseling or medication-assisted treatment (MAT) that are provided outside of a hospital setting.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

A partial hospitalization program is a rigorous type of outpatient care that doesn’t necessitate an overnight stay in a treatment facility.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

An intensive outpatient program is a highly structured outpatient program, that is less intense than PHP, and requires multiple days a week of treatment attendance at the rehab facility.

Alternative Treatment Services

Drug And Alcohol Rehab Programs To Treat AddictionTypically withdrawal symptoms will already have been largely dealt with during the detox phase so that when the rehabilitation phase comes in, the patient will already be getting into the treatment and practices required to help prevent a relapse.

The rehabilitation phase will mostly be about undergoing the appropriate form of therapy as determined by the attending therapist. There are many therapeutic approaches used during this phase, and each one is designed to help the person with a particular facet of the recovery process.

These different approaches are used to target specific factors relevant to the unique substance abuse history of each patient. Some patients could require just one approach, others could need more, and all of these will be determined based on a preliminary assessment done by a therapist right after detox.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works by helping people understand how their thoughts relate to and influence how they act. The patients are made to realize that certain thoughts they have are destructive and could lead to self-harm, such as trying and using substances.

The therapy also integrates changing how the patient perceives a particular issue, such as trying to focus more on the possible positives rather than just focusing on the negatives. Negative thoughts have a great tendency to also influence harmful behavior, so this needs to be changed.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a variation of cognitive behavioral therapy, although this approach focuses more on how people manage their thoughts and reactions to specific instances, such as the possible triggers that make people want to use substances.

This approach helps a person develop better-coping skills so that a specific instance, which could normally become a trigger to use substances, will no longer be perceived as such. This allows the person to have a better reaction to it, or not even perceive it as a stressful instance at all.

Support Groups

The human mind tends to lessen the gravity of something perceived to be taxing or immensely stressful when it realizes that others also go through the same thing. This gives the assurance that the person is not alone in the instance, and this helps alleviate some of the stress associated with it.

This is the essence of using support groups during therapy, and why this approach is also used in many other instances and not just in addiction therapy. People tend to listen, learn, and appreciate what they are going through more when they hear similar instances from other people, as opposed to just sitting in front of a clinically trained professional for hours at a time.

Who Needs Detox/Rehab?

We recommend medical detox or rehab if you or a loved one have been chronically using substances for some time, and have developed a dependency that could or has led to addiction. If left untreated, substance misuse can have detrimental, long-lasting effects on one’s health. Additionally, it might negatively impact your general quality of life.

Legends Recovery Center Of Ohio Can Help You Recover

Recovery is not just about getting over what the problem is at the moment. It is also all about dealing with what might be weighing heavily from the past, which could have contributed to using drugs and alcohol in the first place. It’s your turn now. To find out more about the difference between detox and rehab, or what services we offer, contact Legends Recovery Center at our two Ohio locations today.

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