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Do You Need a Medical Detox? (Self Assessment)

Will you be able to detox on your own, or will you need some treatment assistance?

You very likely need a medical detox if you are physically dependent on:

  • Alcohol
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Heroin
  • Prescription opiates

Heroin and prescription opiates cause such severe and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that most people need assistance to avoid a return to opiate use. Alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can be fatal in severe cases, and so medical attention (a medical assessment, at minimum) is always necessary.

You may need a medical detox if you are dependent on:

  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Marijuana

Although these drugs do not cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms and although no medications are FDA approved for the treatment of cocaine, methamphetamine or marijuana withdrawal symptoms, these withdrawal symptoms can still be quite uncomfortable and some people require an observed detoxification for stabilization.

If you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms right now, you can gauge the severity of your symptoms with one of the following clinical scales tests:

These tests may help you to gain a better understanding of your situation but they should not substitute for a professional diagnosis. Withdrawal symptoms can be very dangerous and you need to speak to a medical professional about your best course of action.

Continuing Treatment after Detox

Too many people endure the discomforts of a detox period without committing to further participation in addiction treatment – and these people almost invariably relapse back to abuse.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, detoxification is a sometimes necessary phase of treatment for stabilization which readies a person to take part in the rehabilitation stage of care but which is not intended to produce “lasting sobriety”. 1

Detox is not a cure; it simply readies a person to take part in a program of recovery. Research shows that the longer a person participates in addiction treatment, the better their chances of lasting recovery. Treatment options following a successful detoxification include:

  • Residential addiction treatment (drug rehab)
  • Intensive outpatient treatment
  • Outpatient treatment and residency in a sober living house
  • Continuing counseling
  • Continuing participation in an AA or NA 12 steps group
  • Others


  1. The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Substance Abuse Treatment, 4th Edition, published 2008, page 96.

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