What Is the Difference Between Detox and Rehab?

What Is the Difference Between Detox and Rehab?

Medical detoxification in the rehab context refers to helping jumpstart your body’s ability to detoxify itself of the substance you’re addicted to, whether it’s drugs or alcohol, in order to help you start recovering from your addiction without suffering from the severe or at times life-threatening effects of withdrawal. Your body naturally detoxifies itself by the excretory system, which includes sweating, urination, and defecation. Your kidneys and livers serve as filters against harmful or toxic substances as well. However, many drugs leave a mark to your mental and physical health that go beyond physical addiction and compulsion while they’re still in your system.

With that in mind, what’s the difference between medical detox and inpatient rehab? You should know this in order to perform due diligence when finding the right rehab program for you or a loved one.

What Is Detoxification?

Once you’ve had your medical assessment, detox serves as your addiction recovery process’s first step or phase. You need detox to move into the next phases of recovery, such as psychotherapy in the form of individual and group therapy as well as other holistic treatment modalities. Detox is important because it’s there to purge your body of the toxins that collected within it since you’ve started abusing substances to the point of dependence.

Your body’s liver and kidneys should be able to get rid of all that alone, but medical detox is required in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms from making you relapse or suffer possibly fatal consequences. Detoxification occurs rather fast at three to seven days or a whole week. However, it should happen before the real important work of rehabilitation can start.

  • The Foundation of Sobriety: A body that has gotten rid of all the drugs in its system is the foundation an addict needs in order to become drug-free and/or sober. It’s quite tough to do this though. For example, when you quit alcohol cold turkey without medical assistance, you can be faced with fatal withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures or gastric bleeding, In many cases, after being exposed to a substance for a long time, your body will crave it constantly, especially when it’s not receiving it anymore. Constant dosage from a drug is your new normal as far as your mind is concerned.

  • Critical Timing: Medically supervised detoxification doesn’t only mean the literal removal of the drug in your system. It also involves dealing with the aftermath of removing the drugs from your body. In many substances, withdrawal symptoms and cravings that can lead to relapse occur as soon as you last used the drug and even before you’ve removed all trace of it in your system. From there, it can peak within 24 to 48 hours. Some symptoms are annoying or extremely painful. Medical attention is required to deal with the more fatal symptoms.

  • Medical Supervision: Cold turkey quitting will often result in immediate relapses instead of intended drug use stoppage. Undergoing medically supervised detox (as opposed to your body’s natural detoxification process via liver and kidneys as well as your excretory system) ensures an easier and safer experience since it involves a medical facility away from your normal environment that can further push you towards relapse and recovery failure. The professional medical personnel are there to monitor your health and give you medications to help ease the withdrawal symptoms.

  • Detox Is a Part of Inpatient Rehab: What’s the main difference between detox and rehab? Detox is merely a part or the first step of inpatient rehab, which encompasses much more than physical removal of all traces of the drug you’re addicted to. It took time for the drug to be abused enough for it to make you addicted to it, so in turn it will take time for you to function without using the drug. Your brain chemistry changes every time you have a new vice or hobby. To unlearn all that, you essentially have to replace your old bad hobby with a new better one. That’s what inpatient rehab is for.

What Is Inpatient Rehab?

Rehab written on a blackboard

Inpatient or residential rehabilitation is the opposite of outpatient rehabilitation, which involves programs like the 12-step program of weekly Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings that specifically don’t require you to stay overnight at a rehab center, clinic, or hospital bed. With outpatient rehab, you can get to continue your schooling or work without taking a two-month or so break to get well and recover from your addiction. Outpatient rehab is much more flexible and allows you to continue living your normal life.

In contrast, inpatient rehab is a more intense and carefully monitored version of rehab that includes a prolonged stay at a center away from the environment and triggers that led to your addiction in the first place. It’s reserved for particularly strong cases of addiction.

  • Best Chance of Recovery: If your addiction is mild and you haven’t crossed the threshold of severe compulsion and substance abuse then you can get away with the lighter load of weekly or even daily outpatient meetings at AA or NA. However, inpatient rehab remains your best bet when it comes to recovery and sobriety. It’s so intense that it can free you from the substance you’re addicted to within two months or six months or so. You’ll be looked after by various professionals at every step, from detox to psychotherapy and beyond.

  • A Rigorous Form of Treatment: Inpatient rehab when compared to detoxification and weekly outpatient rehab is more rigorous because you have to put your life on pause to live at the rehab center 24 hours a day and 7 days a week until the whole treatment package is completed. Inpatient treatment is highly recommended for those who have severe addiction and substance abuse problems such that weekly treatment meetings won’t cover their needs. They’re also likelier to miss those meetings compared to being in the complete seclusion of residential rehab.

  • A Distraction-Free Environment: A rehab center, especially one located overseas like in Thailand, will keep you at a distraction-free environment. You’re also monitored 24/7, which means everything you do is kept in check. You’re less likely to go out clubbing or finding drug dealers at a foreign country. If you’ve had difficulties with treatment programs like AA or NA, you can go the inpatient rehab route. Addicts who suffer from co-occurring disorders can also take advantage of facilities with dual diagnosis services. It’s also useful for those who have a disjointed home life or surroundings filled with enablers.

The Difference between Detox and Rehab

For the vast majority of addiction cases, the addict is required to undergo both detox and rehab in order to have the best possible chance of recovering from his dependence issues. Detox actually goes hand-in-hand with your actual inpatient treatment because cleansing your body free of drugs or alcohol is required in order to complete the first step towards the recovery process. From there, rehab exists in order to uncover the underlying causes of your substance abuse to prevent relapse and repeat behavior.

After being made aware of your addiction by your friends and family through an intervention or through your own self-awareness, you really need to figure out which method of treatment or even rehab center is perfect for you in order to make that first step towards sobriety. Knowing more about detox and rehab should help.

  • Do You Need Detox, Rehab, or Both? When going to rehab, detox is a given. You have the option to only take detox, particularly if you’ve undergone an overdose and you’re at a hospital emergency room. However, it’s usually recommended that you undertake rehab right after detox. Many packages include detox by default along with rehab because that detox treatment isn’t just removal of the drugs in your system alone. It also deals with the aftermath of the removal, which typically involves loads of withdrawal symptoms. Some deadly.

  • Type of Rehab Required: Whether or not you need detox depends on how long you’ve been abusing substances and what sort of substances you’ve been abusing. If they’re excessive, then quitting cold turkey then entering rehab isn’t enough. You will always have to undergo detox. Consult your doctor and ask him for recommendation if detox is for you. However, as a rule of thumb, detox and inpatient rehab go hand-in-hand. If you’re not in need of detox then your drug dependence or compulsion can still be reversed by outpatient rehab like in the case of AA or NA. Otherwise, inpatient rehab is called for.

  • All Aspects of Addiction: Detox covers the physical aspects of addiction, including the presence of the drug in your system and the withdrawal symptoms you have to deal with for weeks after all traces of the drug is removed from your body. It’s part of inpatient rehab because this rehab type focuses on all aspects of addiction, which includes spiritual, mental, and emotional health. Additionally, this 24/7 treatment exposes the patient to various therapies that could include various disciplines and counseling methods that range from holistic, to evidence-based, and even to esoteric.

  • Detox and Detox Centers: While undergoing the detoxification process, your addicted body will go through withdrawal symptoms. This can begin within a few hours after you stop using substances. There are detox centers available for drug and alcohol removal. They’re separate from addiction rehab centers and are standalone places where you can remove all traces of toxic chemicals like drugs and alcohol from your system. There are centers that come with their own detox centers and there are centers you can avail of in hospitals and the like for standalone detox treatment.

Non-Medical versus Medical Detox

Business man hand and note detox concept

When taking into consideration the right detox method for your needs, you should be aware that there are residential detox centers or centers included with your inpatient treatment center and non-residential detox centers. Both are fine but the one located in an inpatient facility will include rehab treatment on top of the round-the-clock support while detoxifying your body. This in turn will lead to a higher chance of success. The average stay for these detox facilities is about a month or 30 days.

Medical detox’s main advantages is the fact that it uses scientific knowledge and evidence-based therapies to work on top of 24/7 medical monitoring. Non-medical detox is instead better used as holistic rehab because the patient’s withdrawal symptoms aren’t controlled at all. With certain drugs and addiction severity, this can be fatal to the patient. You can also leave the non-medical detox center without completing the program at all.

By going the residential detox center route, you can avail of psychotherapy rehab treatment and other methods that will help push you in the right direction towards recovery and sobriety. They include the following services of a typical inpatient rehab center:

  • Lectures

  • Counseling

  • Group therapy

  • Family therapy

  • 12-step program

  • Individual therapy

  • Mindful meditation

  • Dialectal behavioral therapy (DBT)

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

In addition to the inpatient rehab plus detox combo, you can also avail of medical and non-medical detoxification options if you wish. Non-medical detox includes a more holistic approach using alternative therapies such as the following:

  • Yoga

  • Reiki

  • Massage

  • Exercise

  • Acupuncture

  • Vitamin therapy

  • Music and art therapy

  • Traditional meditation

These therapies have been used in monasteries and temples in order to help addicts psychologically wean themselves off of drugs without needing medication or doctors to watch out for their withdrawal symptoms. Holistic rehab also makes use of the same therapies as holistic detox, except this time around they’re available in order to help you recover after medical detoxification has been done to you rather than serve as your primary means of dealing with withdrawal symptoms.

Medical detox needs the use of medicine in order to assist the addict through the withdrawal process, particularly when it comes to dealing with the stronger withdrawal symptoms that can prove potent enough to make him relapse or deadly enough to be fatal. Medical detox also involves intravenous therapy because it uses a dextrose, saline, or lactated ringers bag. It’s also easier to administer medication through someone with an IV drip.

As your withdrawal symptoms change the medication will also be changed as nurses and doctors monitor your condition. Medical detox is the safest way to go about detoxification in light of the real-time 24/7 monitoring and immediate response. Whichever method of detox you choose your best bet remains the one that you’re most comfortable with. However, medical detox is the default in rehab facilities like Lanna Rehab exactly because it’s evidence-based and has a high success rate.

The Next Step After Detox


After detox completion then you can go enter rehab to deal with the more long-term problems you will get from stopping using drugs or alcohol. Addiction has some consequences linked to your psyche and behavior that requires as much time to fix as the amount of time it took for you to become addicted in the first place, perhaps maybe more so. If you went to a standalone detox center, you’ll have to enroll into a program that will assist you in facilitating lifestyle changes for lasting success and sobriety. This isn’t the case for inpatient rehab with detox as part of their services.

  • Loads of Addicts Require Treatment: According to the Center for Disease Control, there are 22 million people who struggle with drug abuse and alcoholism in the U.S. alone. From that 22 million Americans, there are fewer than 3 million who’ll seek detoxification and rehabilitation treatment for their substance abuse issues. Therefore, there’s a whopping 19 million addicts who remain as such in America until the other shoe drops and they themselves drop dead from overdose, destitution, and what-have-you.

  • Traditional Programs: You have the option to go to a 12-step program like AA or NA after undergoing standalone detox. This is an outpatient service wherein you can still continue your work or schooling while being rehabilitated through weekly meetings with counselors and fellow ex-addicts. Such programs identify that your addiction to substances is a disease. 12-step programs help you achieve abstinence, reevaluate your life, and find more positive ways to cope with it, substituting your alcoholism or drug addiction with something more positive.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Education: You can also go the inpatient route and avail in an affordable package psychotherapy like CBT and/or DBT as well as various therapies like individual and group therapy, family therapy, mindful meditation, and much more that should help make changes in your habits. You will be taught how to become more self-aware of your actions and learn how to manage your emotions better so that your compulsion won’t dictate your actions and behavior as much. This will allow you to make sound choices that help you achieve success in sobriety when push comes to shove.

  • The Wellness Vacation of Rehab Tourism: This rigorousness in inpatient rehab treatment is also the reason why many people avail of medical tourism and rehab tourism package. If you’re going to live at a rehab center for 2 months to 6 months or more then you might as well end up in a center that’s resort-like and at a secluded country with high tourism value, as though you’re having a wellness vacation of sorts. What’s more, rehab tourism is also cheaper than local rehab even when you take into account travel costs.

The Bottom Line

Drugs can actually rewire your brain to crave the drugs more, especially when they mess with your mind’s reward system or the delivery of dopamine and other chemicals to your system. Your brain will switch off natural dopamine delivery if you’re depending on a drug to elevate it, and the lack of the drug doesn’t necessarily mean such changes in your brain will automatically change back to normal. It took time for you to become an addict so it will also take time for you to stop being one.

Take note, the Lanna Rehab Center does include full detox medication and protocol for outpatient clients. It even provides methadone if required. It’s a rehab center that gives you the best of both worlds in terms of treatment and detoxification. If you have any further inquiries in regards to what happens during detox and rehab that isn’t covered by this article, please feel free to contact the addiction specialists of Lanna Rehab. Human life is brief, so you should enjoy it by living a drug-free existence. Contact Lanna ASAP before another wasted day or night has come to pass with you addicted to whatever life-ruining substance is out there.

Lanna Rehab Will Teach You The Difference Between Rehab and Detox

The Lanna Rehab Center performs both medical detox and rehab. This resort-like inpatient rehab facility in Chiang Mai, Thailand offers resort-like accommodations in order to ensure that patients get the best possible treatment that usually involves both rehab modalities. Detoxification is what’s needed in order to remove any trace of the substance in the addict’s system while also addressing the bothersome to life-threatening withdrawal symptoms he’ll certainly face. Inpatient rehabilitation is the rest of the treatment that uses evidenced-based medicine, psychotherapy, esoteric and holistic treatment, and the like to help the addict relearn how to function while sober.

Lanna Rehab even offers aftercare services or discounted return trips to the center if relapse were to occur. Regardless, you should definitely call the center’s 24/7 hotline to learn more about what they offer to help you recover from addiction, whether it’s booking information, travel packages, or price quotations.

Martin Peters

Martin Peters has a BA (Hons) Dip HE Dip RN CSAT III and is the Group Program Director Lanna Healthcare. He is a Registered Nurse and Certified Substance Abuse Therapist working in the mental health field since 1994; Martin has had a wide range of experience in management and supervisory roles within established healthcare systems, and has provided consultancy services to a number of private and public sector organizations in the UK and Asia in terms of management, policy writing, accreditation and recruitment. Martin’s addictions experience has been in developing inpatient services in Thailand since 2009, both clinical and operational. He has been instrumental in expanding and developing a non 12 step inpatient treatment centre and opening a further inpatient centre with a 12 step approach, implementing KIPU Electronic Records, strengthening hospital partnerships, introducing a Scholarship for students under the Masters in Addiction Studies Program at The ASEAN Institute for Health Development and working with an international accreditation body. Martin has also been a speaker at several international conferences on addiction, including ASEAN conferences and has also guest lectured at Mahidol University (Thailand), University of Sarghoda (Pakistan) Institute of Medical Sciences (Pakistan) and has been a representative on the CARF Standards Advisory Committee for 2016.In 2015. Martin became a Co-Founder of Lanna Healthcare, launching Lanna Rehab in March 2016 and opening Jintra in January 2018. In June of 2018, Martin was involved in the merger of Lanna and DARA, becoming Thailand's biggest private licensed operator. Martin is currently a Joint and Asia Health Co Ltd Owner Operator of Lanna Healthcare Co Ltd, which under its umbrella manages Lanna Rehab in Chiang Mai, Jintra Rehab in Chiang Mai and DARA Rehab in Koh Chang - all Thailand MoPH Licensed Addiction Facilities providing world-class treatment in Thailand.

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