Sub-acute detox programs may be either residential, where you stay in a specialized treatment facility for a period of time, or outpatient, when you attend treatment during the day but reside off site.

Acute care generally refers to hospitalization and 24-hour supervision due to the potential for serious side effects of detoxing from an abused substance. Sub-acute care is for people in good mental and medical health, who are generally more physically stable, committed to a recovery program and who don’t necessarily require medical care or monitoring around the clock.

Detox is the purging of drugs or alcohol from your system. Sub-acute detox may utilize counseling, therapy and pharmacological methods to obtain physical and mental stabilization. Sub-acute detox may be a second-tier treatment for someone who has already completed a more rigorous inpatient detox program and has reached a safe and stable physical level.

Drug and alcohol abuse makes changes in the brain, and chronic abuse can lead to a dependency on these substances. Sometimes, removing these substances from the body can have life-threatening results if not managed carefully. Some substances of abuse are never recommended to stop “cold turkey” due to difficult, potentially dangerous, or even fatal consequences. These substances include:

Benefits of Sub-Acute Detox Programs

In 2013, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimated that more than 21 million American adults over the age of 11 were classified with substance abuse or dependency. Sub-acute detox programs can help manage difficult withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings by providing a safe and secure manner for removing these dangerous toxins from the bloodstream in a slow and controlled way. In addition, these programs set individuals up for a successful recovery from substance abuse and dependency via the use of therapy.

Sub-acute detox may utilize medications in order to maintain a safe physical balance by managing withdrawal symptoms and curbing cravings. Counseling and therapy sessions can also help to modify negative or self-destructive thoughts and behaviors in order to achieve a healthier emotional state. Holistic, or alternative methods, may also be effective when employed during sub-acute detox programs in reducing relapse rates and improving overall well-being. The particular sub-acute detox program that is right for you may depend on your level of dependency and length of time abusing substances as well as the type of substance abused.

Detox Safely from Alcohol

Approximately 7 percent of the American adult population aged 18 and older, that is 16.6 million people, were classified with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2013, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) publishes. When you drink, the pleasure center in your brain is activated, and over time, you can become physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol, which can affect the way you feel and experience pleasure.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, tremors, anxiety, mood swings, and sweating, may begin within six hours of the last drink. According to the NIAAA, about 10 percent of those heavily dependent on alcohol will experience more severe withdrawal symptoms that may also include fever, rapid breathing, and an irregular heart rate, and 5 percent may also have seizures.

The most severe and potentially fatal form of alcohol withdrawal is called delirium tremens. Along with seizures and fever, it is also indicated by hallucinations and severe confusion. Generally, withdrawal from alcohol is more moderate. Symptoms are uncomfortable but not typically life-threatening when treated properly.

Alcohol detox programs may use either short-acting or long-acting benzos, which are sedatives that calm and relax the central nervous system and help to quell anxiety and tremors. Antidepressants may be used as adjunct medications to manage alcohol withdrawal as well. During sub-acute detox, you may already be beyond the most severe withdrawal symptoms and will instead be in the maintenance phase, so longer-acting medications may be more appropriate. You may also be only moderately dependent on alcohol, and medications may not be necessary. While sub-acute detox may not require around the clock medical monitoring, if you are taking medications to manage potential withdrawal symptoms, regular assessments and appointments will be necessary to ensure that the drugs continue to be effective, safe, and used appropriately.

Prescription Painkiller and Heroin Detox

In 2010, the national survey published by NIDA reported that 2.4 million Americans abused prescription medications for the first time in the past year. The most commonly abused prescription medications are opioid pain relievers, benzodiazepine tranquilizers, and stimulants like those used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Opioid abuse refers to both prescription painkiller misuse and the abuse of the street drug heroin.

Opioid withdrawal has both physical symptoms that may mimic flu side-effects and emotional ones, such as depression, irritability, restlessness, and anxiety. Sub-acute withdrawal is characterized by moderate physical symptoms, such as abdominal cramps, excessive tearing, yawning, dilated pupils, muscle aches, and a general sense of not feeling good.

Opioid withdrawal can be managed by Suboxone, Subutex, and Zubsolv. The buprenorphine products and partial opioid agonists can be prescribed by your doctor and picked up at a pharmacy. They can be taken during sub-acute detox, either at home or in a residential setting. Partial opioid agonists act on the same receptors in the brain as the full agonists do, just to a lower extent and reaching a plateau at a certain point.

Suboxone and Zubsolv also contain naloxone, which is an opioid agonist that remains dormant unless the drug is abused, and then it can quickly precipitate intense withdrawal symptoms. Sub-acute opioid detox may utilize these medications, slowly lowering the dosage over time. Opioid detox will also include psychotherapy sessions to help you define self-destructive behavior patterns that may act as triggers for drug abuse and teach you new life skills.

Sub-Acute Detox from Stimulants and Sedatives

The NSDUH reported that in the month prior to the 2013 survey, 1.7 million Americans over the age of 11 abused tranquilizers, such as benzodiazepines, and 1.4 million abused stimulants, including Adderall and Ritalin. Over time, your body develops a tolerance to these drugs as they build up in your system, requiring you to take more and more to have the same desired effect. For a smooth recovery, this process needs to be slowly reversed as the drugs are flushed from your body.

There are currently no approved medications specifically for detox from benzodiazepines or stimulants, although often long-acting drugs may be substituted for short-acting ones during a slow and controlled tapering schedule. Withdrawal symptoms for benzodiazepines may be largely psychological and include insomnia, depression, low energy levels, decreased focus, and concentration, as well as a rebound effect of the symptoms benzodiazepines are meant to suppress, such as panic, anxiety, and paranoia.

Stimulants include prescription medications, cocaine, and methamphetamine. The NSDUH published that in 2013, in the month prior to the survey, 1.5 million Americans aged 12 and older abused cocaine. In the same year, 1.2 million abused methamphetamine, as reported by NIDA. Stimulant withdrawal generally has side effects, such as intense mood swings, trouble sleeping, depression, headaches, fatigue, low energy levels, anxiety, and drug cravings.

Finding a treatment program that meets your individual needs is essential. The Recovery Village provides multiple levels of care offered by expert staff members. For more information contact an admissions specialist at The Recovery Village today.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.