Withdrawal management or detoxification (detox) is a process of cutting back or stopping the use of alcohol or other drugs while reducing unpleasant symptoms and the risks of harm.
Withdrawal occurs in alcohol or drug-dependent people who stop or considerably reduce their use. The body may experience a range of symptoms. Some people become sick when they stop using and may need support or treatment to get through withdrawal symptoms. This can be an opportunity for planning for ongoing treatment to help avoid going back to alcohol or other drug use.
There are different types of environments that withdrawal management takes place. This includes home-based, though an outpatient service, such as a drug and alcohol service, an NGO or a GP, and in a residential or inpatient withdrawal unit.
Inpatient and outpatient withdrawal management services can be provided by public drug and alcohol services, public hospitals, GPs and NGOs, many of whom are equipped to provide withdrawal management services and continuing aftercare and follow up support in the community.
Some withdrawals have risks: for example, some people have seizures when stopping alcohol or benzodiazepines. Medication can be provided to manage these risks and symptoms through a withdrawal management (detox) program. It is recommended that people who are likely to experience these risks seek treatment in an inpatient unit.
A thorough assessment by a clinician is necessary to help someone decide which service is best for their withdrawal management needs. It is recommended that someone seek advice from a health professional if they are thinking of stopping using alcohol or other drugs.
For a list of NSW Health funded withdrawal management and residential rehabilitation services visit the NSW Health Withdrawal management and residential rehabilitation services page.