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6 Harmful Myths About Detox

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Detoxification (usually shortened to “detox”) is the process where the body expels harmful toxins, usually traces of drugs or alcohol. In the context of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, the words “detox” and “detoxification” may also refer to programs where this process is done under medical supervision, as the first step in the treatment process.

Detoxes will often include some kind of medication-assisted therapy (MAT).1 This, together with close patient monitoring, ensures the least harm from withdrawal symptoms and an overall more comfortable withdrawal process.

Whether you choose to call it “detox” or “medically-assisted withdrawal”, this process is one that’s often filled with potentially harmful myths and misconceptions. Here we’ll explore some of the most enduring falsehoods surrounding this critical first part of the SUD treatment process. If you’re curious about facilities in your area that offer detox services, get in touch with our team at Boston Drug Treatment Centers.

Myth #1: Detox is The Same as Rehab

Detoxification is just one part of the SUD treatment process. Merely undergoing a detox does not necessarily mean a person has been “cured” or has otherwise recovered from their SUD.

Additionally, the detox period is typically the shortest part of the recovery process, only taking under two weeks, if no medication-assisted therapy is needed. Rehab, on the other hand, takes three months minimum and may take much longer in many cases.

Myth #2: You Can Detox On Your Own

This is less of a myth and more of an extremely bad idea. Technically, people with SUD could attempt to do detox on their own. However, these attempts tend to produce poor outcomes. Attempts at “self-detox” may even directly harm individuals who need special medical intervention for their type of SUD.

Looking at things in context, the difficultly of managing withdrawals is the single biggest barrier to recovery.2 Without medical supervision, not only do your chances of success drop significantly, the risks to your health tend to rise as well.

Myth #3: Your Employer Can Fire You For Seeking Help

Generally speaking, they can’t. Treatment for SUD is covered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule.3 Though there are likely exceptions depending on the case, you will have the same protection for your SUD as your would for any other physical or mental health condition.

Please consult a qualified legal expert to help you understand the extent of your protection given your unique situation, within your specific jurisdiction.

Myth # 4: Only Rich People Can Afford Detox

While this may have had a grain of truth a few generations ago, the scale of the drug problem in America has forced policymakers to provide more people the means to access SUD treatment, including detox services. Thanks to new federal laws and guidelines, more and more detox treatments are now covered by insurance. Additionally, it is likely your state may also mandate or provide insurance coverage for SUD that may apply in your case.

Myth #5: Detox is All You Need; You Don’t Need Therapy

A detox will only remove traces of habit-forming substances from your body. It will do next to nothing to help you work through the cravings that would have developed as a result of regular substance misuse.

Fortunately, if you go through a medically supervised detox today, you will almost certainly be given options for rehab and therapy. Therapy, usually cognitive-behavioral therapy, is needed to allow you to make good on the progress made during detox.4

You shouldn’t skip therapy either. People with SUD who only do a detox but don’t follow through on therapy will continue to have problems managing their cravings and emotions. This can make relapses a more serious risk than they would be otherwise.

Myth #6: People Who Detox Always Relapse

Not only is this patently untrue, but it also implies that relapses represent a failure of the recovery process. Contrary to popular belief, relapses do not necessarily undo all the progress made during detox and rehab. In any case, many people who undergo detox and subsequent rehabilitation don’t always relapse either.

Find a Detox Program in New England

Detoxes are essential for preventing harm and for laying the foundation to a sustainable recovery from SUD. Thanks to the persistence of outdated ideas, many laypeople have at least a couple of misconceptions about the role of detoxification in the SUD recovery process. Unfortunately, these myths have the potential to be harmful, as they can give recovering individuals unrealistic expectations or outright false ideas about recovery.

Thankfully, evidence-backed information on detoxes and other parts of the SUD recovery process is more accessible than ever before. To learn more about facilities that offer medically-assisted withdrawals, you can get in touch with our team at Boston Drug Treatment Centers at (857) 577-8193.


  1. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Overview, Essential Concepts, and Definitions in Detoxification. In Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US).
  1. Kosten, T. R., & George, T. P. (2002). The neurobiology of opioid dependence: implications for treatmentScience & practice perspectives1(1), 13.
  1. S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2013). Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule.
  1. McHugh, R. K., Hearon, B. A., & Otto, M. W. (2010). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for substance use disordersPsychiatric Clinics33(3), 511-525.

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