Believe it or not, there are actually multiple definitions for detoxification. Some of these are broken down by the type of detox being provided, such as an ambulatory (outpatient) detox, a residential detox or a medical detox, etc.
An ambulatory detox is done on an outpatient basis and often involves some sort of medication or tapering process. One of the most common might include the administration of Suboxone to wean someone down off painkillers if they are in an outpatient program.
A residential non-medical detox is often included as part of a regular residential treatment program that consists of withdrawing in a social setting without the administration of other drugs during the process. Some people loosely call this “drying out,” but it can often be much more than that, depending on the rehab center.
A medical detox is when a doctor and nursing staff administer medication over a period of time to help someone withdraw from another substance. This is closely monitored and in more of an inpatient hospital-type setting. Some of the more common reasons for medical detox include alcoholism, heroin addiction and dependency on various types of prescription drugs, ranging from painkillers to anti-anxiety medications.
So how do you know what type of detox is needed? Well, it is usually the decision of the physician or medical director at a facility. There can be many factors involved in determining which detox process and setting will be best for your situation, so there is no definite answer. The best thing to do is to choose the rehab center that you want to attend and follow the direction of their clinical staff on which detox path you should take.