The Difference Between Medical and Non-Medical Detoxification

October 4, 2021

Drugs and alcohol take some time to exit the body's system. Detoxification is a necessary step in becoming alcohol and drug-free. Withdrawal symptoms can vary from subtle to painful depending on the type of drug and time of use. The longer the use, the more complicated, the process becomes.

According to TIP (Treatment Improvement Protocols), supervised detoxification may prevent potentially life-threatening complications. These difficulties might appear should patients not get the necessary treatment in time. What this means is that detoxification needs to happen beyond the home. It needs professional management. It's because qualified personnel will know what to do should any problems arise.

Alcohol is an example of why withdrawal management needs professional medical aid. Withdrawing from alcohol can be a fatal ordeal. Depending on the state of dependency, some could experience "Delirium Tremens"(DT). DT is a deadly illness that unless intervened will result in seizures and death. It is necessary to detox with professional and medical help to avoid the occurrence of DT. Do read our blog on DT, by clicking here, to know more about "Delirium Tremens."

The need for professionals is one reason why rehabs hire medical staff. They dispense necessary medication. Besides that, they also observe clients and track their progress. Some rehabs out-source this procedure to professional hospitals, where clients get full-time care. It's important that no added strain comes to patients who are undergoing detoxification. It is due to this that detox patients do not undergo treatment until such times that they are well enough to do so.

Types of Detoxification

There are two types of detoxification: medical and non-medical detoxification. Medical detoxification is the use of prescribed medications to detox.  From nutritional management, to massage therapy and community detox; non-medical detoxification has variations. It is a means at detoxification without the aid of medicines.

The difference between medical and non-medical detoxification.

The main difference lies in the use of medication. Medical detox uses medicines to help clients withdraw from substances. Whereas, non-medical detox does not use drugs for that purpose. Besides this, here are some other differences between these two methods of detox:


Medical detox takes place in a hospital. At Solace Sabah, we have a host hospital, Jesselton Medical Center (JMC) that takes care of our clients in detox. You or a loved one will have a room and exceptional 24-hour care by the staff there. It's filled with modern amenities to aid detoxification. Our host doctor has training in detox procedures based on TIP 45. TIP 45 (Treatment Improvement Protocols) gives international guidelines and standards for detox care. You or a loved one are getting the same level of attention for detox as anywhere else in the world when you come to us at JMC.

Non-medical detox takes place at our treatment center. Clients will have their space to recover from their using behaviours. Moreover, they get the support to do so from others who have been through similar experiences.


Medical detox is a hospital procedure managed by a professional physician and nurses. The carers are pure medical personnel. Their job is to supervise the detox and discharge the patient upon being clean of substances.

Non-medical detox is a treatment center procedure managed by our very own clinicians. They comprise counselors, recovery support coaches, interns, and nursing staff. You will feel cared for as if these were your own family members. It's important to have that level of care, especially due to emotional issues.


Medical detox uses prescribed medication. It depends on what chemical is undergoing detoxification. Examples of medicines used for detox include but are not limited to:



Opioid Agonists

Non-opioid Agonists

Opioid Antagonists

Partial agonists and antagonists

Some of these drugs may be addictive and will need appropriate tapering. Tapering is a process of lessening the dosage of a drug based on a given schedule. The medications help with the ill effects of withdrawals on the body. Its use centers on alleviating unpleasant feelings during detox. Hence, supervision by a medical professional is necessary. It's because tapering without professional help leads to either further drug dependency. Or severe withdrawal side-effects. Neither symptom will be very helpful for long-term recovery.

Non-medical detox may use nutritional supplements and herbal remedies for the detox process. We have an in-house nutritionist who will supervise clients on an appropriate diet. This diet will consist of a food plan and monitoring program. The nutritionist will give dietary advice as well as support to aid in detox efforts. Proper nutrition will help detoxify the body from the harms of drug or alcohol addiction.

Length of stay

Depending on presenting symptoms, the duration of stay for medical detox will vary. It can be a couple of days to about a week or so. But, in comparison to time in treatment, it is usually shorter.

Non-medical detoxification is part of the treatment program at our center. Thus, it 's hard to tell when one phase has ended as the other begins.

Treatment and detoxification processes get intermingled herein. Hence, it forms part of the length of treatment at Solace Sabah.

Full activity participation is the only indicator of being out of non-medical detox. It's because there's restriction to take part in rehab activities. It may cause undue strain during the detoxification process.

For some, detoxification may be longer due to an addiction to prescribed medications. Do read our in-house article, "Prescription Drugs: The Cure or The Curse," to know more about medicine addiction.


Medical detoxification takes place alone in a hospital bedroom/ward. The client will not be mingling with other addicts except those who come to visit him/her. Transition clients and interns, at times, will come to visit our new clients in the hospital.

A non-medical detox is a form of community detox. It means that clients get the supportive fellowship of fellow peers in recovery. We have found that socialization has tremendous power in becoming a healing remedy.  Clients will feel accepted, loved, and cared. These experiences can be very rewarding for they have resulted in faster healing.

Detoxification at Solace Sabah

When you enter treatment, we will determine the detoxification suitable. Some of our clients go straight into the treatment center without any medical detox. Others will spend about a week or so in the hospital. All depends on the amount of time drug-free and the intensity of use, as well as the damages incurred. We can ensure one thing: whatever the case may be, you or a loved one will get the most appropriate care available.

Our treatment program will include some detoxifying activities. Clients will receive massages on a weekly basis. Besides that, yoga and a proper fitness regime will help you or a loved one detoxify.

Yoga practitioners believe that the twists and turns of yoga help to ease the body of locked up toxins. Fitness too aids in detoxifying the body through exercise and sweating.

These activities will replace the once sought after high in addiction with a natural one. "Getting Back the Natural High" is our in-house article on what you or a loved one will get as a result of giving life a go. Take a look at the article and decide for yourself, whether it's worth the effort.

Whether you or a loved one enters via the hospital or straight into our center, there is one thing we can guarantee. The rewards of working recovery are worth every effort. There are a lot of benefits to being sober. Click here to see those benefits for yourself.

Through a thorough detox program, it'll be time to say goodbye to a chapter in you or a loved one's life; that was dark. On a personal note, I know that's a good enough reason to seek help. Don't you?

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