Detox vs. Treatment

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When people often ask me how many times I’ve been to treatment, my response was usually “too many to count.” This was not only a way to deflect the real answer I felt too embarrassed to divulge, but it was also—at least I thought—the truth. (I really don’t remember how many times I’ve been in and out of facilities over a period of 11 years.) But one day it hit me—I’ve really been through a lot of treatment programs!

Hitting up detoxes to avoid uncomfortable withdrawal and try and clean up for a bit? At least get my tolerance back to a more manageable level? Well, I was a pro at that. Knowing what I know now, why did I always want to choose detox over treatment? Now that I have the benefit of a clearer frame of mind, the answer comes easily. I was making the decision to go to detox from an addict’s point of view. An addict who's sole existence had been to seek instant gratification regardless of consequence. I wanted results without actually doing any of the work. I simply wanted other people to help make me feel better so I could go on my merry little way with my miracle cure and live happily ever after.

Of course, that’s not what I told others when I made the decision to go to detox instead of doing a full treatment program. People are naturally strong-minded and strong-willed, or at least they want to appear that way. I was no different. I would swear up and down that I was done with drugs, that the only thing holding me back was the inability to quit on my own because I would get too sick. I would say things like “I’m ready to get on with my life, do something with my life, my mindset is there, I just need the drugs out of my system!”.

teenage addict

Well that’s great logic and all, except for the small fact that every med detox I’ve ever been to used drugs to try to ween me off of whatever drugs I came in on, and every med detox I’ve ever been to has released me around 24 hours after my last dose, (which is usually when I started feeling the withdrawal effects from said drugs used to ween me off).

So why, exactly, should someone choose treatment over a quick and easy med-detox? Besides the aforementioned points, there are lots of reasons. The easiest answer is time. While that is partly true, it’s not simply “time” that makes a person want to stop using drugs. People go to prison for years and revert right back to their old ways when they get released. In fairness, this happens with treatment too, although I would make a large wager it’s a much smaller percentage. The key is not time, but how the time away from drugs is used. The first thing that needs to happen in a treatment center is to truly rid your body of drugs. Using maintenance drugs and replacement drugs, in my own personal experience, is just substituting one addiction for another. Being dependent on a drug to wake up in the morning, regardless of the type of euphoria or lack thereof, is not my idea of feeling free from addiction.

My idea of being free from addiction is feeling better, thinking better, speaking clearly and effortlessly, smiling and laughing just because I’m in a good mood. These are not only changes that take time, they also take work. Not work in the sense that I’m “practicing” being in a good mood—work in the sense that I’ve worked on myself enough, made enough changes, and learned to appreciate myself enough that these things happen naturally.


I’ve never experienced any of these kinds of changes going to a med-detox for 1-2 weeks. You know where I have experienced something this powerful? Treatment. A full program where I decided I was going to work on myself like my life depended on it (because it did), a place where I wasn’t worried about getting back to my busy life in a week expecting everything to be better without any real time away from drugs or effort to work on myself. A program designed to help me become the best version of me before I left. A place where I can make changes that have a lasting impact on the way I carry myself and live my life. That’s what it was going to take for me to overcome addiction and become the person I’ve always envisioned myself to be.

That wasn’t possible for me in med-detox, and in fairness, it took a few treatments and the right place with the right mindset for me to finally be willing to have that mindset. You probably know the expression “hindsight is 20/20”. I can’t go back in time and tell myself not to waste opportunities on going for the quick fix or tell myself to do it right and save myself years of feeling like a failure. I can, however, try to tell anyone who feels like listening to me now: Do it right. Go to treatment, do whatever it takes, be the person you want to be, and find the best version of yourself again.


Jason Good

Jason has been working in the field of addiction and recovery for over 10 years. Having been an addict himself he brings real-word experience to the table when helping addicts and their families, while also offering a first-person perspective to the current drug crisis. Jason is passionate about educating the public about what’s currently going on in our society, and thankfully, offers practical solutions. Jason is also the co-host of The Addiction Podcast—Point of No Return. You can follow Jason on Google+, Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.