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Alcohol and Drug Detox Helplines

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What is a Detox Helpline?

To struggle with substance addiction can be an isolating experience. Consequences of addiction may include the following:

  • Conflicts commonly arise between a user and their supports.7
  • The individual is separated from their healthy relationships.1
  • The person may feel lonely, confused, and discouraged with nowhere to turn.

Fortunately, there is always a caring and concerned outlet for those that want to take an active role in their addiction recovery: a detoxification (detox) helpline.

  • It is a telephone number that offers a variety of information specifically related to detox and treatment.
  • It can offer multiple treatment options based on the person’s needs, location, and resources.
  • It is often toll-free and answered 24 hours per day.

Are Detox Helplines only for the Person with Substance Abuse Issues?

Detox helplines are not only for the person with substance abuse issues, though. They can provide information and assistance to people concerned for their loved ones. Having a friend or family member afflicted by addiction can be upsetting and challenging to deal with, so having contact with an addiction treatment helpline can offer feedback and direction on detox and other aspects of treatment.

Whether you experience addiction and substance dependence first-hand or through a loved one, calling a detox helpline connects you with a caring individual ready to provide you with information about your addiction as well as connect you with recovery resources to treat it.

They will ask a few questions to gain a better understanding of the situation, current physical and mental health state, and symptoms of the individual in a compassionate and nonjudgmental way to boost comfort and reduce apprehension.

Detox helplines are anonymous, so you do not have to disclose any personal or identifying information.

The goal of a detox helpline is not to increase shame or guilt; it is to increase access to treatment.

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Should I Call an Alcohol or Drug Abuse Helpline?

People engaged in alcohol or drug abuse may be unaware of the disruptive nature of their abuse, and their loved ones may not realize just how serious the problem has become.

These people may believe that they could never benefit from calling a helpline, but in reality, anyone affected by addiction should consider calling, especially if you or your loved one is displaying signs or experiencing symptoms of addiction like:1,2

  • The substance is consumed at larger amounts for longer periods of time than planned or recommended.
  • The person feels distressed or uncomfortable when the substance is not available.
  • There are attempts to reduce or quit with limited success.Man leans against wall deciding to call a helpline
  • A significant amount of time is committed to finding or using the substance, as well as recovering from its effects.
  • The person has strong desires (cravings) to abuse the substances.
  • Drug use and addiction has made it difficult or impossible for the person to consistently maintain responsibilities at work, home, or school.
  • Social supports and relationships are compromised.
  • There has been a reduced interest in previously enjoyed hobbies.
  • Substance use continues despite risk to the person’s physical, mental, or social health.

Remember, a person does not need to exhibit every item listed to need help. Exhibiting as few as 2 of the above symptoms or behaviors within a 12-month period could signify that substance abuse has become problematic.

Addiction is complex and complicated and it leaves people feeling confused and frustrated. Calling a detox helpline can add clarity and confidence regarding the future of treatment.

Note: Detox helplines are trusted resources, but they cannot provide emergency care. If addiction and substance use has led to a medically or mentally dangerous situation, call 911.

What Are My Detox Options?

In the most general terms, detox is the body’s ability to process and remove toxins. Professional detox is a set of interventions used to safely and comfortably assist an individual while alcohol and other drugs leave the body.3,4

Doctor reviews detox options on clipboard for patient

Medically assisted or medically supervised detox involves a team of medical professionals evaluating, observing, and treating symptoms by administering medications, if necessary, to reduce the effects of acute withdrawal.4,5,6 Since these effects can be dangerous and sometimes life-threatening, depending on the substance, detox helps ensure the security and well-being of the person beginning recovery.

Detox helplines can help place people in touch with facilities where qualified treatment professionals will determine which detox option is the best fit. Ultimately, the appropriate detox setting, level of intensity, and duration will be determined by factors like:

  • Types of drugs used.
  • Frequency, amount, and duration of abuse.
  • Available social support.
  • Additional medical and psychological conditions.
  • Previous attempts at recovery and relapse history.

Depending on the professional evaluation of the individual’s state, detox will occur at 1 of 5 distinct levels of care including:6

  • Medically managed intensive inpatient detoxification: The most intense level that could take place in a psychiatric inpatient center or hospital setting. Here, the individual will receive 24-hour treatment in an acute care setting.
  • Medically monitored inpatient detoxification: Occurs in a detox center with 24-hour medical care outside of an acute care setting.
  • Clinically managed residential detoxification: Most appropriate for people that require 24-hour support but not constant medical care. This residential setting will employ social detox skills that emphasize caring and compassion over medical intervention.
  • Ambulatory detoxification with extended onsite monitoring: Occurs at a facility offering outpatient treatment as well as detox. The individual may receive several hours of treatment daily and then return home.
  • Ambulatory detoxification without extended onsite monitoring: Available in a doctor’s office or through a home health care agency. The monitoring and treatment at this lowest level of intensity involves brief appointments at regular intervals.

Free Addiction and Mental Health Hotlines

Below is a list of free hotlines you can call to receive information regarding detox, substance abuse, and mental health treatment:

  • SAMHSA: 1-800-662-4357
  • National Suicide Prevention: 1-800-273-8255
  • National Youth Crisis: 800-442-4673
  • Boys Town: 800-448-3000
  • Alcohol and Drug Abuse: 800-729-6686


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Principles of Effective Treatment.
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). TIP 45: Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.
  7. Step by Step Guides to Finding Treatment for Drug Use Disorders (2019). : Conflicts commonly arise between a user and their supports.

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