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What Is Outpatient Detox? (Part 1 of 4)

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Outpatient Detox is an individualized approach to detoxification, generally from opiates, alcohol or benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax) utilizing a variety of medications to control both withdrawal symptoms and to manage drug cravings.  When implemented properly and for carefully selected patients, outpatient detox is a safe alternative to the more traditional inpatient treatment approach and provides some significant advantages including a seamless transition between the detoxification and the intensive outpatient levels of care.

Probably the most important aspect of the outpatient detox treatment paradigm is patient selection.  Although enumerating all of our criteria would be too detailed for this brief introduction, the goal of our detailed patient screening instrument is to differentiate between those likely to have complications during detox from those who will not.  Patients with a history of alcohol withdrawal seizures, advanced age, concurrent significant medical problems (i.e. history of heart disease) or pregnancy would all be categorized as “high risk” and would not be considered for outpatient detoxification as safety concerns dictate a more formal treatment setting with around-the-clock on-site medical staff.

Once a patient is screened and found to be a candidate for outpatient detox, he/she will receive a battery of blood tests appropriate to the substance being abused, a urine tox screen , and a blood alcohol level as confirmed by Breathalyzer.  Vitamins and supplements such as thiamine and folic acid will be prescribed and the patient will be instructed to come in for an appointment (accompanied by his partner) when he/she is in early withdrawal (generally 8 hours for alcohol dependence and 24-36 hours for opiate dependence).  At that time the patient will be seen by a physician to review medical and psychiatric history and to undergo a complete physical exam.  If the patient is in mild to moderate withdrawal with no other contraindications to outpatient detox, an appropriate withdrawal protocol will be generated by the physician to be followed by the patient and his/her caregiver.  If withdrawal is more severe (CIWA greater than 12 or COWS greater than 15), the patient will be referred to an inpatient detox program.

Of note in INTER-CARE’s outpatient detox program protocol is that all patients must arrive with a partner who agrees to provide 24/7 monitoring of the patient for the first 72 hours (or more if needed) to assure patient safety. This partner is trained by our physician during the patient’s initial visit to take blood pressure and pulse readings using an automated blood pressure machine (which is provided to the patient free-of-charge).  In addition, this partner is coached on how to recognize withdrawal symptoms using the CIWA or COWS scale, as appropriate, and to communicate these findings to the doctor throughout the day to assure the patient is medicated appropriately.

For more information about INTER-CARE's Outpatient Detox Services, click here.
To make an appointment or to learn more about our services, please contact Ali Parisi at (212) 532-5804 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.