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The goal of a detox center is to keep addicts in a controlled, medically supervised setting until their bodies are free of the addictive substance. This can take anywhere from a couple of days to a week, depending on the drug and the level of addiction. Patients receive healthy food and treatment for associated illnesses such as infected needle sites. They may also get medication to help them manage withdrawal symptoms, but in many cases the detox center simply provides a safe place in which to go through those symptoms.
A detox center may provide some therapy and an introduction to 12-step groups, but is not a substitute for the kind of thorough rehabilitation most addicts need to enter long-term recovery. For this reason, many detox centers are associated with rehab centers or refer patients directly into a drug rehab program.
"Rapid detox" programs, available for some addictions, use medication and anesthesia to clear a patient's body of addictive drugs in one to two days. They pose some health risks, but may be a solution for addicts who are motivated to quit but afraid of the suffering they might experience in ordinary withdrawal.