When an addict quits using the addictive substance, the body rebels and the addict goes through a variety of physical and mental withdrawal symptoms as it detoxifies. These symptoms range from a relatively mild hangover to major incidents including seizures, which can, in sever cases, result in death.
Detox is short for this detoxification process, which, in general, means to rid the body of a toxic substance. When dealing with addiction, the toxic substances are the drugs of choice. In general there are two types of detox: non-medical and medical.
Non-medical detox refers to the fact that the body will rid itself of drugs (including alcohol) IF no more toxic substances are introduced. Sometimes this is referred to as going cold turkey.
Medical detox refers to a wide variety of detoxification techniques used by the medical profession. These techniques range from simple observation by professionals while an individual detoxes naturally to medical intervention, which may include tranquilizers or other drugs that reduce the symptoms caused by the withdrawal from the addictive drug.
The precise medical detox procedure depends on many factors, including the type of addictive drug (alcohol, opiate, etc.), the severity of the addiction and the philosophy of the treatment provider. Terms used include: medical detox, rapid detox, etc. The most successful detox programs deal with both the mental and the physical symptoms of withdrawal.