The term Social Model Detox has a very specific meaning and refers to the primary phase of drug and alcohol treatment, in which the process of withdrawal from the relevant substance(s) is monitored, supervised, and managed without the use of detoxification medication. Social Model Detox describes a detox methodology and environment that is distinct from the Medical Detox Model (which includes as a subset the Rapid Detox Model).
The primary concerns, according to the National Institutes of Health are:
- Is the social detoxification setting as safe for the client as the medical detoxification?
- Can alcohol withdrawal symptoms be treated in a nonmedical environment?
The 2nd concern applies equally to drug withdrawal symptoms.
Medical detox is indicated when withdrawal symptoms are judged to be potentially dangerous to the client, whether because of the severity of withdrawal or because of secondary or co-existing health conditions. There is a threshold beyond which safety to the client supersedes all other concerns, and it is mainly determined by the amount of alcohol or drugs consumed on a chronic basis as well as the length of time the dependency has been established. The more critical the physical dependency, the greater the risk of withdrawal symptoms posing physical danger to the client.
If the determination is made that the withdrawal process can be managed without medical intervention, social model detox is indicated as appropriate and productive in terms of cost-containment. When the addict or alcoholic submits himself/herself to treatment, the primary phase—detox, or removal of alcohol and drugs from the system—is managed through counseling and therapy.
Because the symptoms of withdrawal are so unpleasant—even when they don’t reach the threshold of requiring medical detox—addicts tend to defer treatment even when they desire to quit. The establishment of an atmosphere of professionalism, concern for safety, understanding, physical and emotional nourishment, as well as isolation from access to drugs and/or alcohol is the primary goal of social model detox.
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