Whenever someone enters an addiction treatment program they will also need to complete drug detox. It is only possible to recover from an addiction once you have completed the very necessary first step of going through detox. Someone with a chemical dependency can only begin their rehabilitation by first eliminating the substance from their body by abstaining from their usual level of abuse.
Detoxification is most effective when it is medically managed because it can be associated with a number of withdrawal symptoms that are not only unpleasant but can also be quite dangerous. Detox then is usually defined by the medical effort to help patients with serious addictions to rid their bodies of a drug before moving on to a rehab program. Detox can be provided for a wide range of drugs and can differ greatly depending on the individual’s level of abuse and physiology.
Choosing a Detox Program
Not all detox programs are the same and it is important for someone with an addiction to take the time to find a situation that will make them feel comfortable and safe. The types of detoxes available can vary depending on the method used and the amount of time spent in the treatment center. For patients addicted to less severe drugs or with mild addictions, they might choose natural detox as a way to simply go “cold turkey” but under medical supervision. The benefit of natural detox is that you can quit using your drug of choice right away and you are usually able to complete the detox program within a few days to a week. Although natural detox may mean experiencing more withdrawal symptoms, the patient will be supervised by medical staff that are there for support and to keep each individual as comfortable as possible. Choosing natural detox also usually means that you will be staying inpatient in a facility throughout the course of the program. It can be relatively easy for people to stay inpatient for natural detox since it may only last a few days or a week at most.
Medical Detox with Substitute Medication
For people with more serious addictions such as abuse of opiates, it might be a better option to choose medical detox. This type of detox program means that patients are provided with medication that can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms so that the process is much easier. Heroin addiction or prescription opioid abuse can lead to some very painful withdrawal symptoms so in a lot of cases it is safer to use methadone or suboxone during detox to ease the patient off of drugs.
Medical detox essentially means that you are provided with a replacement medication as you wean yourself off of opiates and this type of program typically will take much longer than natural detox. This type of drug rehab detox can last months for people who have been abusing opiates for a long time and need to slowly reduce their dose so that they can eventually be drug-free. Because medical or medicated detox is a long-term program, most people complete this type of detox as an outpatient. Medical detox can continue while you go through rehab, stay at a sober living house or even live at home. Patients simply come in periodically to receive their medication and check in with doctors to evaluate their progress.
What Happens in Detox?
Many people first going into their detox program feel nervous about what will happen when they are in the facility. They may feel scared about quitting a drug that they have been addicted to for years or are worried about how the withdrawal symptoms will affect them. The important thing to keep in mind is that as long as you are supervised by medical professionals, your detox will be safe and healthy. As soon as a person enters detox their withdrawal symptoms can start within the first 24 hours of abstaining from drug use.
Medical and psychiatric staff are on hand constantly to provide effective support and will continually check on each patient to make sure that they have everything they need to feel comfortable. Withdrawal symptoms differ greatly depending on the type of drug, the length of addiction, the combination of drugs used, the existence of other disorders such as mental illnesses as well as each person’s individual physiology.
Many common detox side effects include sweating, vomiting, nausea, insomnia, agitation and in some cases seizures. Patients may also experience cravings for the drug and other psychological symptoms like anxiety, depression, paranoia or even hallucinations. Medical monitoring can help ensure that no complications arise from any of the withdrawal symptoms and each patient is properly hydrated, nourished and getting adequate sleep.
Every patient in an inpatient detox program is required to stay at the facility until their withdrawal symptoms have subsided. Because withdrawal symptoms can differ dramatically among individuals, the length of stay in drug detox is not the same for every type of drug or every person. A short stay in detox could last a few days to a week especially for more mild addictions or less problematic withdrawal symptoms. A long term detox could last a few weeks to possibly months if it is an outpatient program.
Whatever type of drug the person is addicted to, they mostly likely have not completely eliminated from their system until they get through all the withdrawal symptoms. Once the symptoms are gone it means that physically they are no longer dependent on the drug because they have flushed the chemicals and toxins from their body. As soon as a person completes their detox program no matter how long it has lasted, it is important for them to immediately enter a rehab program so that they can address some of the psychological aspects of their addiction that detox cannot eliminate. Detoxification is just one component of addiction recovery because it rids the body of physical addiction. Without continued treatment after detox most patients will end up relapsing because they have not been trained to cope effectively with their mental addiction.
Types of Drugs in Detox
Most people associate detox with a few more common drugs such as alcohol or opiates but there are detox programs available for every type of drug you can find. Addiction is not limited to a few substances but can actually occur with almost any substance that provides a sense of euphoria or triggers the release of dopamine. Among the drugs to detox off of the most common are prescription drugs in the form of benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium or opioid painkillers like OxyContin.
A great number of people in the U.S. have become addicted to legal prescription drugs either as a result of being provided the medication for legitimate reasons or deliberate abuse. Drug detox can also include a wide array of illegal street drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine which are classified as stimulants. Cocaine is a type of drug that can lead to addiction much more quickly than most substances because goes directly to the brain stimulating key pleasure centers and users often develop a tolerance right away.
Methamphetamine or meth as it is usually called, is a very strong stimulant that can lead to very painful physical side effects and withdrawal symptoms. People can also detox from recreational club drugs which can be highly addictive and cause serious physical and mental damage to users. Club drugs can include hallucinogens like LSD or drugs causing euphoria like Ecstasy, Ketamine and PCP. Users may begin taking these drugs occasionally at parties but begin to become dependent on them over time to feel any sense of pleasure because it has damaged parts of their brain.
Some drug detox centers may also include options for people who are addicted to marijuana or synthetic marijuana. Although the prevailing myth is that marijuana is harmless and not addictive, the reality is that many people need to quit their use of this drug through detox because they cannot function without it. People who use marijuana or synthetic marijuana will also experience withdrawal symptoms and need to be in a treatment facility to detox.
The Dangers of Home Detox
Someone with an addiction may be under the impression that they can quit on their own terms either because they are addicted to what they consider a milder drug or they believe that their addiction is not very severe. Although detoxing at home is technically possible, it is not a very wise choice for a number of different reasons. The main problem with detoxing at home is that is not very safe and the majority of the time it is not effective.
Although there may be at-home detox kits available, the truth is that most of the time they don’t work and in the worst case scenario it can lead to relapse and a deadly overdose. Addicts that quit a drug for a short period of time may not be aware that they have significantly lower their tolerance. If they end up using the drug again in the same dose that they were accustomed to then the addict will potentially overdose. The problem with detox kits or attempting detox alone is that the person may not be aware of underlying mental health issues, medical problems or complications as they occur.
Someone who is not aware that they have a co-occurring disorder will not be able to receive the medication they need throughout detox to minimize symptoms of depression or anxiety which in some cases could lead to self-harm or even suicide. If a medical problem comes up, someone detoxing at home does not have the training or education to recognize a complication and they could be in an unsafe situation without any help. At a licensed drug detox facility, the staff members provide an evaluation which can determine what medications are needed and they are always prepared for any possible issues that could arise during detox.
Improving Mental Health after Detox
Patients that complete detox in a treatment facility are better prepared to handle the process of rehab because they are healthier and physically ready to work on their recovery. Treatment can take months for most people and a quick fix is never the right answer for a problem as serious as drug addiction.
A professional program will offer each patient the opportunity to work on the many psychological factors that could have been the cause of their substance abuse. Physical dependency is an important part of addiction but for most addicts, their mental health is what keeps them coming back to drugs as a solution for their problems. Most people use drugs as a way of self-medicating when they are not able to rid themselves of difficult emotions. The problem with drug use is that it usually intensifies these issues by causing mood swings and more severe ups and downs that can wreak havoc on a person’s mental health.
That is why attending therapy sessions throughout rehab is an important part of the process. Therapists have enough experience and knowledge to understand the cause of certain feelings and they can provide meaningful insight and advice to their patients. Most rehabs also offer group therapy which can be a very healing experience for most people after completing detox. They can communicate with other people, tell their own personal stories and connect with others who have been through the same issues in their lives.
Each part of recovery is essential to a full treatment program and without detox, patients would not have the foundation they need to be healthy and sober. Getting through detox may be challenging for most people but once it is over they will feel better, stronger and healthier. Ridding the body of dangerous chemicals allows it a chance to heal and repair itself from some of the damage caused by addiction. Detox allows people to feel a little more freedom from the prison that their addiction had become. It may only be the first step in recovery, but detox is crucial for every person that wants to finally end their substance abuse.