Many drug users fear detox, but it’s essential for individuals who want to get clean and free themselves from the grips of addiction. During detox, the body expels all of the remaining toxins that are lingering in the system. This process can be challenging both physically and mentally, but treatment centers are staffed with various medical professionals who can make detox more comfortable.
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Alcohol Detox vs. Drug Detox
Alcohol detox and drug detox programs differ in several key ways. In both cases, the severity of the withdrawal symptoms—which are the physical or mental reactions of your body when deprived of a given drug—depend on the duration of an addiction, the type of substance a user was addicted to, the quantity that was typically taken, and biological factors such as weight and genetic makeup.
Alcohol detox programs are considered much more dangerous than other types of detox. This is because the withdrawal symptoms are dominantly physical instead of psychological. Once the substance leaves the system, symptoms set in in as little as 8 hours. From that point, it can take up to one and a half weeks for the full cycle of withdrawals to run its course.
During that time, former users can experience minor symptoms, such as hand tremors, interrupted sleep, sweating, nausea, and heart palpitations. In more severe cases, hallucinations—visual and auditory—occur, along with severe mental confusion, the potential for seizures, and even the possibility of death.
Drug detox is also dangerous, but the symptoms tend to be psychological instead of physical. They can also last for up to one month. While symptoms differ from drug to drug, there are some universal reactions that most detox patients experience.
Some of the most common symptoms of drug detox include anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, mood swings, and muscle aches. As detox progresses, symptoms can include psychosis, which can entail hallucinations and delusional thinking. In some cases, anhedonia is experienced, which is the inability to feel pleasure.
Who Needs Detox?
Detox is necessary in cases where people have developed a drug dependency. After prolonged use, the body begins to rely on the chemicals within the drug, replacing the ones that it would naturally produce. At this point, several symptoms should make clear that detox is necessary.
These potential symptoms are numerous and vary from drug to drug, but some common signs may include extreme fluctuations in weight, the inability to sleep, bodily tremors, and anxiety or paranoid thoughts.
Advantages of a Medical Detox
While medical detox—also known as withdrawal management—doesn’t guarantee long-term abstinence, it can be a helpful aid for managing the potentially dangerous symptoms of withdrawal. Of course, there are people who have survived severe withdrawal symptoms and gone on to achieve sobriety, but in the vast majority of cases medical detox is recommended.
During medical detox, patients receive around-the-clock care from nurses and physicians in a recovery center. The most intense symptoms of withdrawal, which typically occur in the first 24 to 72 hours, are potentially life-threatening and can be extremely unpleasant. Medical aid is dispensed as-needed to treat symptoms and help patients feel more comfortable.
Medical detox can treat symptoms such as insomnia, body aches, and nausea as they arise. It can also help decrease cravings by tapering down use or by introducing a less addictive form of the drug. In extreme cases of withdrawal, drugs like Naloxone can be administered which stops the effects of opiates.
Finding the Right Detox Program for You
You should look for a drug and alcohol detox center programs that are accredited, provide statistics about success rates, and are staffed by medical professionals. It should also cater to the type of detox you require. You can figure out most of this information with a simple phone call or visit to an office.
For many people, the right detox facility should also be close to a treatment facility. Detox is only the first step in the recovery process, and it should be immediately followed with inpatient or outpatient treatment depending on the severity of the former dependency. Without this immediate transition, the chance for relapse is high.
The right drug and alcohol detox program should also be affordable. Many insurance plans offer coverage for substance abuse programs, but it’s important to check your policy before enrolling in a detox program just to make sure that you’re covered. Some programs also offer financing options for patients who qualify.
The Next Step After Detox: Treatment Programs
Medical detox does not guarantee sobriety and should be followed by a treatment program. If patients relapse, they will simply reinitiate the cycle of addiction and have to reenter detox at a later point.
Treatment programs are usually classified as either inpatient or outpatient programs, but there are some variations which change the treatment structure. Common variations include partial hospitalization programs (PHP), which are essentially inpatient programs that allow patients to return elsewhere to sleep, and intensive outpatient programs (IOP) which offer a more structured version of the standard outpatient program.
Generally speaking, inpatient treatment is when patients live in a facility for the duration of the program, usually between one to six months. Outpatient programs require patients to visit the facility several times a week for counseling, therapy, and other recovery services.
Inpatient programs are recommended for individuals with severe addictions who run a high risk of relapse. The inpatient program is a positive and supportive environment and is staffed by nurses and medical professionals who provide constant assistance during the recovery.
Outpatient programs are designed for people who struggled with a milder form of addiction and who can manage life outside of a treatment facility without succumbing to the pressure to relapse. Outpatient programs allow people to meet their work and school obligations while regularly checking in for treatment services.
Whatever program is chosen, it’s essential that patients begin treatment immediately following release from their detox program. Even with treatment, relapse rates still hover between 40 and 60 percent. Staying clean is a lifelong challenge, but with the proper support systems, the odds increase tremendously.
American Addiction Centers. Is Detox Always Necessary? 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Medical Detoxification. 2016.
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