Alcohol and Drug Detox
When it comes to treating a drug or alcohol addiction, everyone has different needs. The severity of addiction may range from mild to severe, depending on how many symptoms one has and how badly these symptoms affect their life. The care they need to break this cycle and get out of the crippling addiction depends on where they fall in this range.
Most people who become dependent on alcohol or drugs experience sudden withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit. The effects of these withdrawal symptoms on their mind and body can be extremely uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. To safely get through them, it is necessary to seek professional help. This is where the role of detox comes in.
Detoxification or detox is when a person removes all traces of drugs and alcohol from their body, ensuring that they are physically stable to seek addiction therapy. It may not always be a part of every addiction treatment plan, but the majority of people go through it when entering rehab.
Several types of professional detox programs are designed to fit the varying needs of different parents. While most rehabs employ the “medical model” of detoxification in their addiction treatment program, many other options are available to clients. A detox program can take place in different settings and at varying levels of intensity.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are five different placement levels of care where a detoxification process can take place. Depending on these levels of care, a detox can be divided into:
Ambulatory Detoxification Without Extended On-Site Monitoring
This level of care includes an organized outpatient service monitored by experts at predetermined intervals. Some examples of this type include a detox that takes place in a physician’s office or under the care of a home health care agency.
Ambulatory Detoxification With Extended On-Site Monitoring
This type of detox is very much similar to the level of care described above but takes place under the supervision of credentialed nurses who keep monitoring all enrolled patients for several hours a day.
Clinically Managed Residential Detoxification
This particular type of detox ensures the provision of 24/7 supervision. Sometimes called as social detoxification, it comes with minimal medical oversight and instead relies on social and peer recovery support.
Medically Monitored Inpatient Detoxification
This placement level of care is much more restrictive than the one described above, as it comes with round-the-clock support and supervision for people experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Medically Managed Intensive Inpatient Detoxification
As the most restrictive placement level of care for detoxification, it provides help and support to the patients round the clock in an acute care inpatient setting.
The choice of a detox type largely depends on the patient’s severity of withdrawal symptoms, duration of addiction, and current medical health.
Alcohol and drug detox centers are the best places to undergo professionally-supervised, effective, and safe detoxification. These treatment centers adopt a stepwise approach to addressing addiction and cleansing the body of toxic drug or alcohol residue. This stepwise approach includes the following elements:
Prior to commencing detoxification, most rehabs conduct detailed evaluations and assessments on each client. These assessments aim to establish an accurate and clearer picture of their individual needs. During an assessment, an expert asks questions from a patient regarding their addiction history, past medical history, and current health status. If necessary, they may perform some blood tests as a part of this evaluation. Based on the results of these preliminary exams and investigations, the experts devise a personalized detox plan for each client that is likely to best suit them.
Once a detox plan is in place, an individual can officially begin the process. Many rehabs offer a medically-supervised detoxification experience in which a highly-trained and experienced medical team monitors each patient throughout their withdrawal process to stabilize them as much as possible. Most people in detox experience highly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, the severity of which depends on how long they have been addicted to alcohol or drugs, the type of substance they are addicted to, its regular dose, and the patient’s overall physical and mental health.
It is important to remember that every person goes through detox differently. Moreover, each detox can be an entirely different experience, even for someone who has already gone through it.
Some common physical withdrawal symptoms that may take place during detox include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle and bone pain
- Increased blood pressure
- Shaking and shivering
- Increased heart rate
- High temperature and chills
- Abdominal cramps
- Vivid and unpleasant dreams
- Runny nose
The psychological withdrawal symptoms of a drug and alcohol detox may include the following:
- Intense cravings for the substance
- Inability to concentrate
- Extreme mood swings
Experts may provide appropriately controlled medications during detox to help people cope better with withdrawal symptoms. While there is no such medicine that may prevent all withdrawal symptoms, some of them can ease depressive thoughts, provoke sufficient sleep, and counteract multiple other problems as well. Some common drugs used to ease drug and alcohol detox include:
- Acamprosate, a medication that particularly helps ease withdrawal from alcohol addiction
- Disulfiram, a medication that deters detoxing individuals from resorting back to using alcohol
- Naltrexone, a medication used for making withdrawals from alcohol or opioid addictions easier with minimal side effects
- Buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist that makes it easier to detox from an opioid use disorder without the unbearable withdrawal symptoms
In addition to providing medications, good drug and alcohol detox programs also ensure round-the-clock supervision for everyone involved. Many rehabs have medical staff and nurses available 24/7 to tend to medical emergencies. Some of them also appoint a live-in therapist whose aim is to tackle breakdowns and provide emotional support to the detoxing individuals as and when required. This allows clients to successfully quit their drug or alcohol use without developing any life-threatening complications.
Healthy and Nutritious Meals
Throughout the detox process, clients receive specialized meals thrice a day that are rich in minerals and vitamins that their bodies need to maintain energy and vitality. These meals are not only high in nutrients but are also a light on the stomach so that those going through a detox can easily digest them.
Detox can be an extremely emotionally and physically challenging time. Many rehabs offer clients a private space to recover to make it as comfortable as possible. These accommodations maintain their privacy and do not allow anyone to break their confidentiality or cause unnecessary disruptions.
What are the reasons why drug and alcohol detox is crucial?
If someone addicted to a substance quits using it all of a sudden, whether by choice or not, it is referred to as going cold turkey. The process may seem easy and beneficial; however, without proper support, it can seriously threaten overall health. When a body addicted to a regular supply of alcohol or drug suddenly ceases to get any, it responds by producing extremely uncomfortable and potentially painful symptoms, called withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may include a high fever, high blood pressure, hallucinations, severe disorientation, and seizures. If left untreated, these symptoms can quickly progress to become life-threatening. It is important to understand that many people who attempt to go sober cold turkey and experience these symptoms eventually resort to abusing the substance again just to eliminate the discomfort associated with withdrawal. This perpetuates an ongoing cycle of abuse that negatively impacts all areas of life. Hence, it is important to enter proper detox programs to avoid this cycle and successfully overcome an addiction.
How long does drug and alcohol detox take?
In general, a drug and alcohol detox typically lasts between 7 to 10 days. However, this time frame is not fixed and may vary for different people depending on certain factors, like:
How much drug or alcohol have they been using
Their current mental and physical functioning
The severity of their withdrawal symptoms
The duration of their ongoing addiction
Moreover, other factors like past medical and mental health history, current age, gender identification, and the presence of any co-occurring disorder also determine whether a detox will be short or long.
Is it possible to detox from alcohol or drugs at home?
While it is possible to detox from alcohol or drugs anywhere, experts highly discourage doing it on your own as it can be extremely dangerous and even potentially deadly. Quitting suddenly or without enough medical supervision may lead to serious health issues, such as severe dehydration or seizures. The discomfort associated with these symptoms can be so high that it may force an addict to resort to abusing the psychoactive substance to quit experiencing them. Hence, joining a detox program for drugs or alcohol is always better for a safer and more effective experience.
What happens next after a drug and alcohol detox program?
Detox is usually the first step towards overcoming a substance or alcohol use disorder and living a sober life. Once a person completes it, they may find it difficult to maintain a sober life and find themselves at a higher risk of relapsing. To minimize this risk and make sobriety long-term, experts encourage seeking additional therapy following a detox program. These therapies aim to find the root cause of addiction and work on suppressing it so that it does not lead to any addiction in the future. Most people enter an inpatient program following a detox program as it allows them to seek treatment in a setting free from distractions and temptations of the external world. The medical team closely works with each individual to develop a plan that helps them overcome their issues and hindrances related to addiction. Following an inpatient program, most people opt for aftercare services that continue providing follow-up care for them for years.
What are post-acute withdrawal symptoms?
While most people undergoing detox can successfully manage their withdrawal symptoms within one to two weeks, some continue to experience these lingering effects for weeks or months. Known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome, it comprises some common symptoms of withdrawal, such as a lack of energy, mood swings, memory issues, persistent nausea, depression, delayed reflexes, and problems with balance. Most of these symptoms come in waves and continue to hit throughout the day for up to a year following detox. To help people suffering from post-acute withdrawal syndrome, it is essential to provide extended treatment programs that tend to them longer than usual.
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