How Does Detox Work?
The detoxification process is designed primarily to enable the cessation of problematic drug use, with detox programs also helping to reduce and manage withdrawal symptoms. While the term “detox” is somewhat of a misnomer in the context of drug treatment, where additional drugs may be introduced, it does help people to stop problematic substance use patterns. Detox is normally administered in a residential setting where people can access medication treatment and medical support when needed. While it is possible to detox at home without medical support, this can be dangerous in some situations. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, there are three steps in the drug detox process: evaluation, stabilization, and guiding patients into further treatment. Rehabilitation programs are always recommended after detox, followed by relapse prevention systems and aftercare support programs.
There are several different types of detox programs available. The right program will differ for each person, as it’s important to take into account the drug being used, the severity of the addiction, and whether any underlying or co-existing disorders exist that could make withdrawal symptoms during detox worse.
Natural Detox: withdrawing from a drug of addiction without any assistance is often known as ‘cold turkey’. Medical supervision is strongly recommended for anyone detoxing cold turkey, as any adverse or negative conditions can be treated as they emerge.
Medical Detox: medical detox involves replacing the drug of addiction with a different drug. For example, someone being treated for heroin or OxyContin addiction may be given Suboxone or methadone maintenance treatments.
- Neurontin may be prescribed for people at risk of experiencing seizures during detox. The drug is an anti-epileptic, or anticonvulsant medication.
Medicated Detox: medicated detox works using non-addictive prescription medication to ease any symptoms that emerge during the detox process. Antidepressants may be offered for those experiencing profound depression, or sleeping medication may be required for those struggling with insomnia.
- Bupropion is another medication that may be prescribed for some people. The drug is an antidepressant used to treat symptoms of depression. However, it can also be used as an aid to giving up smoking.
Inpatient Detox: Residential inpatient detox treatments offer round-the-clock medical supervision to ensure the person’s safety during the worst of any withdrawal symptoms. Primary reasons for entering an inpatient detox versus outpatient or partial hospitalization include the opportunity to enter an inpatient addiction treatment program after, the reduction of relapse risks, and the medical safety provided. The focus of inpatient detox is on patient health and stability which can include initiation of tapering medications such as suboxone or methadone and management of withdrawal symptoms. The inpatient setting is the safest option and best for those who have experienced relapse in the past or who have experienced painful withdrawal. The person is free to leave after detox is complete, unless the admission also involves a long-term inpatient addiction treatment plan.
Outpatient Detox: An outpatient detox program involves daily visits to either a free standing clinic or the rehab facility where the treatment is offered. Outpatient detox centers typically offer many of the same drug and alcohol detox programs however patients are only supervised during their daily visits. Individuals are able to receive medical detox, natural detox and detox medications through qualified detox centers. An outpatient detox program can be a good choice for individuals with mild dependence problems, who cannot afford to miss work or leave their children while in an inpatient center. Additionally, outpatient detox can be effective for individuals whose substance abuse disorders involve drugs with minor symptoms of physical dependence such as cocaine. It is important to have a strong support system of family and friends to help them through the process of detox and it is always recommended that individuals speak with a professional experienced in detox treatment before choosing a detox setting. Outpatient detox centers do not have the 24/7 medical supervision and structure that inpatient programs offer and as a result individuals are at risk of health complications as well as relapse during withdrawal.
Opiate Detox: All of these drugs are capable of causing physical-somatic withdrawal symptoms when abused heavily, with a medical detox period generally advised to enable drug discontinuation and safe withdrawal. Opioids and opioid antagonists may both be prescribed during this detox process, including methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone among others. Long-term medical support may also be needed in some situations, with methadone therapy and other forms of opiate replacement therapy often available from drug treatment centers.
Physically addictive drugs include alcohol, heroin, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, Valium, Xanax, Klonopin and many others. While the effects of these drugs differ widely, they all benefit from medication treatment to help reduce and manage withdrawal symptoms.
The withdrawal symptoms that can manifest during detox will differ, depending on the type of drug being taken.
Alcohol Withdrawal: detoxing from alcohol can produce potentially life-threatening symptoms, so medical supervision is recommended. Symptoms can include nausea, strong cravings, vomiting, tremors, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, increased heartbeat, hallucinations, and seizures.
- Antabuse disulfiram is used in medication assisted alcohol treatment programs to prevent relapse during alcohol detox and recovery. Recovering alcoholics. The medication produces extremely unpleasant side effects when combined with even small amounts of alcohol. The objective is to create a negative association with drinking in the mind of the recovering person.
Heroin Withdrawal: Physically addictive drugs include alcohol, heroin, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, Valium, Xanax, Klonopin and many others. While the effects of these drugs differ widely, they all benefit from medication treatment to help reduce and manage withdrawal symptoms.detoxing from heroin can result in withdrawal symptoms that include intense cravings, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, muscle aches, joint pain, depression, profuse sweating, runny nose, diarrhea, and severe discomfort.
OxyContin Withdrawal: withdrawing from opioid prescription painkillers produces the same withdrawal symptoms to detoxing from heroin, with the inclusion of irregular heartbeat, hot and cold flashes, and insomnia.
Meth Withdrawal: withdrawal symptoms of detoxing from meth include ferocious cravings, fever, profuse sweating, hypertension, heart palpitations, nausea, vomiting, tremors, and respiratory failure.
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The desire to avoid withdrawal symptoms can prevent individuals from freeing themselves from the hold of addiction. Professional treatment can help the person get through this difficult, initial period so that they can continue with the other phases of the program that will assist them is avoiding the substance and restoring their lives.