Medical Detoxification from Alcohol or Drugs
The use of alcohol or drugs changes how your brain chemistry works, and this impact is magnified if the use is extensive. For that reason, it is generally dangerous to attempt to participate in the detoxification process, to go cold turkey, on your own. What is usually necessary is medical detox. It will provide a means for your body to overcome the immediate effects of this drug dependence and get you on your way towards long-term recovery.
The physical symptoms related to the withdrawal process are often significant. They can include an irregular heartbeat, nausea, shaking, fatigue, sweating, increased body temperature or heart rate, and an increased risk of seizures. If untreated, one or more of these symptoms can cause death.
Meanwhile, emotional reactions to the withdrawal process can be quite significant as well. This can be shown in you entering a depressed or anxious state, being irritable and easily agitated, experiencing hallucinations, and being unable to sleep as regularly or as deeply as you had been before. In many cases, the impact that detox has on your brain will be more significant than the physical symptoms.
Although the process is generally not a pleasant one, medical detox will help these symptoms become more manageable and not be as dangerous as they otherwise would be. We will also ensure that you are kept in a comfortable environment as you push through this step and towards the other side.
What Is Medical Detoxification?
Medical detoxification refers to experiencing the sometimes severe side effects of the initial removal of toxic substances from your body while under medical oversight. This oversight usually involves one or more physicians who are accompanied by nurses, therapists, and clinical staff members.
They will be knowledgeable about and experienced with the different withdrawal symptoms of various drugs and alcohol as well as knowing how to handle situations where you are simultaneously withdrawing from a number of them. They will also understand how the detox experience will blend with any physical or mental ailments unrelated to alcohol or drug use that you may be suffering from.
Should You Undergo Medical Detoxification?
Although there are no hard-set rules for when medical detox is necessary, consider these questions and general guidelines.
Do you feel that you are physically or emotionally dependent on a substance? Have you been using it or several substances in considerable amounts for an extended period of time? Have you noticed that you must use significantly more of it now to achieve the same effect as compared to before? Have you tried to undergo detox on your own in the past before realizing that you are unable to without help?
Simply put, the greater you have built a tolerance to something, the more likely it that a medical detox will be necessary for your own safety and to increase the chances that you will otherwise be able to get past that step and towards the other ones that are necessary for a more lasting recovery.
Alcohol is a substance that is particularly susceptible to dangerous withdrawal symptoms if the user has had it be a significant part of their life for some time. This is partly because withdrawing from it puts the individual at significant risk of increased blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. In addition, delirium tremens can result in an irregular heart rate, shaking, sweating, hallucinations and confusion. This possible side effect, which generally lasts two or three days, is a particularly dangerous one to experience alone.
Withdrawing from benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Valium, can also cause symptoms similar to those experienced by individuals withdrawing from alcohol use. Also note that benzo users may experience prolonged withdrawal symptoms, sometimes even lasting years. However, the most severe ones tend to occur near the start of that time period, the initial several days after ceasing use. With that said, a medical detox, receiving professional help, will often limit those long-term effects as well.
Opioids, such as heroin, can cause severe withdrawal symptoms although they are usually not fatal. However, they can be severe enough that it can prove to be especially challenging for the individual to not relapse into reusing the substance so that they put a temporary end to these symptoms and, as a result, continuously delay any sort of recovery until long into the future, if ever. Withdrawal symptoms related to opioid use include flu-like ones, nausea, muscle aches, and anxiety.
Meanwhile, stimulants, such as cocaine or methamphetamine, can cause severe depression-like symptoms to those experiencing withdrawal from them, which may require professional assistance.
Of course, other substances will also cause a variety of withdrawal symptoms that should be accounted for. Some of them may not be severe, but many will be.
The Medical Detoxification Experience
One of the first steps that you would experience when undergoing a medical detox is a thorough evaluation. This is when the alcohol or drugs that you are or would be withdrawing from would be determined. However, the process is much more thorough than that. It would also look for any medical conditions, co-occurring disorders, such as mental illness, any other psychologically related factors, and the overall risks for experiencing differing withdrawal symptoms.
Simply put, the big picture will be assessed as well as the specifics of your drug or alcohol use.
Once you start undergoing the detox experience, you may be issued some medications to assist the process, to ease your experience some, both from a comfort standpoint and from a safety one.
Some of the more commonly prescribed medications are naltrexone, suboxone, and Vivitrol. They limit opioid withdrawal symptoms. Vivitrol is also commonly used for those adjusting to a cessation of alcohol use.
Regardless of if you are prescribed any medications or not, you will experience close medical supervision, regular monitoring of your vital signs, and a constant assessment of your withdrawal symptoms to ensure that they are all being responded to in the safest way possible. Your nutrition and hydration needs will also be carefully watched and determined.
The length of a medical detox experience will vary, depending on what substances were used, how much of them were used and the physical makeup of the individual, including as it relates to their body chemistry, genetic makeup, and body weight. However, it will generally last between a few days to a couple of weeks with most detoxes lasting about a week.
What Comes After Medical Detox?
It is important to keep in mind that detox will not treat the core issues that caused drug or alcohol dependency or alter your condition’s long-term course. You should also keep in mind that “detox” is a misnomer. A considerable percentage of the toxic substances that are in your body from extended alcohol or drug use will still be there after a medical detox has been completed.
So, this initial detox experience is a necessary first step, but much more needs to also occur for dependency on these substances to be significantly affected. A comprehensive treatment program that addresses the causes of any addictions, as well as their long-term physiological effects, will help changes become more long-lasting.
Generally, patients should transition immediately from medical detox to residential or hospitalized treatment. This is partly because relapsing is still a high risk at the vulnerable time that occurs in the days and weeks after a medical detox has been completed.
Taking Advantage of a Medical Detox
If you or a loved one is about to or is currently experiencing a detox situation, it is important to secure medical assistance to ensure that the experience is as safe as possible. Our compassionate, supportive, and knowledgeable team will do that for you. We will also work with you to look towards the future, to beyond this detox experience, as you look to get to the other side of this time in your life.
Contact us if you would like to learn more about what we can offer you.