Detox, short for detoxification, is the necessary first step in drug and alcohol addiction treatment. It describes the period of time immediately after the patient stops taking their drug of choice when the body begins the process of flushing the drugs out the system. Depending upon a number of factors, this can be a very uncomfortable period, but with the right medical assistance and supervision, patients can get through it swiftly and safely.
It is important to note that detox is not a treatment for drug and alcohol dependence. Rather, it is the first step in a comprehensive drug rehabilitation program and must be followed by psychotherapeutic treatment in order to be effective for the long term.
What Are Withdrawal Symptoms?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), withdrawal symptoms associated with drug detox will depend upon the drug of choice. They may include:
- Bone aches and muscle pain
- Shaking or tremors
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Does Medication Help Ease Withdrawal Symptoms?
Depending upon your drug of choice, there may be medications that can help mitigate the withdrawal symptoms you experience. For example, if an opiate drug – like heroin or a prescription painkiller – is the drug of choice, then buprenorphine and methadone are two options in long-term detox. For alcohol detox, there are a number of different medications that can help to limit cravings and deter relapse. Not all medications are right for everyone, which is why it is important to choose a medically supervised detox program rather than attempt to “kick the habit” alone.
What Are the Risks Associated With Detox?
Because detox is defined by medical illness (e.g., withdrawal symptoms), it is generally not recommended to undergo the process at home alone. Particularly in the case of alcohol detox and opiate detox, there is the risk that medical complications may develop, especially if there are underlying health issues.
No matter what the drug of choice, however, the chance of relapse is high during the detox period due to the intensity of cravings. Because tolerance changes quickly, many patients take the same amount, or more, than they took during active addiction. Unfortunately, during the detox period, this dose can amount to too much and cause an overdose that can be deadly.
For these reasons, it is always recommended to undergo detox under the care of medical professionals who specialize in addiction treatment and detox.
Does Detox Treat Drug and Alcohol Dependence?
No. Drug detoxification is part of a comprehensive treatment for dependence upon illicit substances. It is the first step toward sobriety and a life free from the problems caused by addiction. However, most people develop a dependence upon drugs and alcohol for a reason: untreated mental health symptoms, trauma or other issues. It’s important to undergo intensive psychotherapeutic treatment in order to address those problems and learn how to manage them so they are no longer a trigger for relapse.
Does Everyone Need Detox?
Most patients require some medical or psychotherapeutic attention during the detox period, but not everyone will experience physical withdrawal symptoms. The experience of physical withdrawal symptoms are generally based on:
- Drug of choice
- The amount of the “regular” dose at the time of detox
- Other drugs used frequently
- Co-occurring mental health issues
- Co-occurring medical issues
If you would like more information about the detox options available to you or your loved one, contact us at Futures of Palm Beach today.