The fastest, safest, most efficient way to get drugs out of your system is by undergoing a medical detox in a specialized rehab facility. Detox is the process in which a person who is dependent on substances is assisted in clearing their bodies of drugs and alcohol. Rehab facilities can help relieve cravings and the side effects of withdrawal and prepare people for long-term abstinence.
Medical detox is the first step in the rehab process for recovery from drug abuse and addiction. It is most effective when followed up with behavioral therapy, counseling, medication, and continued support. Moreover, medical detox does not address the underlying behavioral, environmental, or genetic causes of addiction. It should be used as part of a broader, more comprehensive rehab program that also includes various other treatment modalities.
Who Benefits From Medical Detox?
When a person abuses drugs or alcohol for a prolonged period, his or her body can develop a dependence on the substance. The brain and body grow accustomed to the presence of a drug and how it affects it, and it adapts to the extent that it no longer functions normally without it. When the person tries to quit using, this results in adverse effects including cravings, headache, moodiness, aches and pains, vomiting, and a myriad of other withdrawal symptoms.
Cravings and withdrawal symptoms make it challenging for people to abstain from their drug of choice. Fortunately, medical detox can help patients get through withdrawal safely. Over time, the body readjusts and begins to function without the drug, and the cravings subside.
Examples of drugs that can lead to dependency that requires supervised detox include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Opioids (e.g., oxycodone, heroin)
- Benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax, Valium)
- Stimulants (e.g., Adderall, cocaine, meth, MDMA)
- Synthetic drugs (e.g., Spice, bath salts)
Recovering from addiction can be challenging and even dangerous without professional help. A supervised detox increases a patient’s likelihood of achieving long-term sobriety and offers a safe environment during the few days of withdrawal.
At-Home Detox Kits Aren’t Effective
Detoxing at home without medical support or using untested products is risky. If you are legitimately trying to abstain, it’s highly unlikely that detox kits will do much to reduce the symptoms of withdrawals or cravings.
Medications designed to help you overcome addiction are usually FDA-approved and prescribed by trained physicians, many who specialize in addiction. You will not be able to find any clinically-proven cures on the Internet or in stores.
The highest demand for drug detox kits are individuals attempting to pass drug tests for employment or legal purposes. The most common kits include detox drinks or pills that contain ingredients such as vitamin C, niacin, lecithin, goldenseal, and a combination of herbs. However, research has shown that none of these ingredients help to facilitate the drug detox process.
The Medical Detox Process
In general, medical detox is a three-step process that includes evaluation, stabilization, and preparation for long-term treatment. People may also undergo therapy sessions or attend support group meetings during this time, but these are ancillary treatments and are not required during detox.
Evaluation – Evaluation typically involves a questionnaire, physical exam, blood tests, and a screening for co-existing mental health or medical conditions. Therapists will examine the person’s psychological state and identify the strength of their support system, and an addiction specialist will devise a treatment plan built around all this information.
Stabilization – Stabilization is the process in which patients discontinue substance use, and health providers help them achieve a medically stable condition. Medication can be used to relieve withdrawal symptoms for some drugs, including alcohol and opioids. The duration and severity of withdrawal depend on the severity of the addiction and individual factors. Stabilization time can vary, but lasts around two weeks, on average.
Preparation – Patients should be prepared to undergo additional treatment after detox. Although the most uncomfortable physical effects of recovery usually occur during detox, this process does not prepare patients for the emotional challenges they will face afterward. Health professionals need to educate patients about the importance of beginning a long-term program that can help increase their chances of staying in recovery for as long as possible.
Quitting Abruptly or “Cold Turkey”
Trying to quit cold turkey is probably the most common method people who are addicted to alcohol or other drugs use to achieve abstinence. The cold-turkey strategy can be dangerous, however, when someone is chemically dependent on a substance. Compared to tapering or slowly reducing consumption, withdrawal symptoms can be much more painful using this method. Furthermore, if someone has a severe dependency on alcohol or benzodiazepines, quitting abruptly can be lethal.
Ultra-rapid detox involves sedating individuals while administering a medication that facilitates rapid withdrawal. It was developed specifically to help people addicted to opioids, with the idea being that patients are allowed to sleep through the worst stage of withdrawal.
However, several studies have found that ultra-rapid detox doesn’t do much to ease withdrawal and results in risks to the patient. Moreover, when the patient awakens, he or she will continue to experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those who didn’t receive treatment. The method does not appear to accelerate the process, and patients with pre-existing medical conditions may be a higher risk of complications.
Medications Administered During Detox
The purpose of medication-assisted treatment is to relieve withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and make the patient feel as comfortable as possible. A physician and other health staff oversee the process.
Most medications address the side effects of withdrawal, such as headaches, fever, nausea, seizures, and tremors. There are no medications that increase the body’s ability to eliminate drugs, but some medications can also reduce cravings.
Examples of such treatments include the following:
How Long Does the Detox Process Take?
The duration of the detox process is different for everyone. Several factors can influence the length of the process, including the following:
- Substance(s) of abuse
- Duration of abuse and addiction
- Co-occurring conditions
- Overall health status
- Biological factors and family history
- Age and weight
Patients typically experience the most severe effects of withdrawal during the first few days of detox. Early symptoms of withdrawal include several physical effects, such as diarrhea, vomiting, muscle aches and pain, fever, and tremors. Fortunately, medication can relieve many of these effects.
Unfortunately, however, psycho-emotional side effects can persist for weeks or months. Symptoms commonly include depression, anxiety, irritability, and insomnia. Health providers typically use a combination of medication and psychotherapy to help patients manage the psychological symptoms related to long-term sobriety.
Recovery After Detox
People who are recovering from addiction are much less likely to sustain long-term sobriety if they refuse to undergo treatment following detox. Moreover, relapse rates are much lower for those who attend therapy sessions, participate in support groups or access other forms of aftercare support. Even still, relapse is a common occurrence on the path to recovery. People who do so should not be ashamed or afraid to return to a detox or rehab facility in the event they relapse. In fact, this is the best way to get back to basics and re-engage in recovery.
Get Help Today
Harmony Recovery Center specializes in treatment for drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. We offer a full spectrum of services, including outpatient detox, partial hospitalization, and outpatient programs.
If you are ready to begin your journey to long-lasting sobriety, contact us today. Discover how we can help you down that road—one step at a time!