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)
At-Home Detox Kits Aren’t EffectiveDetoxing 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 ProcessIn 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 DetoxUltra-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 DetoxThe 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