What Is Detox, and Who Needs to Go?
If you or a loved one has made the decision to seek substance abuse treatment, take a deep breath.
This is huge.
It’s the beginning of a new life, one free from the terror and pain of active addiction. It’s time to cast out the old life with all its misery and tears and promises. It’s scary, it’s wonderful, and it’s a million other things.
It’s going to be OK. You can do this.
Before you can go to addiction treatment, though, you may need to go to medical detox.
What is detox?
When you drink or use certain drugs regularly over a period of time, you become physically dependent on them. If you were to stop without medical supervision, you will suffer intense cravings and painful withdrawal symptoms.
In some cases, stopping abruptly is even deadly.
Detox is the process of safely separating the patient from those substances. It’s a medically supervised environment where doctors and nurses monitor the patient, prescribe medicine to combat withdrawal symptoms, and see that toxins are cleared from the body without danger.
When people talk about “going to detox,” they’re talking about going to a short-term inpatient program. This looks like:
- You’ll enter a detox facility for anywhere from 3 to 7 days
- A doctor will see you every day, and you’ll receive 24/7 supervision from nurses and healthcare techs
- Medicine will make you as comfortable as possible — although there is a measure of discomfort with the detoxification process that cannot be avoided.
There’s a second detox option known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This type of detox is for those addicted to alcohol and/or opiates. Under the care of a doctor, you’ll stop taking your drug of choice and begin taking a detox medication over several days or even a few weeks. You’ll taper off that maintenance medicine until you are substance-free.
Who needs to go to detox for addiction?
Medical detox is most important for those who have been abusing:
- Heroin, opioids, prescription pain medication
- Benzodiazepines and other sedatives — includes alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin) and diazepam (Valium)
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, withdrawal from stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine usually doesn’t involve medical danger. The agency goes on to say, however, that “if stimulant withdrawal predicts a poor outcome, it may be a reasonable target for clinical interventions.” In other words: If you feel you need medical assistance coming off these drugs, seek help.
Detox is just the first step of addiction treatment
Withdrawal symptoms may linger for weeks and up to a couple months. These may include:
- Anxiety and irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- General discomfort
Detox is vital; nothing worthwhile, treatment-wise, can be accomplished until the patient is free from drugs and alcohol. But it is just the first step. If not followed by evidence-based, long-term addiction treatment, there is very little hope of maintaining substantial recovery.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse agrees. On its website, it states:
“… medical detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug use. Although detoxification alone is rarely sufficient to help addicts achieve long-term abstinence, for some individuals it is a strongly indicated precursor to effective drug addiction treatment.
Call Us – We Help People Achieve Long-Term Recovery
Cornerstone Healing Center is an evidence-based, long-term addiction treatment center in Scottsdale, Arizona. We are founded by and almost exclusively staffed by addicts and alcoholics in recovery, and we are passionate about helping people find the freedom and joy that sobriety offers. If you or a loved one needs help, call us at 800-480-1781. Life can be beautiful again, and we can help you get there.