If you or a loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol, a medical detoxification may be necessary before entering a residential addiction treatment facility. The following drugs require a medical detox:
- Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Ativan, etc)
- Prescription Opioids (Morphine, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Oxymorphone, etc)
It is important to never attempt to detox from any of the drugs mentioned above on your own. Alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal can cause seizures resulting in death. At The Bluffs, we provide a supervised medical detoxification in a comfortable environment.
Definition Of Detoxification
Detoxification is defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as, “a set of interventions aimed at managing acute intoxication and withdrawal. It denotes a clearing of toxins from the body of the patient who is acutely intoxicated and/or dependent on substances of abuse. Detoxification seeks to minimize the physical harm caused by the abuse of substances.”
Common Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
When a person begins detoxing from drugs or alcohol, they may experience mild, moderate or even severe withdrawal symptoms. These can be painful to cope with. This causes individuals to want to use their drug of choice, so they won’t feel uncomfortable. The U.S. National Library of Medicine, states some of the most common withdrawal symptoms are:
- Anxiety or Nervousness
- Jumpiness or Shakiness
- Mood Swings
- Not thinking clearly
- Clammy Skin
- Enlarged Pupils
- Loss of Appetite
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Rapid Heart Rate
During alcohol withdrawals, a person might experience delirium tremens which can be terrifying and dangerous to fight alone. Delirium tremens can include serious confusion, seizures, night terrors and hallucinations.
Guidelines To A Successful Detoxification
Most stages of treatment have principals, training and other assumptions which need to be followed by the professionals in order for said treatment to work properly. Detoxification is no different. Here are some guiding principles from SAMHSA for conducting a medical detoxification:
- Detoxification services do not offer a “cure” for substance use disorders; they are often a first step toward recovery and a “first door” through which patients pass to treatment.
- Substance use disorders are treatable and there is hope for recovery.
- Substance use disorders are brain disorders and not evidence of moral weakness.
- Patients should be treated with respect and dignity at all times.
- Patients should be treated in a nonjudgmental and supportive manner.
- Services planning should be completed in partnership with the patient and his or her social support network, including family, significant others, or employers.
- All health professionals involved in the care of the patient will maximize opportunities to promote rehabilitation and maintenance activities and to link the patient to appropriate substance abuse treatment immediately after the detoxification phase.
- Active involvement of the family and other support systems, while respecting the patient’s right to privacy and confidentiality, are to be encouraged.
- Patients should be treated with due consideration for individual background, culture, preferences, sexual orientation, disability, vulnerabilities, and strengths.
Stages Of Detoxification
Cleaning a drug out of one’s system can be as simple as a change of diet, substantial fluid intake and rest. The problem occurs when a person starts having serious withdrawals. When someone starts coming off of a drug like heroin or alcohol, they might not be able to hold down food or water and potentially even go into seizures.
The initial stage of detox is definitely the least enjoyable part. While the withdrawals peak, drug cravings will be at an all time high and it might feel like someone knocked you in the head with hammer. In a detoxification center, staff will be on call to provide comfort, vitamins and potentially medication to help with the withdrawal process.
After an unpleasant introduction to drug withdrawal, a person can start to taper off of the worst part of detox. The cravings won’t necessarily be gone, but the physical withdrawal will be. In fact the cravings can pop-up years after a person has stopped using drugs. As they completely get the drug out of their system, the detox professionals can begin to evaluate needs and slowly phase into therapy. Typically, the second stage of detoxification takes place in an inpatient rehab center.
Sometimes a medication will be helpful during detoxification. What exactly does that mean? Well there are certain drugs like opioids where the withdrawals can be severe and a patient is unable to get to the root of the problem because of the withdrawal symptoms. A proper medication-assisted therapy “combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance use disorders” (SAMHSA).
Medication shouldn’t be the first option but should be used when absolutely necessary. It’s designed to help a person through the withdrawal process, and then they’re weaned off of the medicine; however in some cases a person will continue Buprenorphine (Suboxone) regimen for an extended period to prevent relapse. Some active drugs used during the withdrawal process can be:
- Opiate withdrawal – buprenorphine and naloxone. naltrexone
- Alcohol withdrawal – Naltrexone, disulfiram and acamprosate
Is A Residential Detoxification Necessary For Alcohol?
From the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “the decision whether patients with acute alcohol withdrawal need admission depends on a variety of factors. The first consideration would be the effectiveness of a hospital admission for medically-assisted withdrawal from alcohol; not only in managing the acute condition, but also in terms of facilitating long term abstinence… The second would be the risks involved with discharging the patient with a view to subsequent admission for elective withdrawal versus an immediate admission to complete the withdrawal process.”
When Is A Residential Detoxification Important?
A medically supervised detoxification can be the difference of withdrawals lasting one week or longer. It can also make withdrawal symptoms less severe. If a person quits using drugs, a detoxification is going to happen no matter what, but speeding up the process and learning some healthy habits along the way can’t hurt. In order for a person to physically overcome an addiction it seems less likely to end in relapse when conducted in a detox center.
Is It Possible To Detox At Home?
Detoxification from alcohol and benzodiazepines should never be attempted at home due to the dangerous seizures that accompany withdrawal. While it is not possible to die from withdrawal to opioids alone, a supervised medical detoxification is recommended followed by an inpatient addiction treatment program.
Detoxification Is The Beginning Of Treatment
“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” (NIDA). Everything has to start somewhere and although admission of a problem is generally the first step to recovery, treatment starts with detoxification. The process usually lasts about a week or two, but that doesn’t mean that a person needs to stop taking care of his or herself after detox.
More About Treatment Of Substance Use Disorders
Substance use disorders occur when a person uses a drug or alcohol any way other than it’s intended purpose. Addiction and alcoholism are better understood as chronic relapsing diseases, where a person continues using drugs or alcohol, even after negative consequences have taken place.
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Just remember that someone who’s suffering from an addiction is sick and need as much love and support as they can get. Small acts of kindness can go a long way for someone who’s scared, alone and uncertain of their future because of an addiction. A successful addiction treatment often includes takes place at an inpatient rehab center. Treatment will often aid a person with behavioral therapies, stress management, contingency management, relapse prevention, individual and group counseling, aftercare support and other treatment modalities.
How Many People Go To Treatment?
From the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “23.5 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem in 2009… Of these, only 2.6 million—11.2 percent of those who needed treatment—received it at a specialty facility.” Deciding whether you need help for an addiction can be difficult, and oftentimes fear and shame will decide whether a person seeks treatment.
Start Your Recovery Journey At The Bluffs
At The Bluffs, there is no judgement—we simply want to help you achieve a healthy and happy recovery. We can help you clear your body and mind of the chemicals and scars left behind from an addiction. If you’re having a hard time quitting drugs or alcohol on your own, you aren’t alone. Contact us today to find out where to start. Treatment can change your life and it all starts with detoxification.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Treatment Statistics
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction: What Science Says
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Medication-Assisted Therapy
- U.S. National Library of Medicine — Acute Alcohol Withdrawal
- U.S. National Library of Medicine — Alcohol Withdrawal