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What is Medical Detox?

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Why Is Detox Needed?

The Benefits of Medical Detoxification

Chronic substance abuse and addiction eventually result in harmful consequences to physical and psychological health. Addiction does not discriminate, and it knows no barriers, striking anyone at any time. Deciding to seek addiction treatment is one of the most difficult challenges someone struggling with addiction will voluntarily confront. Detox and withdrawal are challenging and often bring about some potentially dangerous side effects. Because of this, it is highly recommended that one does not detox alone or “cold turkey.”

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What Exactly is Medical Detox From Alcohol and Drugs?

When most addicts enter one of our top addiction treatment centers, detox is often the first (and vital) step in the process. Detox is necessary to cleanse the body of any substance that may remain. It is essential because one cannot fully immerse themselves successfully in a drug or alcohol addiction treatment program if they are still under the influence of their substance of choice. Although quitting “cold turkey” may seem more straightforward and less invasive, it is essential to remember that self-detox – especially from certain substances – can be dangerous and often leads to relapse. The severity of symptoms one may experience during detox are unique to the individual. There are various factors that influence the type and severity of symptoms, including how long they have been drinking or using, the type of substance they use, the amount they use, and if they have been through addiction treatment before. 

The medical detoxification process involves someone choosing to stop drinking or using drugs. During detox, the body learns how to function without substances. For many, the detox process, whether from drugs or alcohol, can be scary, unpleasant, and sometimes dangerous as it requires the person to experience a full range of withdrawal symptoms. While using or drinking, the body and brain become accustomed to functioning with a certain amount of an addictive substance in the body. When the substance levels get too low, cravings occur as the body or brain demands more, eventually resulting in the addict believing they need substances to function. During the medical detoxification process, the body is not getting these substances, no matter how intense the cravings may be.

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The Medical Detoxification Process: Symptoms

The withdrawal symptoms someone experiences during detox are typically unique to the type of drug they were taking, the duration of their addiction, and how often they used (or drank). However, there are some symptoms commonly associated with withdrawal that most people experience. These often include changes in appetite, altered mood or behavior, fatigue, restlessness and irritability, aches and pains, changes in sleeping patterns, and respiratory issues such as congestion or runny nose. Other common symptoms include sweating, shakiness, nausea, and vomiting. In some cases, more severe symptoms, including hallucinations, seizures, and delirium tremens (DTs), may also occur.

The symptoms most people experience will depend on the type of substance they were taking. There are several different drug types that can result in withdrawal. Some of these include antidepressants, barbiturates, cannabis, depressants, hallucinogens, inhalants, opioids, stimulants, and alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms for these and other substances are often the opposite of the effects of the substance of choice. As an example, alcohol is a depressant. It relaxes and slows functions in the body and within the central nervous system (the brain and related systems). When someone suddenly stops consuming alcohol, they often experience symptoms of overstimulation such as anxiety, restlessness, and excitability. The same holds true for stimulant drugs. When the presence of a stimulant drug is no longer present, the addict may experience depressive symptoms, including slowed heart and respiratory rates, depression, and lethargy.

The duration of withdrawal symptoms also links directly to the type of substance and the amount consumed. While the most severe physical withdrawal symptoms last between three and seven days, some can last up to two weeks. Withdrawal also produces intense mental health symptoms for some addicts. These symptoms, including anxiety and depression, can last far longer, in some cases weeks or months.

The Dangers of Detox

Why Can't I Just Quit On My Own at Home?

Whether mild or severe, withdrawal symptoms are part of the detox process for everyone who enters addiction treatment. For some, detox may be accompanied by mild symptoms that are easily managed without significant medical assistance or intervention. However, for others, the withdrawal process can bring about dangerous and even fatal symptoms and complications. Some of the more intense symptoms related to detox can quickly become unmanageable when detoxing alone, leading to relapse. This is especially common when detoxing from specific substances, including alcohol and opioids. For these reasons, choosing to detox alone may not be safe or beneficial. Let us help you find the best drug detox centers.

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How Detoxfication Works

Detoxing from Alcohol & Opioids

When detoxing from alcohol or opioids (such as heroin or prescription opioids including OxyContin), the withdrawal process can lead to potentially deadly complications. Although the most severe symptoms occur in a small percentage of cases (approximately ten percent), emergency assistance is essential to ensure safety. When someone chooses to detox alone, emergency assistance may not be provided in time. Some of the more severe withdrawal symptoms related to alcohol and opioid withdrawal can include seizures, delirium tremens (DTs), and psychological disturbances, leading to dangerous and erratic behaviors. Acute opioid and alcohol withdrawal can also bring about heart attack, stroke, and respiratory arrest. 

Detox and associated withdrawal symptoms do vary from person to person. The intensity and severity of the symptoms each person will experience depend significantly on several factors. At an addiction treatment center where medically assisted detox is provided, each person seeking treatment can expect full medical supervision throughout the detox process. Depending on the program, this may include the administration of medication to help manage and reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. Throughout detox, which can last up to a week in some cases, medical staff continually monitor vitals (including blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, and breathing) to ensure ongoing safety and reduce the chances of an acute medical emergency. Medically assisted detox aims to provide assistance with mental and physical stability while providing emotional and nutritional support during the earliest and most challenging days of treatment. Once the medical detox process is complete, patients will transition to an addiction treatment program that includes therapy, addiction education, and support while working towards sobriety and recovery.

Find the Best Detox Options for You

Discover the Best Alcohol Detox Centers in America

Medically supervised detox programs (whether in an inpatient, intensive outpatient, or partial hospitalization setting) provide the best and most successful path to sobriety. In a medically supervised detox setting where adequate treatment options, therapy models, and highly trained staff are available for ongoing support, the detox process can be more comfortable and successful than would be feasible when trying to “cold turkey” the detox process. At My Recovery, we can help you find the best alcohol detox center in your area where these much-needed services are available. While most addiction treatment centers provide some form of detox, medically assisted detox is not available at all rehabs or in all addiction treatment settings. 

Researching individual treatment centers in your area to determine if they have the services, benefits, and amenities that you require can be a daunting process. At our addiction help hotline, we have done the research work for you. If you are ready to seek addiction treatment, let the caring and compassionate staff at my recovery help you learn more about addiction treatment centers in your area that provide medically assisted detox services. We can help get you started on the path to sobriety today.

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