Drug and alcohol addictions can be devastating. They can impact your work and social life and cause serious long-term health problems. Addiction also puts you at greater risk of a drug overdose, which can be fatal. Luckily, help and effective medical treatment are available to assist you in overcoming addiction and turning your life around.
Addiction recovery is a lifelong process that involves personal growth, learning new skills, and healing relationships with those around you. Everyone's recovery journey is different, but almost all begin with drug detox.
Drug detox is the process of removing all traces of a drug and its harmful toxins from your body. It helps you regain the energy, concentration, and good health that you may have lost to drug abuse, ensuring you are ready to fully engage in the rest of the recovery process. Detox also opens the door to a fulfilling life and the exciting future ahead of you.
Do I Need to Detox from Drugs?
If you are struggling with drug abuse or addiction, you probably need to start your recovery with drug detox. In general, detox is necessary for anyone who has become physically dependent on a substance.
Physical dependence develops after repeated drug or alcohol use as your body adjusts to the presence of the drug and its natural production of chemicals in response. If you go cold turkey or stop using the drug, you will be left with unbalanced chemicals and bodily functions, leading to various adverse side effects.
Can I Detox By Myself?
While detoxing by yourself may seem like a cheap and easy option, at-home detox can be hazardous. If unsupervised, drug detox can involve severe and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms such as respiratory depression, delirium tremens (DTs), and suicidal thoughts. For this reason, professional medical supervision is necessary to ensure your safety and to treat any symptoms as they arise.
Detoxing by yourself may also lead to stronger, more intense drug cravings, and a lack of support to cope with them. You may also be more likely to relapse and return to drug use during and after the detox process.
What Is Medically Supervised Detox?
A medically supervised detox offers professional medical support and expert care throughout the withdrawal process. Here, licensed medical professionals design an individualized detox plan that offers you the safest detox experience and the best chance of preventing relapse. This often involves gradually tapering off dosage rather than going cold-turkey.
Throughout a medical detox, doctors are on hand to provide medical intervention in the event of any complications. They may prescribe medicines to avoid or ease potentially painful withdrawal symptoms, reduce drug cravings, and help make the process as comfortable as possible. Psychologists can also provide mental and emotional support throughout the detox.
What Is the Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Detox?
Drug detox programs can be inpatient or outpatient. Inpatient detox involves a residential stay in a treatment center with twenty-four-hour doctor supervision, care, and support. An outpatient detox program allows you to remain at home and engage in everyday life, with regular visits to an addiction facility for check-ups and the prescription of medication.
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Addiction treatment centers can usually offer professional medical advice on what kind of medical detox you require. They may provide a free consultation and carry out an in-depth assessment of your addiction and history to determine the best option for you.
During an assessment, addiction treatment centers may consider:
- Your drug of choice - the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends inpatient treatment for alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids because of their severe withdrawal symptoms.
- Any co-occurring mental health disorders
- The last time you used drugs
- Duration of your substance abuse
- Your medical history
- Your access to support from friends and family
- Your home environment
What Is a Natural Detox?
A natural detox involves detoxing your body from drugs without medication. Instead, a safe and natural detox involves regular check-ups with medical professionals and complementary therapies like massage and yoga to support the process.
Natural drug detox may be appropriate for less severe cases of addiction and for drug withdrawals that do not carry the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms. Addiction treatment facilities should be able to offer advice on whether a natural detox is appropriate for you - but remember to ensure you have medical supervision throughout the process.
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What Are Some Medicines that Support Drug Detox?
During medical detox, the treatment team may prescribe you FDA-approved medications to help safely manage withdrawal symptoms as you detox your body from drugs. These could include:
- Benzodiazepines for alcohol addiction - Benzodiazepines can help treat severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as DTs, hallucinations, and seizures.
- Methadone for opioid addiction - Methadone can help reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings by binding to opioid receptors in the same way opioid drugs do without producing a high that reinforces addictive behaviors. It can also help support drug withdrawal and prevent relapse.
- Antidepressants for stimulant addiction - Antidepressants can help treat psychological symptoms of stimulant withdrawal, such as depression and agitation.
What Are Common Drug Withdrawal Symptoms?
As you detox from drugs, you can expect to experience a range of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms vary depending on the type of drug, whether you have a mild or severe addiction, and your biology and history. However, drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Aching muscles
- High blood pressure
- Excessive sweating
- Suicidal thoughts
What Are Some Strategies to Get Through Detox?
Detox can be difficult and tiring, but there are some things you can do to help you get through it. As well as seeking professional medical support, you can:
- Follow a nutritious diet - Eating healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables, protein, and healthy fats ensures your body gets the minerals and vitamins it needs to get through detox.
- Drink plenty of water - Withdrawal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea can leave you dehydrated. Make sure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Stay physically active - If you can, engage in gentle exercise during your detox. Exercise releases endorphins that can boost your mood and help you endure cravings without turning back to drugs.
- Use your support system - Detox is hard, and there is no shame in asking for help. Doctors and other medical professionals can offer expert emotional support and physical help. Your friends and family are also there for you - pick up the phone during difficult times for some extra encouragement or a distraction.
Read more: how to help someone detox at home
What Comes After Detox?
While finishing detox is something to celebrate, it is usually only the beginning of the recovery process. Substance abuse treatment involves identifying the underlying causes of substance use and developing the skills to overcome them. It requires holistic healing of the mind and body and sustained commitment to recovery.
Every individual is unique, and effective addiction treatment should reflect this. Substance addiction treatment centers usually offer various treatment options individualized to suit each client's needs. These treatment approaches may include:
- Individual counseling
- Group programming
- Support groups
- Family therapy
- Experiential therapy
- Complementary therapy
- Life-skills development
An effective detox program paves the way for the rest of treatment, providing you with energy and resources to focus on yourself and your recovery. It is the beginning of an exciting journey to lifelong sobriety.