Detox is a well-known part of addiction treatment, but many myths surround the process. These myths can stop people from checking into a detox facility or prevent people from properly engaging in treatment once it is finished. In this blog, we answer some important questions to give you the truth about detox.
When Do You Need a Medically Assisted Detox?
Medical detoxification, or detox, is often the first stage of the recovery journey. It involves removing all traces of a substance and its toxins from your body under the supervision of medical professionals.
You usually need a medically assisted detox if you have become physically dependent on a drug or alcohol. When you repeatedly use a substance over time, your body gets used to the presence of the substance in the body and adjusts its natural functions accordingly. If you suddenly stop taking the substance, you experience a series of withdrawal symptoms as your body readjusts.
Withdrawal symptoms, if unmanaged, can be extremely dangerous as well as uncomfortable, and medical support is crucial to ensure your safety. So, if you are considering detoxing by yourself, it’s advisable to think again. The detox period also often comes with many strong cravings, which may cause you to return to drug or alcohol use if you are in an unsupported environment.
During medical detox, licensed professionals can prescribe medication like methadone and naltrexone for opioid addiction and acamprosate for alcohol addiction. These medications can help ease symptoms and reduce cravings to make withdrawal as comfortable as possible.
What Is The Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Detox?
Many people assume that you have to take a total break from your life to undergo detox. However, it is safe and effective in some circumstances to attend an outpatient detox program, where you detox while continuing to live your daily life. Outpatient programs typically involve regular visits to a treatment facility for medical check-ups and advice, alongside an individualized detoxification plan designed by licensed professionals.
In other cases, however, twenty-four-hour medical supervision is necessary to manage withdrawal symptoms safely. Inpatient detox programs tend to last between one and three weeks, depending on the nature and intensity of someone’s symptoms. During inpatient detox, a doctor is always close by to support the withdrawal process, prescribe medication, and ensure your safety.
Whether or not you require inpatient detox depends on several factors, including:
- the length of substance abuse
- the last time you took drugs
- your drug of choice - SAMSHA recommends 24-hour inpatient detox for withdrawal from alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids
- past attempts at sobriety and detoxification
- your medical history
- your mental health
- whether you have support from friends or family members at home
Addiction treatment specialists and other medical professionals will advise you on which kind of detox to attend so you can make the right choice for you.
Is Detox Alone an Effective Addiction Treatment?
While detox is often an essential first step in the recovery process, it is not an effective treatment by itself. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, although medically assisted detox can help safely manage acute withdrawal symptoms and open the door to long-term addiction treatment, it is rarely sufficient to change long-term drug abuse on its own.
Addiction is a complex disease caused by changes in the brain that can produce urges to use a substance after long periods of abstinence. Recovering from addiction involves making meaningful long-term changes to thought and behavioral patterns to overcome the underlying causes of addictive behavior and learn to cope or avoid these urges. Effective treatment tends to involve numerous approaches, including counseling, behavioral therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy, and attending support group meetings.
Medically assisted detox alone may help you remain sober in the short term but does nothing to stop old habits and behaviors from reappearing. You must continue addiction treatment after detox so you can maintain abstinence in the long run and journey towards a life free from addiction.