Addiction Detox and Withdrawal

Detoxification refers to the process by which the body gets rid of drug toxins. It’s advised to detox in an addiction treatment facility or a detox centre because of the withdrawal symptoms that surface when you stop taking a drug can prove to be problematic. The symptoms may be highly uncomfortable or painful and can lead to a relapse.

The type of drug used, how long it was used and how it was used are all factors that can determine what your experience with detox will be like. During detox, medication is sometimes used to help keep the process as painless and comfortable as possible.

Types of Detox

Medically supervised detox: Also called medical detox or medically assisted detox, here, you’ll detox under the watchful eye of mental health and medical professionals. You’ll be monitored around the clock to ensure that you safely and comfortably get through detox without having to deal with medical complications or painful symptoms. Depending on the nature of your case, you may be given medication to control your cravings or ease the process.

Social or clinically managed detox: This strategy is non-medical and is only short-term. Depending on where you go for detox, you could simply be given a room in which to detox or you may also have professional support and peer encouragement for the duration of the detox process.

Advantages of Medical Detox

Medical detox is recommended by experts as the best way to detox because it provides:

  • Around-the-clock medical supervision, reducing your risk of suffering from medical complications or undue pain.
  • Substitute drugs, which are administered to take the place of the substance you have been addicted to. The goal is to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • A safe environment to detox in, where your chances of a relapse will be non-existent since you’ll have no access to drugs or alcohol.

Alcohol and drug detox at home can be dangerous. If you quit ‘cold turkey’, that is to suddenly stop using drugs or alcohol, you could experience serious complications such as severe dehydration and seizures. You might be able to pull it off if you haven’t been using the substance for long and are not physically or psychologically dependent, but, if this is not the case, you’ll be better off seeing your GP or a private rehab counsellor.

One of the dangers of home detox on your own is you that could relapse if the symptoms get too much to bear. A relapse could lead to an overdose, especially to overcompensate in the hope of dealing with the withdrawal symptoms more quickly. There’s also the factor of reduced tolerance, which tends to happen during this process.

Withdrawal Symptoms

During detox from drugs or alcohol, your system is forced to adjust to the absence of the substance you’ve been using. Being addicted or dependent means that your body and brain have become used to the drug or to the alcohol and have learnt to depend on them to function. Taking the substance away sends your body into a sort of frenzy as it tries to readjust to functioning without the aid of this substance.

This then manifests as withdrawal symptoms:

  • Coma
  • Seizure
  • Disorientation
  • Pain
  • Powerful cravings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Changes in appetite
  • Gastrointestinal distress such as diarrhoea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hypersomnia or insomnia

The withdrawal symptoms experienced differ from one substance to another and from one person to the next, but the above-mentioned symptoms are some of the more common ones.

Medications Used during Detox

The medications used during detox vary, depending on the drug you are detoxing from. Some of the drugs you could detox from and the medications used include:

For opiates

  • Buprenorphine; also an opiate effective as an opiate replacement.
  • Clonidine; an antihypertensive drug that helps with some opiate withdrawal symptoms.
  • Methadone; used as an opiate replacement since it’s longer-acting than a number of other opiates.
  • Naloxone; used in emergency cases of overdose, as it’s a complete opioid receptor antagonist.
  • Naltrexone; used to blunt some of the rewarding effects of opiates.

For alcohol

  • Acamprosate
  • Naltrexone
  • Disulfiram

For stimulants

Desipramine (Norpramin); an antidepressant that is effective for major symptoms of withdrawal.

The Detoxification Process

Your detox needs are different from that of any other person, but there are three major steps which detox typically involves:

Evaluation: The is the stage where you’ll be screened for any mental or physical health issues. You’ll do a blood test to enable the medical team to determine the level of drugs you have in your system and, in turn, how much medication you need if you need any.

Stabilisation: Following the tests, you’ll be stabilised with psychological and medical therapy to prevent any further harm. It’s at this stage that the previously considered medications are prescribed to reduce withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications.

Transitioning into treatment: In the final stage of detox, you’ll be familiarised with what to expect next from the treatment process. If you detox in a rehab facility, you could transition seamlessly into the treatment programme at the rehab, but, if you opt for a detox clinic, you may be given information on programmes you can continue with within other clinics in your preferred areas.

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Who Should Go to Detox?

Anyone who has become dependent on drugs or alcohol should go through detox. When you’re dependent on a substance, it means that your body has gotten used to having the substance, and you’ll feel like you have to take it in order to function normally. At this point, if you stop taking the drug, you’re likely to experience various physical and mental health symptoms which can be dangerous or at least highly uncomfortable.

You’ll benefit from medical detox if you don’t have much support at home, suffer from significant physical or mental health issues, or have had bad experiences with previous attempts at withdrawal. We advise going for medical detox if you’re dependent on:

  • Opioids such as morphine and heroin
  • Sedative or hypnotic drugs like benzodiazepines and barbiturates
  • Alcohol

Detoxification is a serious procedure, and it is better to at least consult with a medical professional about the possible complications. Overall, even if you cannot afford high-end detox clinics, there are NHS-sponsored opportunities; some private insurances also cover this kind of treatment.

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Call our admissions line 24 hours a day to get help.