Drug detoxification, or detox, is the first step in a comprehensive rehabilitation program that offers all the tools required for recovery. Detox can prevent unpleasant or fatal consequences resulting from sudden cessation of use and can aid the patient in becoming abstinent from drugs. The goal of any detox program is physiological healing after long-term drug addiction – first through stabilization, then through a period of detoxification. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), after stabilization the focus of detox shifts to the monitoring and support of the various processes of the body as it rids itself of the drug, and to the managing the often unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that result. No matter what the drug, a professionally supervised, medication assisted detox is often the safest choice, especially when co-occurring mental health disorders are an issue. On rare occasions, withdrawal symptoms can lead to complications and serious health issues that require immediate medical attention.
For this reason, it is rarely recommended that patients attempt detox at home when significant substance abuse issues are present. Instead, enrollment at an inpatient detox program that provides 24-hour assistance if necessary, ongoing monitoring of vitals and symptoms, and a therapeutic follow-up program is recommended.
The Process of Detoxification
Everyone’s detox needs are different. The drug detox process helps addicted people get personalized treatment. In most cases, the process involves three steps.
The clinical team screens incoming patients for physical and mental health issues. This helps determine the level of assistance needed. There is also a comprehensive review of drug, medical and psychiatric histories. This information sets up the basis for the patient’s long-term treatment plan.
The next step is to stabilize the patient with medication assistance and psychological therapy. The goal of stabilization is to prevent any form of harm to the patient. Doctors can prescribe addiction treatment medications to prevent complications and reduce withdrawal symptoms.
Preparing Entry into Treatment
The final step of detox is preparation for a treatment program. The clinical team familiarize their patients with the treatment process and what to expect. Inpatient treatment offers the best chances of success after detox. If detox takes place in an inpatient program, this last step is crucial to keep patients on track.
Addictive substances change the body’s physical and psychological functioning. Over time, most individuals experience a level of dependence on the substance and suffer if they can’t access another dose. Even caffeine requires detox. Alcohol and harder drugs like prescription painkillers and cocaine may require detox before a person can begin the psychological healing process.
Types Of Drugs And General Detox Timeframes
- One class of drugs includes medications such as Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium. Depending on the individual, withdrawal symptoms may appear as soon as one day or within a week of abstinence. During the first two weeks of detox, an individual may experience the most serious withdrawal symptoms. Common symptoms patients can expect to experience include increased anxiety, insomnia, headache, tension, nausea, difficulty focusing, high blood pressure, and heart palpitations.
- Another class of drugs includes Cocaine and other stimulants. Stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines tend to enter and leave the bloodstream quickly. The high an individual experiences typically doesn’t last long, and addiction patterns often involve bingeing on the substance.
- Alcohol withdrawal can cause serious symptoms that may require emergency medical treatment. Symptoms may last anywhere from a few days to several weeks or months at a time, depending on the individual. Serious withdrawal symptoms are more likely to appear in individuals who drink a pint of hard liquor, 4-5 pints of wine, or 7-8 pints of beer on a daily basis over an extended period of time.
- Heroin and prescription-strength pain relievers. Opioid withdrawal from substances such as heroin, oxycodone, Percocet, and methadone may last anywhere from a few hours to several days or weeks. The worst symptoms typically arise within two days of abstinence. Symptoms often include dilated pupils, intense drug cravings, stomach upset, nausea, body aches, and agitation.
- Genetic makeup
- General health and mental wellness
- The timeframe of abuse
- The method of ingestion
- The amount of substance taken with each dose
- Environmental factors