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Drug Detox Programs

Drug Detox Programs

In order to successfully end the abuse of alcohol or drugs, people must first give their bodies a fresh start by getting the substances they use out of their system. This is done through drug detoxification, which is a medically-assisted treatment that helps patients weather the changes the body goes through when it can no longer receive the drug it craves. When combined with counseling that addresses the specific issues a patient is dealing with, detox can help people begin a sober lifestyle and reduce the chances of relapse.

This guide provides information on the detoxification process, including what kinds of medications are used, how long treatment lasts, where detox can be obtained, and how medications used in treatment affect the body.

Expert

Lisa Bahar
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In order to successfully end the abuse of alcohol or drugs, people must first give their bodies a fresh start by getting the substances they use out of their system. This is done through drug detoxification, which is a medically-assisted treatment that helps patients weather the changes the body goes through when it can no longer receive the drug it craves. When combined with counseling that addresses the specific issues a patient is dealing with, detox can help people begin a sober lifestyle and reduce the chances of relapse.

This guide provides information on the detoxification process, including what kinds of medications are used, how long treatment lasts, where detox can be obtained, and how medications used in treatment affect the body.

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Fast Facts: Drug Detoxification

Medications are used in 80 percent of detoxifications. (Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse)

When patients go through the drug detoxification process, they are not just undergoing physical changes. The withdrawal they are experiencing can also cause psychological and emotional problems, so professionals in a rehab facility are trained to help patients’ physical and emotional responses to detox. (Source: National Institutes of Health)

When medication-assisted treatment is used on those addicted to opioids, it decreases criminal activity, transmission of infectious diseases, and overdose deaths. (Source : National Institute on Drug Abuse)

For the best results, medical professionals combine detox from drugs with behavioral therapy. In fact, when patients receive medicinal treatments for their addiction, they are more likely to remain in therapy than those who don’t. (Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse)

Sometimes patients who are receiving drug detoxification treatments may be given additional medications to treat their co-occurring medical or psychiatric issues, such as depression, infectious diseases, and cardiovascular disorders. (Source: National Institutes of Health)

The types of medications that are used in detox programs depend on the specific substances patients are addicted to. For example, those who are addicted to opioids receive buprenorphine or methadone, while patients addicted to alcohol may receive gabapentin or antabuse. (Source: New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services)

What Is Drug Detox?

When those who are addicted to alcohol and drugs go into treatment, generally detoxification is the first step in the process. Detox is designed to remove substances from a patient’s body, as well as help them cope with the physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms that can have severe side effects—including muscles spasms, stomach cramps, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Once the drugs are removed from the body, patients go on to participate in behavioral therapy designed to address the triggers that make them crave drugs, heal from the pain of past negative experiences, and develop healthy habits they need to live a clean and sober life.

Although many patients undergo the detoxification process when they check into a drug rehab facility, this treatment can also be administered in a physician’s office, emergency room, mental health facility, or acute care center.

The Benefits of Drug Detox Programs

Some people who want to quit using drugs or alcohol may think they can stop on their own. Although going cold turkey may sound like a good idea, it can be extremely dangerous. Going through withdrawal symptoms without medical assistance can lead to several complications, such as severe dehydration. In some cases, trying to quit drugs and alcohol cold turkey can even cause death.

Also, those who think they can get over their addictions without the help of medical professionals may buy home drug detox kits. This is also a bad idea because these kits do not provide the total care people with addictions need to get the best outcomes. Although detox kits do provide medications, in order to achieve long-term sobriety, people also need therapy that helps them deal with the emotional and psychological ramifications of drug or alcohol abuse. In addition, home drug detox kits are a one-size-fits-all product that does not take into consideration the types of drugs that people used, the co-occurring health problems they may have, and the length of time they were using—which means that those who use these kits are not receiving the additional medications they need to have a safe and successful detoxification.

As a result, the best option is to undergo detoxification under the supervision of a medical professional. In addition to overall safety, the following are some benefits to getting this type of treatment:

  • Medical professionals are available in case something goes wrong
  • Treatment methods can be adjusted based on how patients are responding to the detox medications
  • Medications are offered that are specifically designed to prevent a relapse
  • Staff members know how to deal with people who have had previous drug overdoses
  • Getting detox in a rehab facility takes patients away from the stressors of their regular environment

How Detox from Drugs Works

Detoxification is a systematic process that begins with an evaluation, which is designed to give medical professionals an idea of the type of individualized treatment patients will need. During this step in the process, doctors find out what type of substances patients have been using, how long they have been abusing them, and how much of the substance they consume. In addition, doctors determine if patients have medical and mental health issues that also need to be addressed while getting treatment.

The second stage of detoxification is stabilization, where patients receive medications to get drugs and alcohol out of their body and alleviate the withdrawal symptoms they’re experiencing. The length of time stabilization takes depends on the type of drug that was being used and intensity of the withdrawal symptoms.

During the last phase of the detoxification procedure, which is the entry into rehab stage, patients agree to participate in the next part of their treatment. In order to demonstrate their commitment to sobriety, patients may be required to sign a contract stating that they will participate in the treatment program the doctor recommends and do everything that is required of them during their recovery.

There are different types of detox that patients can go through, depending on their specific needs. The following are some types of detoxification treatment.

Inpatient. For many patients, inpatient treatment is the best choice because staying in a residential facility gives them time away from their triggers. In addition, people who experience severe withdrawal symptoms benefit from having medical staff nearby to assist them at any time during the day or night.

Outpatient. Patients who do not have severe addictions, or are unable to check into a residential facility, may participate in outpatient treatment. This allows them to check into the program regularly as they go through detox.

Opioid. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid addiction has reached epidemic levels around the country. In fact, six out of ten overdose deaths in the United States are caused by some kind of opioid. As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved medications specifically for patients who need to detox from this class of drugs. The kind of medications used depends on whether the opioid is long- or short-lasting, which dictates when patients experience withdrawal symptoms after the drugs were last ingested.

Alcohol. As with different types of drugs, detox from alcohol requires specific medications. The treatment is based on the severity of the addiction, which can result in a range of withdrawal symptoms from mild physical responses to severe delirium tremens.

What Happens After Detox?

Detox is just the first step on the road to becoming sober. After patients complete the detox process, they generally begin therapy, which can be conducted in an individual or group setting. During therapy sessions, patients address problems in their past—which may include abuse—as well as the behaviors they can change in order to deal with life’s difficulties in a healthier way. In addition, therapy may also include patients’ family members to address how addiction has affected the dynamics at home.

Also, patients may receive additional support to live a healthy lifestyle, such as life skills, nutrition, job skills, and relationship classes. After finishing treatment in a rehab facility, patients are encouraged to participate in outpatient programs that give them the tools they need to handle their daily lives without turning to drugs and alcohol to cope.

FAQs about Detox

  • Is detox really necessary?

    In order to safely get substances out of their system, people should undergo detoxification that is supervised by a medical professional.

  • Who should go through detox?

    People who have a dependence on substances can benefit from detox. Patients do not have to be under the influence to receive this treatment.

  • How long does the detoxification process take?

    The length of the detoxification process depends on the type of substance that patients abuse. Generally, however, detox can take five to seven days.

  • What happens during detox?

    During the detoxification process, patients receive medications designed to get the substances out of their system and help them deal with the cravings they may experience.

  • Is someone cured of their addiction after finishing detoxification?

    Detox is just the first step in the process of becoming clean and sober. After detoxification is complete, patients generally go through therapy, as well as receive treatment for any co-occurring conditions like depression or anxiety.

Q&A with a Detox Expert

Lisa Bahar (www.lisabahar.com) is a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed professional clinical counselor located in Newport Beach and Laguna Niguel, California. She works with individuals, couples, and families. She is also part of the Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women.

Lisa is a contributor to many national and international news publications, where she provides her insights and guidance to readers on relationships, mental health, and how to achieve overall well-being.

  • Why is it important for people with addiction issues to go through the detox process?

    Addiction has a medical aspect to it that needs to be treated accordingly. When using an external substance that has created a dependency, “chemical dependency” standard of care indicates to have a medical doctor evaluate and monitor the physical aspects of detoxification from the substance.

  • How does detox affect patients?

    It depends on the severity of the use and the individual’s overall health. Psychologically, there is generally agitation, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and lack of motivation and willingness. In some cases, blaming may occur, projection, and denial defenses that psychologically generally occur.

  • What can patients expect during the detox process?

    In these times, doctors have ways to detox a client in a way that is hopefully dignified and has the least amount of discomfort, however the reality is that the body is having something taken away from it that has created a high or has perhaps, based on the tolerance level, warded off symptoms of detox. Therefore, it is generally uncomfortable, however endurable.

  • How long does the detox process take to complete?

    From a general treatment point of view, it depends on the drug and the severity of the use.

  • Can people with addiction issues successfully quit using drugs or alcohol without going through detox?

    It is not advised. Always good to see your doctor and make a medically informed decision on detox.