One of the most important steps in drug and alcohol addiction treatment is medical detoxification, otherwise known simply as “detox.” Medical detox involves doctors and nurses closely monitoring you, observing your physical and/or psychological withdrawal symptoms.
Medical detox rids the body of toxins or residue leftover from drug or alcohol abuse. It is almost always necessary before engaging in any other recovery programs for certain substances. During the time of detox—usually lasting around five to seven days—you may be given medications to curb any withdrawal symptoms you may have.
Because it is the first step in recovery, medical detoxification plays a crucial role in the success of your full recovery from addiction and abuse. For this reason, it is absolutely imperative that you or a loved one seek a medical detoxification program with an experienced, licensed, and reputable team of medical personnel.
The continuum of care refers to treatment that clients enter at a level that matches their current needs. They will then step up to more intense levels of treatment or down to less intense channels as needed. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has established five primary standards in a continuum of care for substance abuse treatment, which includes:
The continuum of care determines where a client will enter treatment. Medical detoxification is a significant piece of the treatment process. However, it fails to address the root causes of addiction, and as a result, many will fail to remain sober if they only use medical detox.
During detox, clinicians will conduct a thorough assessment of their client that determines the next course of action. Anyone serious about sobriety must not take the path of attempting to quit cold-turkey.
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To avoid going through the medical detox at a recovery center, many of those struggling with addiction or constant drug abuse will attempt to detox themselves, usually in the form of “going cold turkey.” What cold turkey refers to is the abrupt stopping of taking a substance in an attempt to quickly kick the habit.
Quitting cold turkey is dangerous. For almost all physically addictive drugs, quitting cold turkey is not only ineffective but even counterproductive. Sudden cessation of a substance can result in severe withdrawal symptoms and is extremely unhealthy for the body.
Alcohol dependence is the second most common psychiatric disorder, second only to major depression. Many people suffering from alcohol dependency are aware of it, which is already a major step in the right direction. However, only a small fraction of people with alcohol problems will turn to treatment centers for help, and many try to quit by themselves by quitting cold turkey. You should never consider going cold turkey when it comes to alcohol dependency.
The bodies of daily and heavy drinkers will compensate for the sedative effects of alcohol by increasing the production of hormones and other chemicals in the body. Quitting cold turkey will cause overproduction of these chemicals, resulting in Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS).
Seizures are commonly the first sign of withdrawal, and when not treated, multiple seizures occur in 60 percent of people. Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal, as quitting cold turkey can cause brain damage, seizures, and heart palpitations.
The United States is in the middle of an opioid epidemic, and you may likely know someone who needs to seek professional help. Opioid addiction can form in as little as a few days; so many that are dependent still believe they are in “safe territory.”
Constant use of opioids such as heroin or morphine causes the brain to reprogram itself in such a way that the drug becomes the only way to experience pleasure. Metaphorically, it is similar to putting up a wall to lean on (taking the drug), and then suddenly not being able to lean on it anymore (quitting cold turkey).
The best way to remove the dependence on “the wall” is to slowly break it down in the form of detox and professional treatment.
Within a few days, minor symptoms of withdrawal start to show up. Anxiety, body aches, sweating, and insomnia are common. After another few days, cramping, vomiting, chills, and even hallucinations and seizures develop.
The biggest risk while suffering opioid withdrawal via cold turkey is relapse, and unless there are other complications, opioid withdrawal is not fatal.
Prescription drug abuse is one of the most difficult substance abuse cases to treat, so professional detox is a clear course of action. Long-term prescription drug abuse affects most of the systems within your body; withdrawal symptoms are almost always present and extremely severe.
Symptoms of quitting prescription drugs such as Xanax or Valium cold turkey include all of the above-listed symptoms, including diarrhea, body aches, hallucinations, seizures, and psychosis (dissociation).
These withdrawal symptoms are extremely strenuous both physically and psychologically and can last from several hours to several weeks. These symptoms can be life-threatening, and professional help is strongly recommended.
Stimulant detox is not considered deadly when comparing to benzodiazepines or alcohol, but it can cause suicidal thoughts in those attempting to stop using. Stimulants affect our body’s central nervous system (CNS) and increase neurotransmitter activity in our brain. Over time, the body will become reliant on stimulants to control cognitive functions and focus.
Withdrawal symptoms can take shape physically and psychologically and can range from moderate to severe. The psychological stage of withdrawal can be the worst part for most users, and it is this stage that can push someone to relapse. Former users can become violent and suicidal, which is why they are told to seek out professional help.
Initial withdrawal symptoms, also known as the crash, occur as the stimulants wear off. Some of these symptoms include:
Some of the more severe symptoms that can take place include:
As mentioned earlier, medical detoxification is an important step in recovering from past addictions. Out of the roughly 30 to 90 days it takes to finish addiction treatment, only about five to seven days are dedicated to detox. Because of its short duration, medical detoxification is generally much more intensive and thus critical to the success rate of full recovery.
At Arete Recovery, we provide the highest quality medical care during your detox process, and our 24-hour nursing staff works around the clock to supervise you and help in any way they can.
Once you begin your addiction recovery with Arete, you will receive safe and medically supervised detox if the substance requires it. From benzodiazepines to alcohol, we are excited to be a part of your recovery story.
We understand that other medical issues you may have can possibly interfere with your medical detoxification process (diabetes, hypertension, and other physical conditions). Because your steps to recovery are tailored to you specifically, we take these possible physical conditions into account. Detoxification is difficult, but our compassionate and dedicated staff will make it seem like a walk in the park just for you.
Our medical professionals, doctors, and nurses can evaluate you and your progress in detoxification, and for the next five to seven days, they will happily provide any ancillary services that you may need. Anything from diagnostic services to therapeutic services, Arete will provide whatever resources you may need to ensure the completion of full recovery.
After medical detoxification, you likely will be admitted to either our inpatient program or our residential program, both of which excel at treating substance abuse. Depending on how well the detoxification process went, and the severity of your case, Arete will recommend the program best for you.
The inpatient recovery program is more suited for a short-term recovery period (about 45 days), whereas the residential recovery program is more suited for a long-term recovery period (about 60 to 90-plus days).
Inpatient treatment programs are generally used to treat physical dependence on both a medical and clinical level. In transitioning from detoxification to inpatient, the same medical professionals will be on-call as you begin to tackle the clinical side of addiction treatment.
Highly trained and compassionate staff members will be there for you 24/7 to provide medical supervision and support while you go through our inpatient program. It is important to note that all inpatient programs have access to the benefits and resources available to those in the residential recovery program.
Similar to the inpatient program, the residential program eases you from detox to less intensive forms of treatment. The main difference between the two is that in the residential program, you are not constantly monitored by staff. At Arete Recovery, the residential recovery program is used to primarily focus on the reinsertion of the resident into society.
While in this program, you feel more like a resident than a patient. The residential program is generally used to treat psychological dependence, exploring the reasoning and possible treatments behind your addiction.
Once the client has achieved the difficult task of completing their treatment, they still face a tough road ahead. The world is not always a kind place, and no matter how much you’ve learned from your cognitive behavioral therapy inside the confines of treatment, it still can’t compare to what will happen outside of those walls. Many opt to commit themselves to ongoing care, which can include 12-step programs or sober living homes that help them transition back into society.
A sober living home is a drug and alcohol-free living environment for those attempting to maintain abstinence from drugs and alcohol. They do not offer formal treatment, but mandate or strongly encourage the residents to attend a 12-step group. Sober living homes are essential for those completing residential treatment, attending outpatient programs, or leaving incarceration that is seeking alternatives to formal treatment.
Twelve-step programs are designed to focus on five steps during primary treatment. The first of which starting in 1938 was AA. Many programs have since evolved due to the success of the 12-step approach, and continue to be a model that help keep individuals sober in times of need. Meetings are imperative for those in their early days of sobriety outside formal treatment and can place them with others going through the same process for validation.
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National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). 8: Medical detoxification. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification