Across the United States, there are a number of different drug rehab programs helping individuals break the cycle of addiction. Each one of these facilities has their own treatment style and philosophy. What an individual experiences at one may be vastly different from another recovering drug addict’s experience elsewhere. That being said, there is one process common to almost every drug addiction treatment program in the country: drug detoxification.
What Is Drug Detox?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug detoxification (or “detox”) is the process of removing the drug from the body. During this process, medications may be administered by doctors or nurses to manage the severity of the withdrawal symptoms that many addicts experience during detox. Different drugs contain different toxins; therefore, the experience of detox may differ depending on the type of addiction in question.
Withdrawal Symptoms Associated With Detox
There are a number of intense withdrawal symptoms that individuals report experiencing when they go through the detox process. These symptoms can be either physical or psychological in nature, and vary according to a number of different factors including:
- How long the individual has been addicted to the drug
- Whether or not the individual was addicted to more than one drug
- The amount of drugs that the individual used per day
- The physiological makeup of the individual
Among the most common physical detox withdrawal symptoms are:
- Achiness (aching joints or extremities)
- Chills and sweats (the individual feels as if he or she has the flu)
- Nausea (another flu-like symptoms)
- Restless leg syndrome
In addition to these physical conditions, there are also a number of psychological withdrawal symptoms associated with detoxification, including:
- Irritability and mood swings
Why Do These Withdrawal Symptoms Occur?
Drugs – especially opiates such as heroin or Vicodin – play a cruel joke on the human body. To put it simply, when an individual uses drugs, the substance helps create additional “good feelings” in the body. Over time, the human body recognizes this fact and stops making these feel-good chemicals on its own. By the time detox becomes necessary, the body has temporarily forgotten how to produce positive sensations. As a result, the individual experiences uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms during detox. After detox, the body usually reaches a renewed state of balance, and the withdrawal symptoms mitigate over a period of days to weeks.
How Long Do Withdrawal Symptoms From Detox Last?
The length and intensity of detox withdrawal depend a lot on the individual and the seriousness of their condition. For most people, withdrawal symptoms have their onset 24 to 48 hours after the last time the individual has used drugs. From there, symptoms can last anywhere from two days to two weeks. Again, this depends upon how long the individual has been abusing drugs and how much of the substance they generally ingested in a given day.
Natural Treatment for Drug Addiction
Natural detox is still a popular form of overcoming one’s physical addiction to drugs. Natural means going “cold turkey” and completely ceasing the use of drugs. While this sounds great in theory, suddenly stopping drug use can actually have serious consequences and can even be life threatening. For some addictions, natural detox is not wise; however, certain addictions, such as those to marijuana and cocaine, are often treated with a holistic detox model. The rehab program you choose will help you determine the best course of action for your particular addiction.
Drug Detox Programs
Many individuals simply cannot or will not deal with the withdrawal symptoms associated with natural detox. For these men and women, the option of medical detoxification is more attractive. With medical detox (used most commonly with opiate addiction to heroin, Vicodin or OxyContin), the individual takes regular doses of a synthetic opiate. For example, according to Medline Plus, opiate addictions are often treated with methadone or buprenorphine, which help relieve some of the discomfort the addict experiences during detox. With proper medication management, certain addicts are less likely to encounter complications during detox and therefore, less likely to return to drug use as a result. These maintenance medications mimic many of the effects of the actual drug, but are much safer because dosages are closely monitored by medical professionals. Over time, the individual takes smaller and smaller doses of the drug until they have completed the detox process.
With methadone treatment, addicts travel daily to a clinic where they receive their carefully measured dosage. Suboxone, the brand name medication that contains buprenorphine, represents a breakthrough in the medical detox field as the individual receives the drug as a prescription and can take it in the privacy of their own home.
The Challenges of Medical Detox
While it would seem like medical detoxification is the most attractive choice for everyone, there are a number of issues that may keep people from pursuing this path to recovery. For one thing, a small number of people actually become addicted to methadone or Suboxone while they are trying to detoxify. Instead of completing the important step of detox, these individuals find themselves now addicted to a new drug, or even two drugs instead of just one.
Also, there is still a social stigma attached to methadone clinics and this stigma may keep men and women from signing up for treatment. The lack of privacy and the potential of mingling with other recovering addicts is unappealing to those who wish to keep their condition private.
Detoxification Is Not Rehab
Drug detox is so important that many rehab centers will not allow the individual to enter the main portion of the recovery program until after detox is complete. An individual who has NOT completed drug detox is simply too great a risk for relapse or is still in a fragile enough state that the lessons of drug addiction counseling will not make an impact on them. Drug detoxification represents the defeat of the physical addiction to drugs – and anyone who completes the process is to be commended on the achievement – however, detox is not rehab. It’s merely a component of the recovery process.
A Common Myth About Detox
Sadly, there are a number of false promises floating around the addiction treatment industry. One of the most prominent of them is that detox equals recovery from drug addiction. As important as detox is, it is only ONE piece of the puzzle. An individual must take part in a comprehensive drug rehab program to both achieve and maintain sobriety. Detox addresses the physical component to addiction but drug rehab counseling addresses the important psychological aspect of the disease. It is only when BOTH of these components have been addressed that the individual can move forward and live a happy, fulfilling life – maintaining their sobriety in the months and years after rehab.
For more information on rehabilitation and the detox process, contact us today. We are here 24 hours a day to answer your questions.