Detoxing from Drugs and Alcohol
The first step on the path to recovery is detoxification, or detox. People struggling with drug and alcohol abuse need to stop using and purge their system of the toxins in drug and alcohol to prepare themselves for rehab. It’s possible to self-detox, but medically managed detox at a live-in facility is strongly recommended.
In the United States, the most commonly abused substance is alcohol, with 1 in 12 adults suffering dependency or addiction according to the National Council on Drug Dependence (NCADD).
Alcohol withdrawal has a wide range of side effects, from mild hangover-type symptoms to coma and death. The more an individual engages in patterns of heavy drinking, the more likely the brain is to become seriously dependent on alcohol. When this occurs, withdrawal symptoms are even more severe during the detox process.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), about half of all alcohol abusers experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. Around 3-5% suffer the most severe symptoms: delirium tremens (DTs – a severe form of delirium caused by alcohol withdrawal), hallucinations, severe confusion, seizures, and hallucination. Delirium can signal DT’s, which may be fatal without medical intervention.
Other less severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include: insomnia, anxiety, headache, irritability, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, mood swings, dehydration and depression, among other symptoms.
The withdrawals from quitting alcohol use typically are the most intense in the first few days then taper off within a week. The cravings and emotional effects can last longer.
Medications Used in Detox
When substance abusers enter a detox facility, they are cared for by medical professionals, and are under 24-hour supervision. Detox may include medications to aid patients in coping with their withdrawals. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) supports buprenorphine and methadone as effective treatments for opioid use. Naloxone, is sometimes added to Zubsolv and Suboxone to block the reception of opioids from opioid receptors. If these meds are abused, it can cause a form of withdrawal called precipitated withdrawal. Precipitated withdrawal creates more intense withdrawal symptoms. This danger of intense withdrawals deters some from patients from taking these meds in detox.
Patients addicted to benzodiazepines, or benzos, may be prescribed a longer-acting benzo during detox to taper off of the substance. Benzos may also be prescribed for alcohol detox, to help avoid seizures and to smooth out the withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is stopped. Mood stabilizers and antidepressants can be prescribed during detox to treat psychological issues such as anxiety, panic and depression. Modafinil, a mild stimulant may be prescribed to aid in symptoms from cocaine withdrawal.
Detox treatment may be received in an inpatient or outpatient facility, depending on the care needed and the level of dependency. Patients should receive an assessment by trained medical professionals to determine which type of care will be the most effective.
How Long Does Detox Take?
Different substances have different symptoms and timelines of withdrawal, and treatment should be customized to the specific substance, it’s side effects and any other conditions like mental health issues a patient may have.
If you have any questions about detox, such as the type of detox you may need, or how to find a detox treatment center near you, give us a call. Our trained professionals are here to help you 24/7.
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