Detox the Journey from Alcohol or Drug Addiction
Detox is the first step for many people in their journey to recovery from alcohol or drug addiction. It is a helpful intervention for individuals who have signs and symptoms of dependence on a substance.
In some instances, detox is an absolute necessity. If you believe that you have a drug or alcohol problem, detox can help you lay the foundation for a healthier future.
How do You Know if Detox is Right for You
Let’s take the mystery out of it, and answer your questions: What is detox? How does detox work? What should I expect during detox? Is it safe? Can I afford it? Will it help me?
Immediate Placement in Detox
What is Detox
In everyday language, the word “detox” means cleansing the body of unhealthy intake. A variety “detox agents” are sold and used to accomplish this, from antioxidants to laxatives.
In recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, detox means eliminating toxic substances, and the effects of those substances, from the body under medical supervision.
This is accomplished by a team of licensed medical professionals, which usually includes a physician, nurses, clinical staff and therapists. In some treatment facilities, other providers like nurse practitioners and physician assistants are utilized.
If you think of addiction as a chronic condition like heart disease or asthma, the role of detox may be a bit easier to understand. Usually, when people present to detox and treatment, they are in crisis.
You can think of the crisis as you would a heart attack for a patient with heart disease, or an asthma attack in a patient with asthma. In those cases, you would need emergency treatment.
Detox for drug and alcohol addiction serves the same role as an emergency department would for a heart attack or an asthma attack.
he purpose of detox is to provide stabilization for an acute flare-up. Detox can provide immediate relief of symptoms, but by itself, it will not change the course of the underlying addiction.
Detox the First Step for Addiction Treatment
Detox is not considered addiction treatment, per se. However, it is the first step for anyone seeking acute treatment of a drug or alcohol preoblem.
There are two reasons for this. First, detox helps ensure safety. Severe alcohol withdrawal, for example, can be life-threatening without the intervention detox provides. Second, those who complete detox stay in treatment longer, and those who stay in treatment longer stay abstinent longer.
Most people who seek out detox are individuals who have become physically dependent upon a substance. This dependence puts them at risk of having withdrawal effects from alcohol and drugs. Withdrawal is one indicator that the body has become physically dependent on a substance.
The other indicator is tolerance, which is the need for higher amounts of a substance to create its effects. detox usually works to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of withdrawal from a substance. Each of these substances, depending on their chemical properties, has its own pattern of withdrawal symptoms.
These effects get produced when the substances are no longer consumed at the same rate, or are stopped abruptly.
Who gets Detox
The properties of some substances make withdrawal more likely, or more dangerous. If you are addicted to any of these substances, you will need to be evaluated and treated for withdrawal symptoms:
In your body’s nervous system, alcohol slows down the automatic control of functions like the regulation of blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, motor function and stress responses.
Withdrawal from alcohol leaves all of these processes uncontrolled; thus, alcohol withdrawal can sharply elevate blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. It can also cause anxiety, tremors and a host of other symptoms.
When alcohol withdrawal is severe, it can lead to seizures and hallucinations. Delirium tremens is the most dangerous form of alcohol withdrawal, and without intervention, it can be fatal.
This class of prescribed medications includes Diazepam (Valium), Alprazolam (Xanax), Lorazepam (Ativan) and Clonazepam (Klonopin), among many others. Also referred to as “benzos”, benzodiazepines are sedatives primarily used to treat anxiety. They have a similar withdrawal as alcohol due to their similar chemical effects.
Opioids are derived from the poppy plant and are used to treat pain. Direct extracts from the plant are called opiates, which include Morphine, Codeine and Heroin. Similar
laboratory-made drugs are called opioids.
They include hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone and many others. Opioids work by imitating and out-competing endorphins, the body’s own naturally produced opioid molecules. If you take opioids on a regular basis, your body’s endorphin production gets reduced, making your body rely on the opioids you consume.
When these opioids are not present, it creates withdrawal symptoms. Opioid withdrawal is often compared to having flu-like symptoms: it often includes muscle aches, nausea and vomiting, cold and clammyskin, anxiety and problems with temperature regulation.
By itself, opioid withdrawal is not fatal. However, the symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable, so they are routinely treated.
Medications like Gabapentin, muscle relaxants and sleeping medications like Ambien can be used outside of their intended prescription to achieve a high or relieve anxiety.
Withdrawal from prescription drugs may be different for each drug, but Gabapentin, muscle relaxants and sleeping medications have withdrawal effects that are similar to alcohol and benzodiazepines. They all function as molecules which slow down the central nervous system.
Fentanyl is a powerful opioid made in both commercial and illicit labs, with a withdrawal similar to other opioids. It is perhaps the most well-known synthetic drug due to its outsized role in overdose-related deaths. Other synthetic drugs — each with their own withdrawal risks — include “bath salts”, “spice”, krokodil and many others.
This class of medication includes Methamphetamine, MDMA and Cocaine. withdrawal from stimulants often resembles severe depression. Therefore, even though stimulant withdrawal is not physically life-threatening, it is routinely treated.
Learn More About Detox
What to Expect During Detox
If you’ve never been to a detox or treatment facility before, then detox can seem like a bit of a mystery. If you have ever watched a movie or television show that features addiction treatment, you may have images of cold, forbidding environments consisting of little more than four walls and a bed.
Fortunately, this is rarely ever the case. Since detox can set the tone for the rest of your recovery efforts, treatment centers try to make these environments as warm and inviting as possible. Detox is the time for medical professionals to direct specific care towards each person’s risk for addictive harm.
In the very first step of detox, clinicians perform comprehensive evaluations and screening for several conditions:
- Drug and alcohol use disorders
- Withdrawal risk
- Medical conditions
- Co-occurring disorders
- Psychosocial factors
This evaluation period can sometimes be difficult, because you may be anxious, in withdrawal, or both when you arrive for treatment. You’ll have to answer many questions so that clinicians can properly help you. Detox begins after this evaluation has been completed.
Medications in Detox
Several addiction medications can provide relief from withdrawal symptoms due to alcohol or opioid use. They are administered on a case-by-case basis under the guidance of the medical staff.
These medications include:
Methadone has been used to treat opioid withdrawal since the 1950s. It is a fully acting opioid, and thus is one of the riskier detox medications. Treatment centers which use methadone for detox must be federally licensed to do so. When properly monitored, methadone provides extensive relief of opioid withdrawal symptoms. Patients gradually taper off of the medication.
Naltrexone comes in two forms: an oral form taken daily (known as Revia) and in injection form taken monthly (known as Vivitrol). Naltrexone is a long-acting opioid blocker which is used for both alcohol and opioid use disorders.
Its opioid blocking action can create withdrawal symptoms for anyone who has recently used opioids, so patients must not take any opioids for at least one week before taking naltrexone in either form.
Buprenorphine is a partially acting opioid that has been approved for the treatment of opioid use disorder since 2002. It comes in several commercial forms: the most well-known of these is Buprenorphine combined with the short-acting opioid blocker Naloxone, known as Suboxone.
Buprenorphine is equally as effective at treating withdrawal symptoms as methadone, though methadone carries higher risk of overdose. A long-acting injectable form of buprenorphine is called Sublocade, which has little abuse potential but also requires a week of stable doses of other buprenorphine forms before it can be administered.
How Long is a Detox for Drugs or Alcohol
Detox timelines will vary depending on the type, duration, frequency and quantity of a substance used. There are also individual factors, like genetics,
weight and body chemistry, which will govern the body’s response to treatment.
Does Insurance Cover Detox
Many people in recovery worry about their need to work within financial limitations. But how much does a detox cost? Fortunately, if you are insured, detox is likely to be covered.
Additionally we accept Medicaid for Drug or Alcohol Rehab. The Affordable Care Act created a substantial increase in insurance payments for detox as the opioid crisis has revealed how extensive the problem of addiction has become.
If you are not insured, detox is likely to be the most expensive aspect of your treatment. This is because it requires the services of a physician or other medical professional, continuous round-the-clock care and a larger number of staff.
Medicaid Accepted for Rehab
Is Detox Safe
Detox is usually the most structured and best monitored aspect of drug and alcohol addiction treatment.
If you are considering detox to meet your needs, make sure that the facility you choose is licensed and accredited in the state where the center is located.
You will want to choose a center which has 24-hour access to treatment, and a center with experienced staff who can recognize and treat medical needs.
If you have had a problem with drug or alcohol addiction, detox may be the first step for you to get involved in treatment.
When you no longer have to worry about the impact of withdrawal symptoms, it can create space for sustainable treatment efforts to blossom and flourish. If you would like to use detox to get closer to your sobriety goals, give us a call today.