The opioid epidemic has generated a serious interest in the detox process. More people than ever are using drugs and each day brings new statistics highlighting the grim effects of the current drug problem in the US.
The widespread use of prescription narcotics and lax prescribing practices have led to a serious uptick in the abuse of opioids. When people can no longer get prescription medication, they often turn to illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl.
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to regulate these types of substances, and over 60,000 people have died in the last year due to drug related causes. All it takes is one bad dose to snuff out someone’s life, and this has started to bring that issue home.
What is Detox?
When a person becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol their brain becomes chemically dependent on the substances to regulate its function. The brain has to maintain a certain balance of chemicals, and when a person frequently uses drugs or alcohol for a prolonged period of time, these substances replace the brain’s natural chemical levels.
When levels of the drug start to fall within the brain, it starts to send signals to the body there’s something wrong. These signals come in the form of painful and sometimes traumatic symptoms called withdrawals.
Withdrawals can include:
- Upset Stomach
- Extreme Fatigue
This is only a small percentage of the symptoms that can be attributed to withdrawals, and they can vary widely depending on the type of drug that the person was dependent on.
The term “detox” refers to the period of time that a person is trying to eliminate drugs from their body. This includes withdrawal symptoms and any outlying issues that can be caused during the process.
What Happens During Detox?
Detox can begin almost as soon as the person uses drugs for the last time. For addicts who suffer from a dependence on heroin or crack cocaine, this detox period can be particularly uncomfortable.
It only takes a few hours for the body to realize that the drug that it’s dependent on is no longer present. At this point, a person may start to feel some mild withdrawal symptoms. Psychologically, they’re going to experience extreme urgency and need to use the drug as quickly as possible.
This usually leads to additional drug use for those who aren’t trying to go through the detoxification process. For those who are seeking treatment or are trying to get clean, these withdrawal symptoms will only get worse as time progresses.
Not every drug generates the same type of withdrawals, but opiates are known to produce some of the most traumatic withdrawal symptoms. This is part of what makes it so difficult for heroin users or those addicted to prescription narcotics to stop using without getting the help of a treatment facility.
Detoxing at Home
Some addicts make the decision to try and go through the detox process at home. This isn’t always advisable, especially for those who suffer from an addiction to things like opioids or benzodiazepines. Withdrawals from these drugs can lead to seizures or extreme physical discomfort that can require medical intervention.
Alcohol is another drug that’s particularly vicious when a person’s trying to detox. They can have such a profound effect on the body that it’s possible to die during the withdrawals. This is a problem that’s further compounded by underlying heart issues or other systems that have been weakened by prolonged drug use.
It’s always better to seek treatment from a professional facility, whether you choose to go the inpatient or outpatient route. An outpatient facility might advise you to try and detox at home as long as your withdrawals aren’t too severe and your committed to ongoing treatment.
If this is the case, it’s very important to understand what your body is going to go through and to make other people aware of your situation. Always have someone that you can call or nearby in the event of an emergency, and make sure that your home is stocked with food and water so that you don’t have to leave for a few days.
The detox process usually doesn’t last more than 10 days, and the worst of it is over within 96 hours. Once the drug is completely out of your body, you’ll need to deal with the psychological cravings that often follow afterward. This is where advanced treatment and ongoing therapies come in.
Inpatient detox is usually preferable for those who have been addicts for a prolonged period of time. Places like the Beth Israel medical detox center can help you to safely stop using drugs while under the care of trained physicians who understand what you’re going through.
Many addicts are intimidated by the idea of an inpatient facility, because it removes them from their usual environment and places more barriers between them and drugs. These programs usually last anywhere from 28 to 90 days and can go on longer for people who require additional help.
A medical detox can be slightly different than an inpatient detox program. This is because it sometimes requires medical intervention or the use of medications in order to help a person abstain from using drugs and alcohol. Both of these programs require some sort of hospitalization it must be overseen by licensed doctor.
While residential treatment can be intimidating for many people going through the treatment process, it’s also a huge relief to be able to trust the people around you with your care. This removes an element of stress that can allow the addict to focus on their treatment instead of on their surroundings.
That’s really the point of inpatient facilities; they can provide on around-the-clock treatment regimen that focuses on recovery instead of just sobriety. Yes, they help you to detox, but they also focus on the psychological factors that go into chronic drug use. These psychological triggers and aspects are part of what make addiction such a unique disease.
It’s not something that can be magically cured with a pill or even treated from just a medical or just a psychological stance. It requires a combination of different therapies that focus on an individual in a way that’s both holistic and goal driven.
No one can know what will happen in the future, and it’s important for addicts to take things slow. They need to focus on their well-being and do things that help them to focus on living for themselves instead of living for their next high.
The journey to recovery is different for every person, and it’s important to keep this in mind when choosing a treatment method. Detox can be traumatic for some, and it’s definitely helpful to understand exactly what you’re getting into before you commit to a program.
Medical detox can be the best option for people who have a difficult time getting through the process unscathed. There are any number of medications and treatments that can help to hasten the process. The key is to find a doctor and facility that you can trust as you go through the process that will lead you to a better life.