The safest, fastest, and most effective way to get drugs out of your system is by undergoing medical detox in a specialized substance abuse treatment facility. Detox is the process in which medical professionals assist individuals who are substance-dependent in eliminating toxins from their bodies, such as drugs or alcohol. During this process, medications can be administered to relieve withdrawal symptoms, and the person will be monitored around-the-clock in case severe complications should arise.
It is important to note that medical detox is just the first step down a long, winding road in the recovery process. Whenever possible, detox should not be used as a standalone treatment and instead should be included as part of a broader multifaceted addiction program that includes various other treatment methodologies.
Who Benefits From Medical Detox?
When an individual abuses drugs or alcohol for an extended period, their body will develop a dependence on the substance. The brain and body eventually adapt to the presence of an intoxicating substance and are no longer able to function normally without it. When the individual attempts to quit using, this leads to adverse effects, including headaches, cravings, moodiness, aches and pains, vomiting, and many other withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings often make it difficult for drug-dependent people to discontinue and remain abstinent from their drug of choice for very long. Fortunately, medical detox can help individuals undergo withdrawal safely and comfortably. Over time, the body gradually readjusts and begins to function normally without the drug, and the cravings wane.
Examples of drugs that can lead to dependence that requires medical detox include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Opioids (e.g., heroin, oxycodone)
- Benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium, Xanax)
- Stimulants (e.g., Adderall, cocaine, MDMA, meth)
- Synthetic drugs (e.g., Spice, K2, bath salts)
Addiction recovery can be challenging and even dangerous without medical supervision. A supervised detox increases a person’s likelihood of achieving long-term sobriety and offers a safe and substance-free environment during the few days of withdrawal.
Why At-Home Detox Kits Aren’t Effective
Detoxing at home without medical monitoring and support or using untested products is risky. If you are legitimately attempting to abstain, it’s highly unlikely that detox kits will do much to mitigate cravings or the symptoms of withdrawals.
Medications designed to help people overcome addiction are usually approved by the Food and Drug Administration and prescribed by trained health providers, many of who specializes in addiction. You will not be able to locate any clinically-proven remedies on the Internet or elsewhere.
The demand for drug detox kits come from persons attempting to pass drug screens for employment or legal purposes. The most common kits include drinks or pills that contain ingredients such as lecithin, vitamin C, niacin, goldenseal, and a concoction of herbs. However, studies have shown that none of these ingredients help expedite the detox process.
The Medical Detox Process
In general, medical detox is a three-step process that includes evaluation, stabilization, and preparation for long-term treatment. Individuals may also participate in therapy sessions or attend peer support group meetings during this time. These activities may be optional and are not required for the actual detox process.
Evaluation – Evaluation typically involves an evaluation, physical exam, blood tests, and screening for comorbid mental health or medical issues. Therapists will examine the individual’s psychoemotional state and identify the strength of their support system, and an addiction specialist will develop a treatment plan based on this information.
Stabilization – Stabilization is the process in which a person discontinues substance abuse, and healthcare providers help them achieve a medically stable condition. Medication can be administered to relieve withdrawal symptoms for some substances, including alcohol and opioids. The severity and duration of withdrawal largely depend on the intensity of addiction and personal factors. Stabilization time varies but typically lasts around two weeks, on average.
Preparation – Individuals who have finished detoxing should be prepared to undergo additional treatment. Although the most unpleasant physical effects of recovery usually transpire during detox, this process does not prepare persons for the mental and emotional challenges they will encounter afterward. Health providers need to educate those they treat about the importance of beginning a long-term rehab program that may help increase their chances of maintaining recovery for as long as possible.
Quitting Suddenly or “Cold Turkey”
Attempting to quit cold turkey is probably the most common method individuals addicted to alcohol or other substances use to achieve abstinence. However, the cold-turkey strategy is risky when a person is chemically dependent on a substance. Compared to tapering or slowly reducing use, withdrawal symptoms can be much more unpleasant and painful using this method. Furthermore, if a person has a severe dependency on alcohol or benzodiazepines, abruptly quitting can be life-threatening.
Ultra-rapid detox involves sedating the person while administering a medication that facilitates rapid withdrawal. It was developed specifically to help the opioid-dependent, with the idea that individuals are allowed to sleep through the worst stages of withdrawal.
However, research has found that ultra-rapid detox doesn’t do much to relieve withdrawal symptoms upon being roused and may be risky. Moreover, when the patient wakes up, they will continue to experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those who didn’t receive treatment. The method does not appear to expedite the process, and persons with pre-existing medical disorders may be at a higher risk of complications.
Medications Administered During Medical Detox
The purpose of medication-assisted treatment during detox is to minimize withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and ensure the individual is as comfortable as possible. A doctor and other medical health personal oversee the process.
Most pharmaceutical interventions are intended to address the side effects of withdrawal, such as headaches, fever, nausea, tremors, and seizures. There are no medications that boost the body’s ability to expel substances, but some medications can also mitigate cravings. These might include benzodiazepines such as Ativan, anticonvulsants, and barbiturates, among others.
How Long Does the Detox Process Take?
The length of the detox process is a little bit different for everyone. Many factors can influence the duration of the process, including the following:
- Substance(s) of abuse
- Duration of abuse
- Severity of abuse
- Co-occurring disorders
- Overall health status
- Genetic factors
- Family history
- Age and weight
Patients typically experience the most severe withdrawal effects within the first few days of detox. Early symptoms include several physical effects, such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, muscle aches and pain, fever, and tremors. Fortunately, medication can minimize or prevent many of these effects.
Unfortunately, however, psychoemotional side effects can ensure for weeks or months. Symptoms commonly include anxiety, irritability, depression, moodiness, and insomnia. Health providers commonly use a combination of medication and behavioral therapy to help persons manage the psychological symptoms related to long-term sobriety.
Recovery After Detox
Individuals recovering from addiction are much less likely to maintain long-term sobriety if they refuse to undergo treatment after detox. Moreover, relapse rates are significantly reduced for those who attend therapy sessions, participate in peer support groups, or take advantage of other forms of aftercare.
Get Professional Help Today
The best outcomes for recovery can be expected when detox is followed up with psychotherapy, counseling, mindfulness therapy, 12-step programs, and continued support. Moreover, medical detox does not address behavioral, environmental, or biological causes that typically underpin addiction.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery specialize in substance abuse and addiction treatment. We offer a wide array of therapeutic services to those we treat, including detox, partial hospitalization, and residential (inpatient) programs.