Addiction “detox”—short for “detoxification”—is a medically managed process of allowing drugs and alcohol to leave the body so that withdrawal symptoms may be carefully managed. It’s the initial step when entering recovery, and it provides a clean slate for the healing process to begin.
While it is normal to be afraid of both entering detox and of withdrawal symptoms, it’s important to know that many people detox successfully every year and come out the other side grateful for being clean. Temporary pain is worth long-term gain.
It’s also to important to know that cravings, and sometimes withdrawal symptoms, may last beyond the detox period. This is normal and a qualified rehab facility will help you manage these situations.
What Makes Up An Intervention?
Detox can be done as “inpatient” in a hospital or a treatment center or as “outpatient” in the addict’s home. The advantages of inpatient detox include allowing the person to be monitored closely, preventing usage of the addicted substance, and possibly speeding up detoxification. However, inpatient detox is not an option for many as it can be quite expensive if not covered by insurance.
Whether inpatient or outpatient detox is appropriate is often based on:
Whether the person has other co-existing conditions such as a mental illness.
The substance being abused.
The length of time the substance has been used.
Age of the patient.
Possible medical withdrawal complications.
Most alcoholics experience mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms depending on the severity of abuse. These can vary from irritability, anxiety, and cognitive fuzziness to severe reactions such as seizures and hallucinations. Those who have been abusing alcohol for long periods of time are at risk for suffering from delirium tremens – the “DTs” – a very severe form of withdrawal typically treated with tranquilizer medication like benzodiazepines.
Cocaine addiction is considered to be more psychological than physical, and the withdrawal symptoms are less serious. This does not mean that detox is easy, however. Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include: agitation and restless behavior, depression, fatigue, increased appetite, vivid and unpleasant dreams, and a slowing of activity. There are some medications that help with the withdrawal symptoms; however, no pharmacologic therapy for cocaine addiction currently exists.
Opiate detox is considered to be very uncomfortable but almost never life-threatening. Early symptoms of opiate withdrawal include agitation, anxiety, and insomnia. Later symptoms include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting. Due to the unpleasantness of the symptoms, people often choose to undergo detox in an inpatient setting, or in an outpatient setting with medical supervision. Medications such as Suboxone may be prescribed to help the patient navigate the withdrawal phase.
What's Detox Like For The Addict?
How you experience detox will vary depending on the type of substance and how severe the addiction is. Most addicts have strong cravings during detox and desire to return to their drug of choice rather than continue to experience the unpleasant effects of withdrawal. This is normal. However, it’s important to remember that the discomfort of withdrawal is temporary and that the long-term gain of completing detox vastly outweighs that suffering.It’s also worth noting that the attitude you take in approaching detox can affect what you experience. In other words, if you approach detox positively—and with gratitude for this chance for a fresh start—your experience may be more pleasant. The pain will still be there but your mindset can make a difference as to how severe it feels.