In most cases, people who are hooked on drugs or alcohol need to undergo “detoxification” (detox) before they can receive further treatment. when people use the word “detox”, what is most often referred to is medically supervised detoxification or a withdrawal management program.
As the name implies, detox is the body’s process of removing toxins. Contrary to popular belief, no medications or additional substances are needed for the body to start detoxing. Detoxification is a natural process that happens through the excretory system almost as soon as the body detects toxins.
However, In the context of drug and alcohol treatments, withdrawal management in inpatient settings is often recommended as the first step before the affected individual receives therapy. This is because so-called “self-detoxes” can potentially cause more harm to patients, as they usually don’t account for harmful substance withdrawal symptoms.
If you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and you feel that you’re ready to begin treatment, contact Dallas Drug Treatment Centers to find the best detox programs near you.
Medically supervised detoxes are recommended for the following reasons:
1.) A less difficult withdrawal experience for the patient
Substance use disorder (or SUD; previously known as substance addiction, dependence, or abuse) is resistant to treatment partly because the withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and debilitating. Entering a withdrawal management program ensures that individuals can have a much more comfortable time as their body detoxes.
2.) They prevent early relapses
Because unmanaged withdrawal symptoms can often cause more apparent harm than continuing to use drugs or alcohol, affected individuals doing a “self-detox” will often relapse quickly in an attempt to feel normal again. Withdrawal management programs can effectively restrict access to harmful substances, preventing early relapse.
3.) They prevent avoidable deaths due to withdrawal symptoms
Some addictive substances, such as alcohol and opioids, are also notable for their potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms in individuals with a history of long-term substance misuse.
The risk of a fatality when detoxing from these substances goes up considerably if the affected individuals do not have immediate access to medical attention, particularly medication-assisted therapy (MAT). Entering an inpatient withdrawal management program can do a great deal to minimize the risks of fatal withdrawals while stabilizing the patient for future rehab and treatment.
4.) Many rehabs will not accept participants who have not detoxed
Notably, few rehab programs today will accept participants who have not undergone a medically supervised detox. Some may not even accept participants who choose to continue drug replacement therapy.
This is because many rehab specialists consider individuals with moderate to severe SUDs not stable enough to benefit from psychotherapy and other standard treatments. These individuals may also present a risk to the staff and the other patients as well if their condition isn’t stabilized properly.
5.) It’s an essential foundation for the rest of the SUD rehab and treatment process
Clinicians at withdrawal management programs can help patients go through the withdrawal process more comfortably, thereby maximizing the odds of better outcomes.
They could also provide the necessary MAT for such conditions as alcohol, opioid, and benzodiazepine use disorders. During the detox period, they could also assess the patient for co-occurring mental and physical health disorders, which are commonplace in people with SUD. Their findings will get passed onto the other clinicians and therapists throughout the entire continuum of care.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to give a straight answer. It all depends on the circumstances of the patient and the type of program they enter. Generally speaking, however, the initial session may last from two weeks to a month. This is usually enough to stabilize the patient so that they could receive critical psychotherapy and rehab.
If the patient requires ongoing MAT, their body may not be fully detoxed for several months to a year, even after they finish the initial treatments. However, this does not necessarily mean that they are unstable and unable to move on to further rehabilitation.
While there may be some variations in how every hospital or rehab facility does it, medical detoxes usually have two phases.
As with patients with any other condition, the first step involves assessment. SUD cases can be incredibly complex. This is especially true when multiple drugs have been habitually misused or if the patient has an underlying health condition. Mental health issues are also common among individuals with advanced SUD and these also need to be accounted for when clinicians implement a course of treatment.
While there are some rare exceptions, medically-assisted withdrawals involve far more than locking up patients and letting them “sweat it out”. For the reasons discussed earlier, this could lead to potentially fatal withdrawal and it may even lead to some resentment for the rest of the recovery process. Rather, clinicians will use the information gathered during the assessment stage to personalize a course of treatment during a patient’s withdrawal.
As the drugs leave the patient’s system, they will begin to experience discomfort from their withdrawal. How this withdrawal is treated depends on the types of drugs involved and other circumstances.
For instance, a person with an opioid use disorder may not be able to completely detox in a short period without excruciating symptoms. Clinicians may opt to administer replacement opioids to wean the patient off their drug of choice, up until the point that they are stable enough to receive therapy. In these cases, they may need to continue taking replacement opioids even as they finish with the initial withdrawal management and go on through the continuum of care.
In other cases, such as with cocaine and methamphetamine use disorders, no substitute medications are widely available and treatment is a matter of keeping the patient safe and comfortable as their bodies expel the toxins.
While there’s a lot that could be done to help keep recovering individuals safe and comfortable during withdrawal management, it is likely going to be a tough experience regardless.
Here are a few physical withdrawal symptoms that patients are likely to encounter:
Mental withdrawal symptoms may include but are not limited to the following:
Detoxing is a difficult but necessary step in achieving recovery from SUD. While it may seem tempting to attempt this process by oneself, undergoing detox in a medical setting offers individuals several benefits and generally offers better long-term outcomes.
If you live in or around North Texas, our team at Dallas Drug Treatment Centers is ready to connect you with withdrawal management programs in your area.