Types of Drug Detox
Do you or someone you care about have an addiction problem with drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both? You deserve to live a life of recovery from whatever substances are affecting your quality of life. Before you can get very far down the road of recovery, you first need to detox. “Detox” is drug and/or alcohol detoxification and is the first step as you travel toward full sobriety.
A medically assisted detox is critical for anyone who is abusing drugs or alcohol and has become dependent on them. Trying to detox oneself is usually an unsuccessful venture as the withdrawal symptoms often lead the user to go back to their substance to quell their symptoms. A medically assisted detox will provide medication and comfort to ease or eliminate the feelings associated with the difficult withdrawal process.
Also, trying to detox on your own is putting yourself at significant risk. Withdrawing from alcohol and some drugs can easily be threatening enough to cause death. Depending on what substance you were abusing and how much of it you were using every day, you will, at the very least, suffer some unpleasant, downright nasty, and possibly unbearable side effects.
With that in mind, if you detox under the care of a responsible detox program, they will monitor you, support you physically to help you avoid the worst of the withdrawal symptoms, and make the whole process both easier to endure and less dangerous for you. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) stresses the importance of using an accredited rehab center to get you safely through the process of ridding your system of the drugs and/or alcohol so you can begin your new life clean and sober.
Comprehensive Detox Treatment
First Stage of Drug Detox
How severe or intense your withdrawal symptoms will be dependent on such factors as what you were abusing, how long this has been going on, and how much you were using daily. In a good rehab facility, both medical and psychiatric staff will be present to help you deal with these symptoms.
If you were addicted to an opioid, including heroin and pain medication for example, here are some of the symptoms you may experience within several hours after you last used:
- Excessive yawning
- Muscle aches
- Increasing watering of the eyes
- Runny nose
While none of these symptoms are life-threatening, they can cause you a great deal of discomfort. This is why it’s critical to detox under the appropriate supervision.
Here are some other situations you may encounter:
- Violence. Although they are not the only ones who may turn violent, people who abuse synthetic cathinones, or “bath salts,” are particularly likely to hurt themselves or others. Such individuals may require sedation or even restraint to prevent them from hurting themselves or staffers who are trying to help them. Please know that restraint is used only if a patient becomes physically aggressive and attempts to harm himself/herself or staffers.
- Symptoms of psychosis. Here, cocaine is the addiction most likely to bring this serious effect from withdrawal. Abuse in excessive amounts can result in paranoia and even full-blown psychosis. This may involve visual and/or auditory hallucinations and/or delusional thinking. If you have a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as schizophrenia, or a lack of sleep due to stimulant use, this can also bring about an episode of psychosis, resulting in erratic behavior. The rehab center knows how to handle this and treat it.
- Injury. Users of phencyclidine, or PCP, are particularly at risk for injury. PCP can cause feelings of increased strength and invulnerability, which often leads to users putting themselves in harm’s way thanks to the drug-induced misperception that they won’t get hurt. They’re also at an increased risk for suicidal behaviors.
- Medical illness. While some individuals addicted to opioid painkillers started taking them for “kicks” in the beginning, many others become hooked when they are prescribed these pills to handle chronic and debilitating pain. What starts as legitimate usage, soon evolves into an addiction where the abusers become hooked on the opioids for more than just pain management. As the patient begins to detox from the prescription opioid, he or she will not only experience withdrawal symptoms, but quite likely the return of his/her severe pain as well. The rehab center needs to be aware of the situation, then they can treat the pain appropriately as well as addressing the withdrawal symptoms.
- Threat to self. Withdrawal from some addictive substances can bring about severe depressive symptoms that can lead to suicide or a suicide attempt. This can leave the patient severely injured even if they are still alive. The rehab center must first deal with the suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
Determining which withdrawal symptoms detoxing will bring on varies from patient to patient and depends on which drugs were being abused, how long the patient had been on the drug, and how much of the drug the patient was taking daily.
Withdrawal can lead to mood swings, irritability, agitation, sleep disturbances, chills, sweating, tremors or shaking, as well as flu-like symptoms, including runny nose and headache, nausea, and vomiting. The patient’s craving for the drug he/she is detoxing from will grow stronger as a response to the withdrawal symptoms and a desire to stop them.
Here’s a listing of some withdrawal symptoms specific to certain types of drugs:
Alcohol and benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Valium. These drugs have very similar withdrawal syndromes. This is due to their similar mechanisms of action.
Opioids, such as heroin and painkillers.
- Muscle aches
- Bone and joint pain
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Gastrointestinal distress
Stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamines.
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
Marijuana. (Yes, it can be addictive and lead to withdrawal symptoms upon stopping.)
- Physical symptoms such as fever, sweating, tremors, and stomach pain.
“Bath salts” (synthetic cathinones).
- Sleep disturbances.
Regardless of which drug the patient is detoxing from, an experienced medical facility is always the best and safest option. There, trained personnel can deal with withdrawal symptoms, any co-occurring mental health disorders, suicidal ideation, and any critical physical issues that might occur.
Types of Drug Detox
Detox environments vary, and include:
- Outpatient detox. This is rarely recommended, in part for the reason concerning the physical withdrawal symptoms and other dangers outlined above. It might, however, be a good option in relatively less severe cases of addiction, especially if a methadone clinic is involved. Patients are required to check in regularly with the treatment team and possibly receive medication available by prescription if there is no methadone clinic involved. Outpatient detox is most often sought in one of these cases:
- Cost of inpatient detox is beyond the patient’s means.
- Patient has work or family responsibilities such that they must remain available to go to work or to stay home and care for one or more family members.
- Inpatient detox (a.k.a. “residential detox”). This is the most frequent recommendation as it is the best option to avoid relapse on the part of the patient and ensures that medical care is present to help the patient should he/she have a medical emergency as a result of the withdrawal.
Quitting drinking after heavy abuse of alcohol can lead to both potentially life-threatening as well as non-fatal withdrawal symptoms. The latter symptoms include:
- Slow movements and thoughts
- Nausea or vomiting
Delirium tremens is a medical emergency that can arise when the drinker has consumed alcohol heavily and for a prolonged period of time. Although it occurs in fewer than 10 percent of those withdrawing from alcohol, it can result in death if it goes untreated. Some symptoms of this condition include:
- Confusion or disorientation (delirium)
- Changes in mental function
- Deep sleep that lasts for one or more days
If someone you care about is detoxing at home on their own from a serious alcohol addiction (not recommended), get medical help immediately if any of these symptoms are exhibited and see that they receive medically supervised detoxification immediately. The drugs of choice to help someone withdraw from severe alcohol addiction are benzodiazepines (also used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures).
Psychological Withdrawal and Detox
There are some drugs that, while they present few significant physical withdrawal symptoms, can cause intense psychological withdrawal symptoms. For example, detoxing from stimulant drugs like methamphetamines or cocaine can result in serious depression and suicidal thoughts. Patients detoxing from one of these drugs are strongly urged to get clean on an inpatient basis. This is primarily so they can be monitored and helped if there is depression or suicidal thoughts. Secondly, they are not able to relapse and get high again. Finally, they cannot cancel a therapy session, other appointments, or simply fail to show.
Methods of Drug Detox
At-Home Drug Detox
An individual who becomes physically dependent on drugs or alcohol undergoes certain changes in his/her body. The body expects the individual to maintain a certain supply of the substance in the bloodstream. If the individual abruptly stops supplying the substance, withdrawal symptoms set in. Certain factors affect how dangerous these symptoms may get. These factors include:
• What type of drug the person is abusing.
• How much the person was taking.
• How long he/she has been abusing the substance.
• What other drugs (including legitimate prescription meds) he/she is taking.
• What co-occurring medical problems he/she has (including problems he/she may not even be aware of).
Depending on all of these factors, detoxing can be medically dangerous or even deadly.
Drug Detox Kits Are Dangerous
Drug detox kits, which are available for a wide range of prices, aren’t safe for a variety of reasons. The overarching one is that they’re “one size fits all,” and one kit doesn’t suit everyone; Look at the variables listed above. If the user has a co-occurring mental health disorder or an active dependence upon a very high dose of an addictive drug – or multiple drugs – there’s no medical care available to come to that person’s aid in the event of a complication. Should the patient relapse, the risk of overdose will always be a factor (and potentially elevated, if tolerance has subsided). Moreover, a person who enters a rehab program needs a psychotherapy component to his/her treatment if he/she wishes for the recovery to last.
Duration of Drug Detox
The initial period of drug detox lasts as long as withdrawal symptoms persist and as long as it takes for the patient to stabilize physically and mentally. Following a successful detoxification, is therapy and counseling. If the patient is also dealing with depression or other mental or emotional health issues, it may be decided to give him/her antidepressant medications or antipsychotics. Depression is frequent among people who are addicted to stimulants (e.g. cocaine or methamphetamines) or opioids (e.g. heroin or prescription painkillers).
Success May Not Be Immediate
Be aware that some people will relapse after detoxing. This is not a reason to give up. It may require multiple attempts before recovery sticks. The very nature of an addiction makes it a real challenge to overcome, but recovery is possible for anyone.
Medications Used for Drug Detox
Medications can help make withdrawal symptoms more bearable or even lessen the cravings. There are even vaccines in development that experts hope will help individuals avoid the addictive high they crave and will take away the cravings. However, these are not yet on the market. They are still in the developmental stage, but there are drugs that are available now that can assist with detox:
Used for the treatment of opiate addiction, methadone:
- Decreases drug cravings.
- Alleviates withdrawal symptoms.
- Has a long half-life (its effects last anywhere from 24 to 36 hours).
- Doesn’t create euphoric effects.
Methadone does have some disadvantages:
- As a Schedule 2 drug, it has a risk of abuse.
- It can produce side effects similar to that of other opioids, including: vomiting, nausea, excessive sweating, constipation, sexual dysfunction, itchy skin, and respiratory depression.
- There is a potential for physical and psychological dependence.
Up to one-fourth of opioid-addicted patients receive methadone maintenance.
Buprenorphine may be prescribed on its own or in combination with naloxone as Suboxone. It’s a partial opioid agonist drug that may also have antidepressant effects. There’s a low chance for abuse of the drug among patients in recovery. Its advantages include:
- Unlike methadone, it can be distributed by a physician in places such as health departments, community hospitals, doctors’ offices, and correctional facilities.
- It decreases cravings.
- It diminishes withdrawal symptoms.
- Its effects plateau at a certain dose in order to prevent overdose and abuse.
- It can be combined with naloxone, as with Suboxone, to decrease the risk of abuse.
As with methadone, there are a few disadvantages to taking buprenorphine. These include side effects similar to those of other opioids, such as:
- Sleep problems.
- Muscle cramps.
There’s also the potential for abuse when used without the addition of Haloxone.
Naltrexone binds to opioid receptors in the brain and blocks the effects of opiate drugs and alcohol. Thus, the user cannot get high from drugs and alcohol and using them is essentially pointless.
Some advantages for using naltrexone include:
- It’s available as either an extended-release injection that lasts for a month or in a daily pill form.
- It helps to prevent relapse and reduces cravings
- It doesn’t cause withdrawal symptoms with cessation of use.
A few disadvantages for using naltrexone include:
- It cannot be used if opioids are present in the body because it would send the user into acute opioid withdrawal.
- It can produce some uncomfortable side effects, such as: muscle or joint pain, nervousness, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, and fatigue.
- It is not safe for use by patients with liver damage.
Acamprosate used indicated when there are long-lasting withdrawal symptoms resulting from drug or alcohol detox such as insomnia, restlessness, and anxiety. Its advantages include:
- Helps normalize brain activity.
- Decreases cravings for alcohol.
- Can be taken by those with liver damage.
- Doesn’t have potential for abuse or dependence.
- Has side effects including muscle weakness, nausea, stomach cramps, dizziness, headache, and itchiness.
- Shouldn’t be taken by people who have kidney problems.
Studies show that even when patients taking Acamprosate didn’t fully stop drinking, the drug decreased the frequency of their drinking.
This drug can help prevent relapse in patients who are detoxed, stabilized, and in treatment. Disulfiram works by causing unpleasant effects if the individual drinks alcohol while taking it. These include:
- Flushing of the face.
- Blurred vision.
Having once “slipped” and had drinks while on this medication, the patient is less likely to drink again after experiencing the above-mentioned effects. There are a couple of other advantages of the disulfiram treatment:
- It’s a successful tool for motivated patients.
- Can have severe side effects if excessive alcohol is simultaneously ingested, including: liver damage, damage to peripheral nerves, delirium, and psychosis.
There are some disadvantages, however. These include:
- Doesn’t decrease cravings for alcohol.
- Doesn’t normalize brain function.
- May not be effective if patient isn’t motivated to stop drinking.
- Can have severe side effects if excessive alcohol is simultaneously ingested, including liver damage, damage to peripheral nerves, delirium, and psychosis.
- Shouldn’t be used in patients who have liver damage.
Drug Detox: First Step to Recovery
Detox is just a first step. It is not a complete treatment, no matter what the addictive substance is from which the patient is trying to break free. To begin with, the drinking or drugging may have been brought on or exacerbated by pre-existing psychological issues due to sexual trauma, grief, violent attack, and major life changes such as divorce or loss of employment which often increases the chances of addiction or strengthens an existing addiction. Merely detoxing does not address these underlying issues of addiction. Therapy is required for long-term recovery. But what type of therapy? According to Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment published by the NIDA, effective therapies include:
- Personal therapy. Works on the underlying issues that may have caused or may be a contributory cause of the addiction.
- Family therapy. Helps family members learn what to do and say, and what not to do or say in the interest of helping the addict. Also helps work through family dynamics that may be contributory issues in the individual’s addiction.
- Medical services. For chronic illnesses, pain, and/or co-occurring disorders, medical care can help patients so that they don’t attempt to self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol.
- Educational classes. Patients learn the effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain and body. This knowledge can help keep them from relapsing.
- Relapse prevention. Patients devise a plan they can implement when faced with temptation, which increases the chances of avoiding a relapse.
- Life skills classes. As an individual learns how to function and keep up with normal responsibilities, he/she feels more in control and is therefore less likely to return to drugs and alcohol.
Benefits of a Drug Rehab Program
A drug or alcohol addiction treatment program can offer many benefits, including:
- Psychiatric care. For co-occurring emotional problems.
- Individualized treatment plans. The severity of the patient’s addiction is evaluated, as well as any co-occurring mental or physical conditions. This evaluation allows the treatment team to shape a treatment program specifically for the individual. When it comes to drug rehab, there is no “one size fits all.”
- Medicine maintenance. Pharmacological interventions address problematic symptoms while the patient receives treatment.
- Aftercare planning. What steps should the patient take once she/he completes initial treatment? The plan might include 12-step programs and other recovery programs, sober living homes (“halfway houses”), outpatient treatment, partial hospitalization, individual therapy, and support groups.
- Individual therapy. Patients work one-on-one with a therapist to continue addressing the root causes of their addiction and to develop coping skills.
- Group counseling. Patients can develop sober social skills while sharing their addiction-related issues with a group of peers who share the same problems.
- Drug education classes. Patients learn how alcohol and drugs affect the mind and body in the short and long terms.
- Life skills classes. These classes are designed to help the person in recovery become self-sufficient when he/she completes a treatment program by teaching them the daily skills they need.
Finding the Right Drug Detox Programs
Detox placement advisors are standing by at 1-888-992-7955 to help callers find a drug detox programs that is right for them and their circumstances. If you or someone you care about wants to detox or are already attempting to detox on your own and are facing insufferable symptoms, we can help. What are you waiting for? Call now and get the help you need!