What Happens During Drug Detox?
Many addicts and alcoholics believe they can quit using substances on their own. But after a few painful and confidence-crushing failed attempts, the need for an inpatient drug detox at a
residential drug rehab often grows clearer.
Taking that first step to rid your life of drugs and alcohol requires a giant leap of faith. The life that you’ve come to know is about to change dramatically. And while some of those changes require patience and a bit of uneasiness, ask any recovering addict and they will tell you the rewards are well worth it.
Knowing what to expect during drug detox can help assuage unsettled nerves and reinforce your commitment to treatment. So what exactly happens during drug detox?
Intake Consultation and Assessment Before Detox
On the first day of drug rehabilitation, you will be welcomed to the start of your recovery. An experienced counselor will talk with you about your history, substance use and any medical issues. Based on this information, your therapist will work with you to create a treatment plan that matches your unique needs. Upon arrival, you will also have time to get comfortable in your room and take a tour of the facility, if desired.
Being in an unfamiliar place with a group of people you’ve never met can be intimidating. You may feel anxious, angry and nervous, and you may begin to rationalize all the reasons you don’t really need detox.
During this volatile time, your drug rehab program will guide you through the process and support you every step of the way. If at any time you feel like leaving drug rehab, rest assured that those feelings are normal and that they will pass with each day you spend getting well.
Medical Evaluation Before Detoxification Begins
By the time you enter drug detox, months or years of drug abuse have taken a toll on your body. To address any medical issues, nutrition deficiencies and health concerns, a medical team will conduct a comprehensive evaluation.
As part of the evaluation, the medical staff, which may include nurses, a nurse practitioner and/or physician will talk with you about the most effective ways to treat your withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. Drug testing and mental health evaluations are often necessary to adequately address withdrawal symptoms and other health concerns.
Medically Supervised Detox
Depending on the type of addiction and length of drug use, your treatment team may recommend medically supervised detox. A supervised medical detox is critical for individuals addicted to alcohol or benzodiazepines (which can be life-threatening), and is well-advised for many undergoing opiate detox.
Under the close supervision of a licensed physician, you may receive medications such as methadone, Suboxone and buprenorphine to minimize drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These medications are backed by many years of scientific research and can be used solely for short-term detox (roughly 3-10 days) or for longer periods of time. The medical team may also recommend nutritional supplements, fluids to treat dehydration, pain relievers and non-addictive medication to address body aches and other complaints.
Many inpatient drug rehabilitation centers will limit your contact with family and friends during drug detox. This “blackout period” allows you to focus on treatment and allows your loved ones to take proper care of themselves while you are away.
Your Participation in Drug Detox Treatment
While medication can greatly reduce withdrawal symptoms during detox, you probably won’t feel 100% during this part of the recovery process. Even though detox typically only takes a few days, push yourself during this time to take advantage of all the drug rehab program has to offer. Although you may be housed in a separate detox area, your treatment team will recommend that you participate as much as possible in counseling, activities and other services offered at the drug rehabilitation center. Getting involved will remind you why you’re going through detox in the first place, and will help combat the tendency toward isolation that is characteristic of addiction.
Recovery Begins After Detox
At the end of drug detox, you will look, think and feel better than you have since you started using drugs. But this doesn’t mean you’ve overcome addiction. Detox prepares you to participate in a drug rehab program that includes 12-Step meetings, therapy, life skills training, stress
management, family counseling, relapse prevention planning and recovery-related activities. There are many different types of rehabs, so be sure to look for one that meets your specific needs, whether that be a Christian drug rehab or an executive drug rehab.
If you’re feeling excited but scared, empowered yet powerless, welcome to recovery! This journey is hard, long and worth every minute.
Forty years ago, people who were drunk in public were arrested, put in “drunk tanks” of local jails, and ultimately charged with a crime. While in the drunk tank, the majority of these people experienced full-blown alcohol withdrawal without the benefit of pain relievers or medical supervision. Some died. Hardly any stayed sober.
How Detox Treatment Has Changed
Today, addiction professionals understand the need for controlled withdrawal. More importantly, mainstream society is slowly learning that addicts are sick individuals who deserve consideration and care rather than scorn. So, what changed?
In the late 1950’s, the American Medical Association (AMA) determined that alcoholism was a disease. The organization disseminated this new revelation far and wide, arguing that alcoholism was a medical illness that required intervention by trained medical professionals. Then, in the early 1970’s, the Uniform Alcoholism and Intoxication Treatment Act was drafted and adopted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. The scheme proposed that alcoholics not be criminally prosecuted solely because they drank alcohol. Instead, it was argued that these patients should receive medical treatment with an eye toward living normal and productive lives. Although not technically a law, it was the first effort toward decriminalizing alcoholism and, as the Act became acknowledged by state legislatures, paved the wave for a more humane approach to the treatment of alcoholism.
Medical Model of Detox vs. Social Model of Detox
Over the ensuing decades the science of detoxification has developed, with humanity as a guiding principle. Now, the medical model of detox puts doctors and nurses at the forefront of the process, allowing for medication to help ease the negative effects of withdrawal from alcohol. Contrast this approach with the social model of detox, which rejects medication and medical supervision and substitutes a non-clinical, but supportive, environment. Other models use a combination of both approaches, such as the administration of anti-withdrawal meds at home. In all cases, detox and withdrawal are now acknowledged as a difficult process that deserves support and care.
Where once alcohol was the primary substance in the field of detox and withdrawal, other addictive substances such as heroin and cocaine have reinforced the need for a systematic approach to withdrawal; the more potent the substance the more likely the chance that withdrawal will lead to permanent injury or death.
What is Detox Treatment?
Although detoxification tends to be defined differently by the judicial system and medical personnel alike, addiction professionals have made an effort to formalize their own definition. In sum, detox means an intervention intended to manage acute intoxication and subsequent
withdrawal. The term “detox” refers to the clearing of toxins from somebody who is actively intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. During an alcohol detox or a drug detox program, the goal is to minimize the severity of physical harm (including death) that could result from the process. It is important to note, however, that typical detox programs do not aim to resolve the psychological, behavioral or social problems that may accompany the alcoholism or drug addiction. Therefore, detox should not be confused with drug rehab or alcohol rehab, which are intended to promote the sobriety achieved in detox.
The Detox Program Process
In most cases, the detox process consists of three steps — evaluation, stabilization and
facilitation into long-term treatment. A hallmark of all three steps is ensuring that the patient is treated with the utmost care and that he or she knows that people understand. During the evaluation phase, the patient is tested to determine the level of toxic substances in their system and whether or not there are any accompanying mental disorders or physical ailments. The patient is also evaluated to determine the best type of long-term treatment to offer after detox is complete. After a successful withdrawal, this evaluation can serve as a rudimentary long-term rehab treatment plan.
During stabilization, the intoxicated patient will experience a complete withdrawal of the alcohol or drugs from their system and will become medically stable. In most cases, medication will be administered to ease the patient through the stages of withdrawal. Once the individual is free of the substances to which he was addicted, he will be instructed on the next stage of addiction treatment. In this final stage of drug and alcohol detox, the patient will learn the importance of completing the entire treatment protocol. Many facilities will require patients to sign a contact of sorts, which solemnizes the recovery process and encourages treatment follow through.
Financial Components of Detox Treatment
Originally, for many health insurance companies, detox treatment is largely seen as the only relevant treatment for addiction to drugs or alcohol. Once a patient was declared clinically free of the substances, there was a resistance on the part of the insurer to support the patient’s transition to residential or outpatient rehab. Over time, however, the costly cycle of repeated alcohol and drug detox programs have alerted insurers that long-term sobriety, and reduced financial expenditures, is best achieved by safe medical detox followed by a period of formalized substance abuse treatment in an alcohol or drug rehab.
Are You or a Loved Struggling with Addiction and Need Detox Treatment?
Your First Step to Recovery Starts with a Phone Call to The SAFE project to help you find a bed into a Detox Program!