Detox from an intoxicant is a difficult process no matter what substance is involved. Detox refers to the process of the drug leaving the system until all, or almost all, of it is gone and waiting for the body and brain to go back to a “normal” state, similar to how it was before substance abuse began. During this process, an addicted person will experience withdrawal symptoms. Depending on how heavy the drug abuse was and how long it lasted, withdrawal can be an extremely unpleasant process. The specific symptoms depend largely on what type of drug was being abused. Certain types of substance can produce dangerous and potentially deadly conditions.
Because this is such a difficult experience, there are many addiction treatment centers and hospitals that have programs dedicated to making this process easier. Detox centers in particular offer medically assisted detox in which clients stay in the center for the duration of the withdrawal symptoms and are treated for whatever symptoms appear. The goal is to make detox as easy and comfortable as possible, with any negative symptoms being taken as a sign that treatment isn’t ideal.
Withdrawal can be so difficult to endure that it often acts as a deterrent to even attempting to quit and get on the path to recovery. This is part of the reason why so few people who are in need of addiction treatment receive it – only 2.5 million out of 22.7 million Americans with addiction disorders, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. However, if more of them were aware of available services that make detox so much easier, many more people might seek treatment and end up with better lives.
For those already aware of medically assisted detox, it’s important to do the research necessary to find the right detox center for their individual needs.
There’s more than one way to detox, and the right treatment center will have different options available in order to serve different types of people in different situations. When most people think of detox, they picture what is commonly called “cold turkey” detox in which addicted persons stop all use of the drug at once. This produces the most intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and it can be difficult to get through, especially without professional help. However, it’s sometimes the best and most effective option, and there are many ways to make it easier.
This can make detox a much easier process and reduce the temptation to relapse. Addicted individuals need all the help they can get, as 40-60 percent of all people trying to get clean will relapse at least once. However, a hospital stay is not accessible to everyone. It can be expensive and means being away from home and family for days. For those who don’t need such intensive treatment or who have responsibilities at home to take care of, many centers can prescribe medications that may be necessary considering the specific drug the individual is addicted to. Clients can then detox more comfortably at home, though the chance of relapse is more likely due to easier access to intoxicants.
Some retailers offer “home detox kits” that contain herbs, vitamins, and tinctures, claiming that they make the detox process faster and easier. However, current research suggests that most, if not all, of the ingredients commonly advertised in these kits have no effect on the detox process. These are more often used for people trying to beat drug tests, and they are not recommended for use for individuals actually trying to get sober.
For certain drugs, especially prescription drugs, it can be better for an addicted person to be weaned off the drug gradually. Taking smaller doses over time reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Typically, a medical professional will work out a plan in which the client will be on a dose for a week or longer, then will go down to a lower dose, and keep going until they can be taken off the drug entirely. This can take several months, but it can be easier than dealing with the full force of withdrawal at once.
When it comes to the benzodiazepine class of prescription drugs, this tapering method of detox is necessary to avoid severe and sometimes dangerous symptoms like seizures and suicidal urges. With opioid addiction, clients may be switched onto a less potent version of their drug of choice and then weaned off this medication. One of the latest medications for this purpose, Suboxone, has been successful enough to bring in $1.2 billion in 2013.
Another option that is sometimes offered is referred to as “rapid detox” or “ultra-rapid detox.” This is a procedure in which the client is put under with general anesthesia and then given medication to theoretically speed up the rate at which the drug leaves the body. This way, the addicted person can go through a rapid detox process without feeling any of the withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, studies have found that clients trying this method wake up and still experience the same withdrawal symptoms as others and fare no better than those given medications to make standard detox easier. In some instances, these rapid detox procedures have resulted in death, so they are not recommended by medical professionals.
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Things to Look For
Other than a number of different service options, there are certain traits that a good treatment center will have. Firstly, it’s important to make sure that the center is accredited in the state it’s located in and that all medical professionals are licensed. This is not just to ensure the quality of care; many insurance companies won’t cover treatment for unaccredited centers.
Other aspects to look for include:
- Proper screening procedures: A good detox center will check for co-occurring disorders and health issues that can make detox more difficult and dangerous. There should also be a thorough interview process, so they can determine which course of treatment works best for each individual client.
- Medications offered: Treatment centers need special clearance in order to offer drugs like methadone that treat opioid addiction. They should also be open to using nonaddictive medications to help withdrawal symptoms but not pushy about using them if the client desires a more natural approach.
- Alternative treatments: It’s often helpful for centers to offer treatments that fall under the category of “alternative” medicine, such as nutritional programs and massage. These can help make the detox process more comfortable and may be more desirable to some clients.
- Follow-up care: Any good treatment center knows that detox is only the first step on the path to recovery. They should be able to at least recommend rehabilitation programs that should follow detox, as failure to enter rehab or a similar program causes a higher risk of relapse.
Recovering from an addiction disorder is never an easy or simple process. It’s a journey that’s different for each individual and requires a personalized treatment approach. The most important thing to look for in a detox center is a willingness to listen and be flexible to each patient’s unique needs and situation. True support means treating an addicted person as a human being, not a number.
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