What to Expect During Drug and Alcohol Detox at NorthPoint Recovery

Once you finally made the decision to get help for your addiction, you started researching your options. You quickly learned that there were many different routes you could take, but you couldn’t help but notice that there was a common recommendation – drug and alcohol detox.

At one time, patients were encouraged to get help at an inpatient rehab (the preferred choice), or at least go to an outpatient rehab for assistance, without much thought about how they would get through the withdrawal period. This stage of recovery is often the most difficult one to get through because withdrawal symptoms are what cause most people to relapse. It was clear that something needed to change for a number of reasons. Not only were more people relapsing because of their withdrawal symptoms, but many of them were facing serious medical problems because of the fact that they were not getting the right kind of help during the beginning stages of their recoveries.

Detoxification of the body seemed like the logical choice, and it is one that most experts are now recommending to patients who have any type of addiction.

Regardless of what type of addiction you’re battling, drug and alcohol detox is the best place to start for your recovery. However, you may have a lot of questions about what you can expect when you make the decision to get this type of help. You may be wondering: 

  • What is drug and alcohol detox?
  • Why is detox needed as the first step of recovery?
  • When is detox necessary for addiction?
  • What can you expect to happen during detox?
  • How long does drug and alcohol detox last?
  • What is the cost for detoxification?
  • Where can you get drug and alcohol detox? 

Here at NorthPoint Recovery, our goal has always been to provide you with the information you need so that you can make an educated decision regarding your own recovery. Getting the answers you need is a vital part of that, and knowing what to expect can calm many of the fears you might have about your recovery.

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What is Drug and Alcohol Detox?

The idea of going to a detoxification program is still fairly new to some people, and there are many that don’t even realize that this method of addiction treatment exists. Therefore, it’s important to understand what it is and what it does.

Detoxification does exactly what its name suggests it does. It removes harmful toxins from the body. The human body was not meant to process toxins from alcohol and drugs, and so, there is often a buildup of them inside. For those who have been using drugs or alcohol for many years, they most likely have a lot of toxins built up, and it takes time for the body’s organs to adequately remove them. This process can be helped along by utilizing the right procedures and tools.

There was a point in time when medical staff would actually put their patients under general anesthesia (as long as this treatment would be tolerated), and then they would give the patients medications that would cleanse the body of toxins rather quickly. Sometimes the process would be over in a matter of minutes, and sometimes it would take a bit longer. However, most facilities no longer use this process because it does come with a lot of risks.

Today, most drug and alcohol detox centers will either use a medication detox approach, or a holistic detox approach. These methods have been linked with fewer risks and much better outcomes for the patient.

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Alcohol and Drug Detox Programs: What is Drug Detox?

Drug detox refers to the method of removing substances from your body. In most cases, the process of detoxification is sped up considerably by using one or several different approaches.

Some drug and alcohol detox clinics utilize a medical approach to drug detox. This involves administering medication that causes the brain and the body not to experience withdrawal symptoms when the substances are stopped. For a long time, this method was considered fairly standard. If withdrawal symptoms were experienced, additional medications were given to patients as a way to ease them, or even alleviate them altogether. While this might seem like the best approach, it often caused even more problems for patients in the long term because the medications that are generally used for detoxification carry their own withdrawal risks when they are stopped. More often than not, patients who took these medications either fought hard to get put back on them, or they went back to using drugs or alcohol once the medications were no longer available to them. As you can see, a different approach was necessary that would allow for patients to complete the detox process without having to worry about additional withdrawal symptoms.

For that reason, holistic detoxification started to become more popular, and this method of alcohol and drug detox utilizes diet and physical fitness as the bulk of the program.

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Alcohol and Drug Detox Rehab: What is Drug Detox Like?

Holistic alcohol and drug detox programs are designed to address the inherent needs that everyone has when they've become addicted to drugs or alcohol. These are needs you probably aren't even aware of because for such a long time, you've been "feeding" them with chemicals that your body doesn't need or want.

For just a moment, think back to the last time you can remember really being hungry. Can you envision what that felt like for you? Now that you have that memory in your mind, can you remember what you did? When your body is hungry for food, the natural thing to do is to give it food. However, when you're suffering from an addiction, most of the time, you probably feed that hunger with drugs or alcohol. It's possible that you've either lost weight because of reduced caloric intake, or you've gained weight because of the way your body has reacted to the toxins being added to it. Either way, feeding hunger with substances is not a healthy response, and it's not the response your body wants from you.

A major component of a holistic alcohol and drug detox rehab is nutrition, and that's because most people who have been addicted to substances forget how to properly care for their bodies through proper nutrition. There are some people whose bodies don't even give off hunger signals after a period of time has passed because those signals don't result in eating. Even if you're someone who has just been eating empty calories as a way to maintain your normal day to day functionality, it's vital for you to relearn how to eat properly so that you're giving your body what it needs for fuel. Talking with a nutritionist about your addiction history and your diet will help you to understand what vitamins and minerals your body is lacking, and then those things can be added into your daily food intake. What will probably be most amazing to you is the fact that once you begin giving your body the nutrients it needs, you will find that your withdrawal symptoms decrease substantially. That's because your body will be able to adequately process the toxins and eliminate them the way it was designed to do.

The same is true when you implement physical activity into your daily schedule. Most people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol are not physically active, and so again, their bodies are not able to function they way they are supposed to. When you exercise - whether you're doing a regular exercise program, participating in sports, or even doing exercise like Yoga - your body becomes healthier and toxins are able to leave more efficiently than they would without it.

All of these components are utilized in alcohol and drug detox programs, along with other methods that are used to help you move past the physical withdrawal stage as quickly as possible.

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Why is Drug and Alcohol Detox Needed as the First Step of Recovery from Addiction?

It can be surprising when you pick up the phone to ask about help for your drug or alcohol addiction, and you’re told that you need to go to a detoxification program to begin your recovery. Your immediate thought may be that it seems as though you’re just delaying your treatment even further, but what you don’t realize is that detoxification is the most important first step you can be taking. Going through drug or alcohol detox will allow your recovery process to progress as smoothly as possible, and it will make your healing much easier on your body and on your mind.

Even so, facilitating an easier recovery is not the only reason for drug and alcohol detox. Patients generally underestimate what their withdrawal symptoms are going to be like when they stop using drugs or alcohol. Many assume that they’ll experience cravings, and possibly slight headaches or insomnia, but they fail to recognize the other symptoms that can develop as time goes on. Some of these symptoms are dangerous, and they can include:

  • Delirium tremens (or DTs)
  • A high risk of seizures
  • A high risk of heart irregularities
  • Severe depression that can lead to suicidal ideation or behaviors
  • A high risk of breathing problems or respiratory failure
  • Diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration

Going through drug and alcohol detox helps to minimize these harmful withdrawal symptoms. Also, when someone is in drug and alcohol detox, they’re monitored all day, every day. That means that in the event of an emergency, medical intervention can take place. However, it is important to note that detox staff are always working hard to reduce the risk of these dangerous withdrawal symptoms, and quite often, their methods allow patients to finish detox without having experienced them at all.


Is Detoxification Always Necessary for All Types of Addictions?

Detoxification is not always necessary for every type of addiction, but it is necessary for the vast majority of them. It’s also important to note that a “cold turkey” approach isn’t always appropriate with all types of addictions either. Because of this, everyone’s recovery looks a little bit different.

Likewise, when a plan for drug or alcohol detox is made, staff members are careful to take all of the pertinent information into account before beginning detox protocol. The substances that do require detox might include:

  • Heroin
  • Prescription pain medications
  • Benzodiazepine drugs
  • Cocaine or crack cocaine
  • Alcohol

These substances can cause a lot of harm when they’re stopped abruptly, as some people are likely to attempt when they try to quit on their own without professional help. Of course, it’s important to note that each patient will be considered as an individual, and even those who are addicted to substances that are not on this list might be recommended for detox based on a number of different factors. Staff members will always assess each patient for his or her level of risk of eventually developing seizures, and even slipping into a coma or dying because of withdrawal symptoms that resulted in serious medical problems.

What Happens During Drug and Alcohol Detox?

People often have a false perception of what happens during drug and alcohol detox. Many of them think that going through detox is just a time of waiting and being observed for any complications as the substance leave the body. This is not the case at all. Detoxification is actually a very active process as the beginning part of recovering from an addiction.

The key to detoxification is removing toxins from the body as quickly as possible. Most people who struggle with addictions do not have the right idea about how their bodies were designed to work. A lot of them “feed” their hunger or their thirst with substances. Their diets are poor, they don’t drink enough water throughout the day, and they get very little or even no amount of physical exercise. Even though the human body was not designed to have to deal with the toxins from drugs and alcohol, under the right circumstances, it’s still very good at removing things that don’t belong.

During detoxes that require the use of medications, patients are given medicines to help with their withdrawal symptoms and rid the body of toxins, relatively quickly. However, the issue that many of them end up facing is the fact that it’s possible to become addicted to these new medications. Relapse rates are much higher with medical detoxes than they are with holistic methods, which is what many detox centers are beginning to utilize more and more.

During drug and alcohol detox, participants can expect to undergo some heavy lifestyle changes. This is all for the purpose of getting the body to do what it was created to do, which is remove toxins as efficiently as possible. Many addicts don’t really recognize what it means to be hungry, because they tend to feed their hunger with drugs or alcohol. As a result, a lot of them are malnourished. Without the proper nutrients and vitamins in the body, removal of toxins isn’t possible. So, the first step in drug and alcohol detox is to implement dietary changes that will cause the body to function properly. Increasing water intake is also essential because as the liver and kidneys process toxins, water helps to flush them out.

Physical exercise is another important component of drug and alcohol detox. The skin is the body’s largest organ, and a lot of toxins can leave the body through the pores during exercise. Exercise also helps in strengthening the body and assisting with better overall physical health.

It is important to note that everyone’s experience in drug and alcohol detox is going to be different. Some people may require a tapering down of the substances they were using. An excellent example of this would be someone who is addicted to benzodiazepines. This type of addiction should never be stopped abruptly, and so, the right type of treatment is carefully chosen for each patient, depending on the needs and the substances that have been used.

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How Long Does Alcohol and Drug Detox Last?

This is a difficult question to answer because there is no solid, concrete answer for how long drug and alcohol detox will last, across the board. This is because there are so many factors that go into creating an addiction. Once patients are assessed for their addictions, a general timeline can be determined, but it will depend upon a number of different factors, such as:

  • How dependent the individual is on the substance being used
  • How long the patient has been addicted to the substance
  • What type of substance is being used
  • The method of substance use (for example, is it being smoked, snorted, injected, etc.?)
  • How much of the substance is being used at one time
  • How often the substance is being used
  • What the patient’s family history of abuse is like
  • What the patient’s genetic makeup is
  • Any medical or mental health issues that may be a consideration

How Much Does Detox Cost? Is it Covered by Health Insurance?

Usually, drug and alcohol detox is covered, at least in part because it is now considered to be legitimate addiction treatment. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies are required to provide benefits for drug and alcohol treatment to people who need it. Because drug and alcohol detox is known to be an important step in the process, health insurance companies recognize the need for benefits to help offset the cost of it.

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Where Can You go to Get Drug and Alcohol Detox?

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The best course of action for most people is to choose a drug and alcohol detox facility that also offers inpatient rehab afterwards. This makes the transition into rehab seamless, and it’s best for there to not be any lapses in time between the two types of treatment. Alcohol and drug detox is not designed to be a standalone treatment. In fact, those who choose it as a standalone treatment are often surprised to find that going back to using comes second nature to them without the proper amount of counseling and help to continue on in recovery.

At NorthPoint Recovery, we want nothing more than to set you up for success in your goal to recover from your addiction. We’re always careful to take each patient’s personal experience with addiction into account before we recommend any type of treatment. In this way, your addiction treatment is completely tailored according to your unique needs.

We’d love the opportunity to talk with you about your addiction, and how we feel NorthPoint Recovery can help you overcome it. If you would like to learn more about our drug and alcohol detox program, or if you’re ready to receive a personalized recommendation for the type of treatment that would be best for you, please contact us today.



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