What is Drug Detox? An In Depth Explanation

Drug detox should always be the very first step someone takes to recover from a drug addiction.

This isn't the case in every drug rehabilitation center, however. There are those that don't offer this service. To this day, many clinics don't see it as a necessary form of treatment. Even so, detoxifying the body from drugs is a critical step in the recovery process. It offers a number of different benefits, including relief from withdrawal symptoms. Drug detox also helps to create a safer recovery experience for the patient.

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What is Drug Detox?

Those who are suffering with drug addictions, drug detox might be something they want to seriously consider. Going through this process will improve the outcome of recovery. It will also pave the way for a more successful drug rehab experience.

What is Drug Detox?

For those who are new to addiction recovery, they often wonder, what is drug detox, and why is it necessary? Drug detox is the process of eliminating substances from the body after drug use. It also involves relieving withdrawal symptoms and providing for a safer recovery. By itself, drug detox is not an effective way to recover from an addiction. However, when it is used correctly, it can greatly improve the overall outcome.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services acknowledges the importance of drug detox. It is a vital part of recovery. They indicate that there should be three steps taken when a patient presents for detox services. These include:

  • Proper Evaluation: It is necessary to provide testing to patients during the evaluation process. This will indicate which substances are present within the bloodstream, and how much is present. Patients also need to be evaluated for co-occurring disorders during the evaluation process.
  • Proper Stabilization: During this stage, patients are guided through the detox process. This can be done with or without the use of medications. Patients need to be fully informed about the type of treatment they will be receiving.
  • Proper Treatment Guidance: Drug detox only helps with the physical dependency part of addiction. It does not address the psychological aspect at all. At this stage, patients are guided through the recovery process. This requires participating in an excellent drug rehab program.

There are several different methods that are used during the drug detoxification process. The appropriate methods are chosen for each patient, based on a number of factors. The types of drugs they have been using and how long they have been using all play a role.


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Drug Detoxification at Home

In order to break an addiction, overcoming the physical component of it is key. Physical dependence on drugs can be very powerful. The right detox process can make recovery so much easier. However, not everyone wants to enter a drug detox center; at least not at first. It is becoming increasingly common for people to want to attempt an at-home drug detox first. If that doesn't work for them, they will then consider professional detoxification.

There are a number of different types of addictions that require a professional detox.

For those that don't, these individuals can still benefit. Still, for those who want to try an at-home detox first, there are several things that should be considered. Among these are:

The biggest risk involved with an at-home detox is the risk of relapsing. Even though there are some successful cases, most people are not successful with this method. The risk of relapsing is just far too great.

For someone who attempts an at-home detox, they are not always prepared for the withdrawal symptoms that occur. This individual may have had some experience with withdrawal, but they still don't understand the scope of it. They may think that they've experienced it before when they ran out of drugs. Unfortunately, these symptoms were probably relatively mild. This gives a poor perception of what withdrawal truly is.

For someone who relapses back into drug use, there is always an increased risk of overdosing. Overdosing often occurs when someone stops using drugs and then goes back to using the regular dosage. During the quit period, tolerance levels can change rapidly. If the usual dosage of drugs is used, the body can quickly go into shock. Unless medical help is obtained immediately, the overdose can be fatal.

Every possible preparation should be made before attempting an at-home detox. This is something people frequently fail to do, which could lead to relapses. During this type of detoxification, the addict is likely to feel at his or her worst. Therefore, it's important to prepare for the worst.

Some of the things that should be done in preparation include:

  • Enlisting the help of a friend or loved one to be there during the detox period.
  • Creating a comfortable, soft place to sleep and rest.
  • Being prepared for quick temperature changes in the body. Having items on hand such as a fan, cooler clothes and a thermometer is helpful.
  • Obtaining over the counter medications to help with withdrawal symptoms.
  • Stocking plenty of fluids to help with hydration.

It is a proven fact that drug detox goes more smoothly when the body has the right fuel. There are a number of different types of foods that can help the detoxification process along. These foods include:

  • Chia seeds
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Lemons
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Berries – blueberries, raspberries and strawberries
  • Yogurt
  • Avocados
  • Almonds
  • Wild caught fish

People who attempt an at-home detox need to be sure they're getting the right vitamins and minerals. A multi-vitamin is highly recommended for this purpose. Also, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is helpful. Juicing aids in getting the most vitamins from foods in the shortest period of time. Choosing organically grown food is the best option because pesticides can prevent nutrient absorption.

For someone who has a pre-existing medical condition, an at-home detox can be particularly dangerous. It is so important to consult a doctor before attempting this type of drug cessation. More often than not, physicians will recommend a professional detox. That way, doctors and other medical professionals will be available to assist in the event of a complication.

Some medical conditions that might make at-home drug detox dangerous include:

  • A pre-existing heart condition
  • Kidney disease or damage
  • Epilepsy or another seizure disorder
  • A mental health condition like anxiety or depression
  • Liver disease

Eating the right food will help to put good nutrients and vitamins into the body during drug detox. However, there should be just as much energy spent on getting the toxins out. Many of them will be eliminated through the body's waste. However, physical exercise should also be an important component.

Sweating causes toxins to be removed through the pores in the skin. The skin is the body's largest organ. It is very good at ridding the body of toxins. There are a number of different exercises that will be beneficial.

  • Running
  • Taking a brisk walk
  • Yoga
  • Bicycling
  • Aerobics

Exercise also has other benefits. It produces endorphins in the brain. These “feel-good” chemicals help addicts stay in better spirits during the detox process.

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Withdrawal Symptoms

Drug Detox – Withdrawal Symptoms

For most people who are stopping their use of drugs, withdrawal symptoms are a real concern for them. Though they might not understand how severe they can be, these symptoms are worrisome. In fact, they are the main reason why most people continue to use.

The withdrawal symptoms that are experienced during drug detox happen in stages. Regardless of what type of drug is being detoxed from, it's important to understand each of the stages.

The acute withdrawal stage is the first stage of drug withdrawal. It generally lasts for about two weeks, and it includes both physical and psychological symptoms.

The physical symptoms of acute withdrawal include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in the muscles and bones
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Insomnia at night and fatigue during the day
  • Digestive problems, such as diarrhea
  • Heart palpitations
  • Cold flashes
  • Problems with breathing
  • A racing heart rate
  • Hot or cold sweats
  • Tremors in the body
  • A tight feeling in the chest
  • Painful headaches

The psychological symptoms that often accompany acute withdrawal include:

  • Having symptoms of paranoia
  • Having symptoms of anxiety
  • Becoming depressed
  • Experiencing suicidal thoughts due to depression
  • Becoming irritable or angry
  • Isolating oneself socially
  • Problems with concentration
  • Experiencing severe drug cravings
  • Feelings of restlessness

For many people, this is the stage when they give up and go back to using. These symptoms are very difficult to handle. Any of them can begin to appear after the drug starts to leave the system. This can happen between six and twenty-four hours, depending on the drug.

During the post-acute withdrawal stage, many of the physical symptoms of withdrawal start to decrease. However, for many, the psychological symptoms only increase in severity. There may even be new symptoms that begin to emerge during this time. The symptoms of PAWS can last for several months after a drug has been stopped. Some people are fortunate enough to have the last for only a few weeks. In contrast, there are others for whom PAWS lasts for a year or longer.

Symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

PAWS symptoms are usually psychological in nature. Because of this, they affect mood, stress levels and sleeping patterns. Everyone is different, and so, the symptoms they experience will be different too. The type of symptoms someone may experience can be related to the drug they were using. The frequency of drug use and the amount of drugs used also play a role.

The symptoms of PAWS include:

  • Anhedonia: This involves feelings of melancholy or a lack of interest in formerly enjoyed activities. This occurs because of chemical changes that take place in the user's brain. It takes some time before serotonin and dopamine start to be produced by the brain again. Until that time, anhedonia can persist.
  • Mood swings: Once drugs are stopped, it takes some time for the brain to balance itself again. Drug addicts may experience severe mood swings. This involves periods of depression and mania that seem to occur for no reason.
  • Cognitive impairment: Addicts may have trouble thinking clearly, or they may exhibit brain fog. These difficulties should not persist for long, and they are usually temporary.
  • Chronic fatigue: Fatigue is a typical symptoms of PAWS. It's common for people to feel tired during the daytime hours.
  • Symptoms of depression: Intense feelings of depression are very common during this time. They can even be mistaken for Major Depressive Disorder. However, the condition is usually only temporary. It often goes away without treatment.
  • Symptoms of anxiety: Stopping the use of a drug is a major, life-changing event. This can lead to anxiety, or even panic attacks in some people. Some drugs even lead to a chronic anxious state when they are stopped.
  • Cravings for drugs: Even though the physical withdrawal symptoms have stopped, cravings can persist for some time. They can be intense, and they can lead a person to start using again. Cravings are difficult to manage, but with the right treatment, coping skills can be learned.
  • Stress sensitivity: Drug users usually use drugs as a way to cope with stress. With that coping mechanism missing, they often have a hard time dealing with it. Even the most trivial problems can be magnified for someone struggling through PAWS.
  • Problems with sleep: Insomnia is typical during this time period. Other sleep disturbances may accompany it, such as vivid dreams, or even night terrors.

These and any other symptoms that occur may come and go. It is not uncommon for some people to experience rebound withdrawal symptoms. These can even occur years after a drug has been stopped.

There are a number of different drugs that can result in PAWS. However, it is important to note that this list may not be complete. Any drug that is taken in high doses for a long period of time can produce PAWS.

The following drugs are typically associated with post-acute withdrawal syndrome:

  • Alcohol
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Antidepressants
  • Opioid pain medications
  • Heroin
  • Codeine
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Anabolic Steroids
  • Antipsychotic medications
  • Marijuana

PAWS can definitely be a challenge, even to someone who is committed to remaining drug-free. There are a number of different types of treatment that have been able to offer relief.

Psychotherapy is among the most important forms of treatment patients should invest in. Therapists are able to utilize many different forms of therapy that can help with symptoms. Also, group counseling and therapy is important as well. Both of these work together to help people manage their symptoms more successfully.

There are also some medications that may be given to help with symptoms. Doctors may prescribe a number of different drugs to counteract the worst symptoms of PAWS. Acamprosate is a drug that has been found to be quite effective in some people.

Although post-acute withdrawal syndrome can be challenging, there are many people who have successfully gone through it. These individuals can attest to the fact that it's worth it. With the right kind of treatment, it's possible to overcome this challenge and remain in recovery.

Medically Managed Detox

Medically Managed Drug Detoxification

Medically managed drug detoxification offers 24-hour care for those with drug addictions. It involves a complete evaluation and detox of those with substance abuse disorders. During medical drug detox, the focus is on eliminating toxins while protecting the safety of the patient.

Medical drug detox is never to be considered a standalone treatment. During the process, the patient should be encouraged to seek drug rehab afterwards. Treatment takes place in an acute care setting, and can last for as long as the patient needs it.

There are a few different types of medical detox.

This is a process that is overseen by medical professionals – doctors and nurses. Nurses oversee the patient's daily needs. Doctors are available regularly, and at any time of the day or night.

This level of care is actually quite restrictive. Patients who require this type of drug detox may be medically or mentally unstable. For those who are on prescription drugs, tapering them off the drugs can be done in this setting.

This type of drug rehab takes place in a residential setting. The type of care that is received can be different, based on the location. Physicians, nurses and physician assistants may be on hand in intensive supervision cases. However, some of these facilities have limited medical oversight. In these facilities, the level of care is much lower because of the lower risk to patient safety. Even so, patients do receive 24-hour care and supervision.

Patients are regularly assessed for high-risk situations. For example, if a patient is at risk for seizures, he or she may be transferred to a different facility for treatment.

This method of drug detox actually offers a much more cost-effective method of treatment for those who need it.

For patients with mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms, intensive outpatient detox is available. If a patient is deemed to need a higher level of care, that is easily arranged.

These facilities are often referred to as partial hospitalization programs. Patients are able to live at home and receive the services they need. However, patients are required to be present for several hours a day. Physicians, nurses and other medical personnel are available, and monitor patients closely.

Today, many drug detox programs are moving toward a more holistic model. Holistic and medical drug detox are very different. This method is still medical in nature in that facilities are staffed by medical professionals. However, they do not use medications to assist with the detoxification programs. Instead, they use a combination of dietary changes and physical fitness to achieve their detox goals for patients.

Patients meet with a nutritionist upon arrival to create part of their treatment plans. Once the correct diet is in place, the patient's health begins to improve. This, in turn, results in the body expelling toxins much more easily. Beginning a physical fitness program also aids in the elimination of toxins.

While there are still patients who require drug detox medications, they're not always necessary. Sometimes they can even be detrimental. It is possible for detox medications to lead to secondary addictions. This is the main reason why holistic programs are sometimes more preferred.

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Medications Used to Detox from Drugs

For those patients who do need to take medications during drug detox, there are a number of options. The types of medications necessary will vary from patient to patient. It all depends on the type of drug that was used, and their withdrawal symptoms.

Some of the most common types of detox drugs include:

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone
  • Ativan
  • Valium
  • Librium
  • Norpramin
  • Benzodiazepine tranquilizers
  • Phentermine
  • Suboxone
  • Clonidine
  • Naloxone

These drugs are used for a variety of purposes. Some of them help with depression or anxiety symptoms. Others help to protect against high blood pressure or seizures.

During drug detoxification, patients are only on medications for a short time period. Otherwise, addiction has been known to occur with these and other drugs. For example, many patients find after taking Suboxone that they need to go through a second period of detox.

Tapering is another method that is commonly used for patients with drug addictions. It is very useful and quite necessary for those who present with prescription drug addictions.

Drug tapering involves giving patients lower doses of the drugs they're addicted to over time. Dosages of these medications are tapered, which should result in less withdrawal symptoms.

However, even during the slowest taper, withdrawal symptoms are likely to appear in some form. If they do, additional medications may be considered to counteract them.

Whether tapering is used, or medications are used, the goal is to keep the patient safe. A number of different medical complications can occur during drug detox. Avoiding these complications is the aim of the drug detoxification team.

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Drug Detox Treatment Centers – Questions You May Have

For those who have never been through drug detox before, it's normal to have questions. Getting answers to those questions helps to relieve stress, and prepare individuals for treatment.

Below, you'll find several frequently asked questions and their answers.

It makes sense that you would want to locate a drug detox center near you. However, you may also want to consider going a way from home. Sometimes, people find that traveling for drug treatment offers them additional benefits they weren't expecting.

Regardless of where you are looking for drug detox, there are many different resources available to you. Finding the right one for you doesn't have to be difficult.

DetoxLocal is a website that will point you in the direction of a number of different detox centers. They list locations all around the country.

SAMHSA is also a great resource for those with drug addictions. You will find some great information on this site. You'll also be directed toward a drug detox near you.

Knowing what to look for in a drug detox program is very important. You want to be sure you're choosing a facility that will be able to meet your needs.

There are a few key components you'll want to look for when choosing a drug detox. These include:

  • Providing nursing care around the clock
  • Offering activities for patients to participate in
  • Stressing an importance on follow-up care after detox
  • Whether or not they will work with your health insurance provider for payment
  • The types of drug detox they offer at the facility
  • That they are an accredited program

You can find all of the above. It's important to be sure you ask the right questions before beginning treatment. Doing so will help to ensure that you receive the best care possible.

Getting treated for an addiction can be costly. However it is an important investment into your health and your future. The cost of drug detox always varies, depending on the patient's personal needs during treatment.

Drug detoxification can cost between $1,000 and $5,000. The amount of time that is required during drug detox and the method of treatment needed both play a role.

Health insurance companies are now required to offer benefits to those who need addiction treatment. This includes drug detox treatment.

This is a significant change that has only been in place for the last few years. It is because of the Affordable Care Act. This healthcare law has allowed many people to get addiction treatment who could never afford it in the past.

Not all drug detox facilities participate with all health insurance plans. You'll want to be careful to find one that participates with your carrier. This will minimize your out of pocket costs significantly. You may even find that your treatment is completely covered. Verifying your insurance is the first step to understanding your benefits.

Not everyone in the United States has health insurance. This is something that causes many to avoid getting information about drug detox. Even so, there are different ways to get help.

If this is a situation you're facing right now, you can:

  • Apply for health insurance at Healthcare.gov. You will be able to choose your own plan and sign up right away. Your coverage may even begin immediately.
  • Visit the SAMHSA website and get information about various state-run facilities.
  • Find out if you're able to use a credit card to cover the cost of your treatment.
  • Take out a personal loan to finance your drug detox and drug rehab.
  • Talk with a family member about getting help paying for your addiction treatment needs.

It's understandable that your goal right now is to get help for your addiction. There are many ways to accomplish that goal so that you can.

Going to a drug detox center for the first time can make anyone nervous. You've never been through any type of treatment before. You're not sure what to expect.

Fortunately, there's no need for you to be concerned. Every drug detox is different. However, the staff members will go above and beyond to be sure you're comfortable.

Upon your arrival, you'll be taken through the intake process. This will involve asking you some questions about your addiction. It's important to be honest about what types of substances you have been using. Doing so will only make your treatment plan more accurate.

After you have gone through the admissions process, your belongings will be checked, and you'll be shown to your room. Soon after that, you will meet with a doctor and other members of the medical team. The doctor will conduct a physical. It's important for them to learn as much about your medical history as possible. Any medical issues you might be dealing with will be assessed at this time as well.

Once you have met with the doctor, drug detox protocol will begin. This may involve medications, meeting with a nutritionist and getting involved in activities with other patients.

It won't be long before you begin to feel right at home and comfortable.

Your stay at drug detox will vary, depending on what your needs are. If your addiction is relatively minor, you might find that you only need to detox for a few days. However, if it is more serious, you could be in drug detox for much longer.

The most important thing you can do at this stage is to listen closely to what your treatment team recommends. If a longer stay in drug detox is recommended, complying is in your best interests. Drug withdrawal symptoms can become very unpleasant, even if they don't necessarily start out that way.

After you have gone through the detoxification process, the next step is going to drug rehab. The right type of drug rehab will be recommended for you, based on your needs. However, it will generally include one of the following:

  • Long-Term Residential Treatment: Many patients find that they actually need much longer to recover than they anticipated. A short stay is not always right for everyone. Patients who need long-term treatment may have multiple addictions. They could also have dangerous home situations that would make discharge risky for them. Long-term residential treatment gives them the time they need to evaluate their goals. It also allows them the time and education needed to know how to reach them successfully.
  • Inpatient Drug Rehab: Inpatient drug rehab is the method of treatment that most patients opt for. This method provides them with 24 hour a day support, which is desperately needed during the beginning stages of recovery. Patients choosing this type of treatment will stay in a facility for about 30 days. During that time, they'll participate with many different forms of treatment.
  • Outpatient Drug Rehab: Outpatient drug rehab is a method that isn't right for everyone. Most of the time, it is utilized by those who have already finished an inpatient program. However, there are situations when it might be appropriate. For people who have less severe addictions, outpatient drug rehab might be exactly what they need.
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP): An IOP program is perfect for those who aren't able to go to an inpatient treatment program. These are individuals who need a higher level of care. However, their jobs or other responsibilities might prevent them from getting it. An IOP program offers structured support. Appointments are held several days a week, several hours at a time. Counseling and group therapy are important components.
  • 12 Step Programs: For those who opt for an outpatient treatment program, group therapy is essential. In this case, a 12 step program such as Narcotics Anonymous is sufficient for this. NA meetings are held all over the country, in every state and in most cities. Meetings are usually once each week, and there is no fee to participate.

Families with addicted loved ones often suffer right along with them. It is so hard to watch a family member live with an addiction. It brings a great deal of stress upon the family as a whole.

If this is a situation you're in right now, there are a few things you can do. Maybe you've noticed the drug use, but you don't know how to talk about it. That very first conversation you have can be awkward, but knowing how to go about it can help. You can start by taking these steps:

  • Choose a time to talk with your loved one about the addiction when he or she hasn't used. For most people, this might be right after they wake up in the morning.
  • Prepare your information ahead of time. You will want to be educated about the addiction. Learn about addiction in general, and why it happens. Learn about the substance your family member is learning. The more information you have, the stronger your argument will be.
  • Remember to remain calm as you talk. Yes, this is a subject that you are incredibly passionate about. However, if you're not careful, that passion can give way to anger.
  • Talk about how the addiction has affected you, personally. Share situations that you've experienced. Talk about the negative changes in your loved one. Let him or her know that you're talking from a place of concern.
  • Offer to help your loved one get the help that's needed to recover. One of the scariest parts about getting treatment is going about it alone. Your loved one is much more likely to get help if he or she knows that you'll be there.

If talking with your family member doesn't help, it's time to think about the next step. Intervention services are available through many drug detox and drug rehab facilities. During an intervention, you and other friends and family members will have an opportunity to share. These meetings are very emotional, and many times, the end result is an agreement to get treatment right away.

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How Do You Know if You Need to Detoxify from Drugs?

You may or may not realize that you have an addiction. Not everyone is aware of it, even though others around them might be. Maybe you're wondering if this is the right treatment for you. If you have many of the symptoms of addiction, then you probably need drug detox services.

Have you noticed any of the following:

  • Feeling like you need to use drugs to feel normal?
  • Drug withdrawal symptoms when you haven't used in a while?
  • Multiple failed attempts to stop using on your own?
  • An increased tolerance level with the drugs you use?
  • Deciding not to use, and then not being able to resist it?

These are all signs that you probably need drug detoxification. If you have further questions, taking a detox quiz can help as well.

It's not easy to make the decision to get help for a drug addiction. In fact, it might be the hardest decision you'll ever make. However, it will also be the most rewarding.

You can recover from your addiction, and there is help available for you to do it. Are you ready to change your life for the better? Contact us to learn how to get started.

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