Detoxing is the first step to recovering from addiction. Making the choice to detox means that you are facing the facts and admitting that you are in need of help, which takes real courage. That is why it is important that you know what to expect through this process.
Detoxing can be stressful and uncomfortable, as you will likely experience withdrawal symptoms which are never fun to deal with. You must be prepared to exercise a lot of willpower, and be able to push through when things get tough — and they will. But with the right precautions and people to help you, detoxing can be done safely and effectively. So if you are ready to take the first step, here’s what you need to expect during detox.
What is Detox?
Detoxification is a process where all traces of drugs and alcohol in your body are removed while making sure that the person is physically stable and able to start therapy. Detox is NOT a treatment, but it helps a recovering addict be free from addictive substances.
Addiction to substances can cause the body to become dependent on said-substances, which is why it can be a bit uncomfortable when detox begins. During detox, these substances are reduced and removed gradually from the body while helping the brain to adjust to the sudden drop of these chemicals. Once the drugs and alcohol are removed from the system, the patient will go through withdrawal, which brings about a lot of unpleasant feelings. Fortunately, these symptoms persist for less than a week in most cases.
With the help of experienced healthcare and mental health professionals, detoxing can be a safe and relatively comfortable process. However, in order to attend to the patient’s needs, detox must be done within a facility or detox center. Do not engage in detoxing on your own as it is rarely successful and can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
Medical detox is a process that helps recovering addicts manage the symptoms of withdrawal safely using proper techniques. The moment the person stops drug and alcohol abuse, they will be experiencing the withdrawal effects within 24 hours. That is why medical detox is needed so they can go through the phase without putting themselves in harm’s way. Detox can be physically uncomfortable and the symptoms include:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Irritability and mood swings (patient is usually aggressive in some cases)
- Extreme fatigue
- Rashes, itching and even acne
- Flu-like symptoms
- Intense body aches and pains
A recovering addict may experience different kinds of physical symptoms, especially if they have been using drugs or alcohol for a long time. The type of drug and the severity of the addiction also play a major role during detox. Some patients may have severe reactions when the drugs are no longer in their system, so it is important to know the health history and background of each individual who will be undergoing detox.
The Goals of Detox
Besides freeing the body from drugs and alcohol, the main goal of medical detox is to provide the patient with intense support in an environment where patients feel safe. This must be done prior to entering a residential treatment program.
Detoxing drugs off your body can create challenging symptoms during this phase. Keep in mind that different drugs can cause different detox experiences, so patients may not always be on the same level as others. In general, you can expect these withdrawal symptoms within the first 12 to 24 hours of your last drug use. These include:
- Hot and cold flashes
- Digestion issues
- Muscle cramps
- Sleeping problems or insomnia
- Night sweats
- Poor concentration
These withdrawal symptoms are pretty common, and are often generally associated with drugs like opioids, cannabis, inhalants, prescription pills and benzodiazepines. However, not all recovering addicts will experience these symptoms. If detox is done in a proper setting, these symptoms can be easily managed.
Like drug detoxification, alcohol withdrawals also have their own symptoms. They also appear within 24 hours since the person’s last drink. During the detox stage, patients can expect withdrawal symptoms to appear slowly, gradually. It will get worse but then it will also taper off once the symptoms are managed. A recovering addict will experience the following:
- Delirium Tremens
- Changes in blood pressure
Like drugs, these symptoms will also vary from one person to another. The acute state of alcohol withdrawal usually starts within 2 to 5 days into detox. If these symptoms cannot be managed right away, they can also become deadly.
Once you have decided to undergo detox and check yourself in a facility, you will have access to a great number of resources that will help make your stay comfortable. You will have a team of professionals who will be assigned to your needs. This includes a physician who will help you manage the physical symptoms you have been experiencing and a licensed counselor to help you manage the emotional aspect of your disease. Licensed nurses and behavioral health technicians are also part of this team and will provide additional and backup support.
Depending on your condition or how severe your addiction is, you will be placed in a hospital-like setting or in a more private location for detox. While you are there, your healthcare providers will not give you any access to drugs and alcohol. You will be monitored carefully and medications will be given to help you to help ease the symptoms. It is protocol by almost all facilities to treat you with care and respect. This is important since you need to be in an environment where you feel safe. Once your emotional and physical pain is gone, you will be moved into an appropriate inpatient care center where you can fully recover.
The Next Steps to Take
Keep in mind that while it is a huge accomplishment to make it through detox, is just the first step in the longer journey to recovery. Your body may be free from drugs and other chemicals, but you must also learn how to live independently without them. Your team might recommend you to a residential program, but in other cases, intensive outpatient care is also an option. Again, this is only applicable on a case to case basis, depending on how severe the addiction is.
Detoxing alone is not the answer to recovery, which is why you need to have ongoing care after you are done with the program. Choosing the best facility to provide you with the treatment you need is a good way to build a strong foundation to stay sober. Working with experienced health care providers is an excellent way to start your journey towards recovery, good luck!
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