Detox is the first, preliminary step towards substance abuse treatment following the initial intake interview.
During intake, the person suffering from substance abuse tells the doctor or counselor about substance use disorder, what, how much, how often, and why they use drugs. Detox should commence soon after.
Detoxification is when an individual stops using drugs and allows them to leave the body. In a rehab setting, detox occurs under medical supervision to prevent harmful or life-threatening side effects from cold-turkey withdrawal.
The detox process of detoxification can take days or weeks, depending on whether medication-assisted treatment is used to slow down the process so the client can detox gradually and safely with minimal withdrawal pains.
Once the body has developed a tolerance to drugs, to stop taking them will begin the process of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms range from mild to dangerous based on the level and length of dependence or addiction. Some of the most common withdrawal signs and detox symptoms include:
- Aching muscles
- Muscle cramps
- Excessive tears
- Lack of appetite
- Feeling hot and cold
- Involuntary bristling of hairs
- Rapid heartbeat
Although these symptoms aren’t life-threatening, they can be quite uncomfortable.
Each person who suffers from substance use disorder has different needs. The method of drug detox depends on the person’s history of substance abuse, the family’s medical history, and the duration of addiction to a substance. Short-term and long-term detox may use medication-assisted treatment to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal and ultimately overcome drug abuse.
Inpatient detox is recommended for those who have severe cases of drug abuse. Clients are admitted to a facility for the duration of their rehab treatment. Inpatient or residential detox assures around-the clock-medical help for clients.
Compared to outpatient detox, the inpatient detox has a higher rate of detox completion. However, since inpatient drug rehab requires the admission of the client at the drug facility for a certain period, it costs more than outpatient detox.
Managing detox at home without the assistance of a medical professional can be done, but it is risky and in some cases could even be fatal. The success rate for home detox is lower, too, which lowers the chance for successful recovery considerably.
Drug Detox Kits Aren’t a Complete Treatment Program
It isn’t safe to detox at home without help, but neither is it safe to rely on so-called home drug detox kits, detox drinks, and detox pills. Not only are they ineffective without the guidance of a medical professional, but they may be dangerous. Drug detox is just part of a comprehensive treatment program designed to increase an individual’s chance to cope with addiction.
Most people who use a home detox kit are trying to pass a drug test, not end their drug abuse. That shouldn’t be the goal of detox.
Without an assessment of the individual’s medical history and scope of drug addiction, self-detox can worsen existing health conditions. That’s why successful and safe drug detox must be customized to the needs of the client, and followed by therapy sessions and aftercare.
Withdrawal symptoms and the duration of drug withdrawal during detoxification depend on the type of substance used by the clients and how long they have been addicted.
- Withdrawal from opioids, such as heroin and prescription painkillers, can cause flu-like symptoms that last about a week. The symptoms appear within 12 hours of the last dose of short-acting opiates, 30 hours for long-acting opiates. For methadone, withdrawal symptoms appear within 24 to 36 hours.
- For stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, the withdrawal symptoms, including cravings, sleep disorder, and paranoia, usually, start 90 minutes after the last dose. The symptoms could last from seven to 10 days.
- Marijuana withdrawal symptoms can be milder than other drugs. Once an individual stops using marijuana, withdrawal symptoms — such as irritability, aggressiveness and sleep disturbance — appear within a week.
- “Bath salts,” a cheaper replacement for cocaine and methamphetamine, have withdrawal symptoms that can be observed after 48 hours and sooner than a week. Symptoms include intense cravings and an inability to feel pleasure.
- Ketamine withdrawal symptoms appear within 24 hours after the last dose was taken. The acute withdrawal symptoms like hearing loss, rapid breathing, nausea, and depression can last for 72 hours.
There are several types of medications sometimes used to manage withdrawal symptoms during drug detox, including:
Disulfiram discourages alcohol consumption by causing the immediate onset of hangover symptoms. Its effects include palpitations, hyperventilation, blurred vision, and nausea. Since it does not directly reduce cravings and should not be initiated within 12 hours of last alcohol use, it is recommended only for clients who are already stabilized and receiving treatment.
Acamprosate is found to be effective in normalizing brain activity during withdrawal from alcohol. It controls long-lasting withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and insomnia. Acamprosate is not recommended for clients with kidney illness though those with liver disease can use it.
Naltrexone is commonly used in alcohol detox and sometimes in opioid detox. Like methadone and buprenorphine, it can reduce cravings, but naltrexone does this by blocking the pleasurable effects of the drug. In opioid detox, if the client does not stop using the drugs at least seven days earlier, they may experience sudden withdrawal symptoms. Naltrexone is not addictive and has no withdrawal symptoms if a client stops using it.
Buprenorphine is another opioid used to stabilize people with opioid addictions. Combined with the opioid antagonist naloxone in the prescription medicine Suboxone, it is less easy to abuse, so prescriptions are easier to obtain.
Methadone is an opioid prescribed for addiction to other opioids such as heroin. It is tightly controlled, usually only available one pill at a time by a licensed addiction specialist, to stabilize people with opioid addictions without causing euphoria or intoxication.
- Psychiatric care: When clients have mental health issues along with addiction, both must be detected and treated. A quality drug rehab center will screen clients for such comorbidity or dual diagnosis.
- Individualized treatment plans: Different clients need different treatments. A comprehensive drug rehab center is prepared to fit the program to the needs of the client, not vice versa.
- Medicine maintenance: When clients enter a drug rehab center, the staff may prescribe medication-assisted treatment if needed to help the client with the withdrawal symptoms.
- Aftercare planning: Comprehensive drug rehab programs do not stop with the detox process and therapy sessions. A quality drug rehab facility refers clients to an effective aftercare plan that promotes ongoing treatment for long-term recovery.
- Individual therapy: There are two basic forms of therapy. Effective drug rehab centers offer individual therapy because every client is different.
- Group counseling: Effective drug rehab centers also offer group counseling because clients with addictions share many things in common. Meeting with a therapist and at the same time with others who have similar problems allows you to compare notes and concerns and bond. You realize you are not alone.
- Drug education classes: It is not enough to say drugs are bad. The best drug rehab centers will explain how illicit drug use affects a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being. Drug education classes empower individuals so they better understand themselves and how they can recover from drug addiction.
- Life skills classes: Drug addiction affects a person’s mental and physical well-being, which leads to weakened life skills. Through life skills classes, the client can slowly gain back their confidence. These classes ensure that clients will have the necessary tools and skills to make themselves self-sufficient and sustaining.
Detox alone isn’t a complete treatment for addiction to any drug. In most cases, there are psychological issues that must be treated to reach recovery. Once the toxins are gone, and withdrawal has ended, psychotherapy can begin.
Here are some therapies that have proven effective to support recovery:
- Family therapy. If there is a receptive and supportive family system, clients have an increased rate of recovery.
- Medical services. Substance abuse may have co-occurring causes such as chronic illness and mental or physical disorders, so a thorough medical examination is vital for recovery to work.
- Relapse prevention.Recovery continues after detox and therapy. Aftercare with help and support from medical professionals, family members, co-workers, and friends help prevent relapse. post-treatment.
The right drug detox will cleanse the body of harmful toxins with minimal withdrawal pain. Although not easy, it’s a vital and necessary part of the individual’s journey to recovery. Seeking professional help is the best and easiest way to find that path.
Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.
Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.