Conducted under medical supervision, a drug detox program, also known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT), is the first step of addiction recovery. While detoxification does rid the body of harmful substances, this process is not a quick-fix treatment; it’s just the beginning of a long journey.
Addiction is a chronic disease that affects individuals both physically and psychologically. People with substance use disorders (SUD) benefit from undergoing detox to address the major health complications and changes in brain chemistry that resulted in drug abuse.
Our medical detox program at Ken Seeley Rehab in Palm Springs, CA, doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all treatment approach, as we believe that everyone and their needs are different and should be treated as such.
The best outcomes happen when addicted individuals are provided with customized treatment plans and resources that best meet their specific needs. Our goal has always been to ensure that each of our patients goes through detoxification safely and effectively.
What is Detox?
Detoxification, or detox for short, is a comprehensive process overseen by medical professionals in a safe rehabilitation setting before someone can be admitted into an inpatient or outpatient facility, to officially begin treatment.
During a drug detox program, toxins from drugs and alcohol are eliminated from the body with the assistance of FDA-approved anti-craving medications. These help stop the physical dependence on substances.
No matter your drug of choice, cravings play a huge role in drug abuse and detox. While detox helps people to stop abusing drugs, it also aims to eliminate the risk factors or contributors that cause someone to crave drugs or alcohol.
Detox is A Comprehensive Treatment
It’s important to note that detoxing is only a short-term solution that requires further intervention. Without follow-up care and more substantial forms of treatment like addiction therapy and relapse prevention techniques, you are at a higher risk of re-entering the cycle of drug abuse.
The result of successful detox isn’t just the removal of toxins and the cessation of cravings. The best success stories come from people who go through detox and come out of it without any more medical problems from drug use. At this point, they can enter a drug or alcohol rehab facility to begin the journey to a sober lifestyle.
Types of Drug Detox Programs
There are several types of addiction treatment programs used to aid the drug detox process. The types, lengths, and severity of withdrawal symptoms you in detox experience will depend on what kind of drugs you’ve abused. The most common types of detox programs used to treat drug addiction include:
Residential detox is also known as an inpatient facility. This detox program is common for patients who have more severe levels of addiction and need to avoid relapse. Residential programs uncover underlying psychological and environmental risk factors (like mental illness) that could be contributing to substance abuse and addiction.
Outpatient programs are best for patients who have less severe cases of addiction but need medication management services, therapy, or relapse prevention in the early stages of recovery and sobriety.
In outpatient detox, people return home after treatment and don’t live in the outpatient facility while going to school and work. By attending weekly meetings and treatment at an outpatient detox program, people will get the help they need to maintain sobriety while focusing on everyday responsibilities.
Commonly Abused Drugs That Require A Detox Program
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug use alters a person’s brain chemistry, which results in major health risks like dependency and addiction. Changes in behavior, thinking patterns, and decision making are common risk factors associated with substance abuse. The most commonly abused drugs include:
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
Drug Detoxification and Withdrawal Symptoms
When people experience long-term drug abuse, they get used to having harmful substances in their bodies for a prolonged period of time. Drug detox abruptly rids the body of these substances, inciting a bodily reaction of physiological symptoms known as withdrawal.
Withdrawal symptoms affect each person differently, but they usually include physical issues (nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, chills/sweats), sleep disturbances (insomnia), mood swings (irritability, anger), depression, anxiety, hallucinations, and cravings.
These symptoms are often unpleasant, and their length and intensity depend on the person and the severity of the addiction. Factors that highly influence drug withdrawal include:
- The length of addiction: The longer someone engages in drug use, the more intense their withdrawal symptoms can be.
- Combination of drugs: Polysubstance abuse (the use of more than one substance) can create withdrawal symptoms, which often exacerbate the situation.
- The severity of addiction: Each patient’s situation is different. The level of addiction, ranging from mild to severe, is a major factor in how intense withdrawal symptoms can be.
- Mental illness: The existence of underlying or pre-existing mental disorders, also known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders, is a major risk factor and contributor to substance abuse. If a patient suffers from depression or anxiety, symptoms of mental illness can be heightened by withdrawal and cause more distress.
If a person has any complications during their detoxification process, these can be attended to and handled instantly. However, if someone tries to detox at home, they can experience dangerous complications due to improper technique.
As mentioned before, the longevity of withdrawal symptoms depends on the person and other factors. Proper treatment can help the detox process move faster. Completion of withdrawal from drugs can be as quick as two weeks, preparing an individual for the official recovery process.
Drug Withdrawal According to Type
Drugs create a strong physical dependence, causing a person’s body to shut down in some ways once they’re removed from the body. This is why quitting these substances “cold turkey” or in one’s own at home is strictly discouraged.
The drug of choice influences an individual’s experience with withdrawal symptoms. These physiological side effects are substance-specific. All classifications of drugs create some form of withdrawal symptoms, to which intensity and degree depend on a variety of aspects.
Whether they be physical or psychological, noticeable side effects will always be present in someone quitting drugs. While in many cases withdrawal symptoms are short-term, they can also be deadly, causing relapse, overdose, seizures, coma, and even death, without proper treatment.
Medical detox is necessary for the safe environment of a rehab facility where professionals can administer the right methods. Below are withdrawal symptoms that occur according to drug type.
Opioids are known as prescription painkillers used to treat people with chronic pain. These medications such as OxyContin, Vicodin, morphine, heroin, are so potent that they’re proven to be highly addictive.
Research shows that 95 percent of people who try to end their dependence on opioids on their own failure to do so. To address this problem of unsafe procedures and withdrawal, detox for addiction to painkillers is a bit different. Withdrawal symptoms from opioids can include:
- Muscle aches and pain
- Abdominal pain
Alcohol is one of the most consumed and used substances throughout the world for various reasons. While alcohol may not be directly considered as a form of the drug, it is. While people think alcohol is a stimulant, it’s classified as a depressant often used for enjoyment and as a means to cope with problems. The accessibility of alcohol and the euphoric effect it has on people make this substance highly addictive.
While getting drunk is a commonality with alcohol, with every use, the brain and body become more dependent on it and may end up needing it to function. Binge drinking not only causes a host of health complications such as liver disease, but it also changes how a person behaves, thinks, and moves.
Alcohol also greatly impacts motor skills, leaving a person dysfunctional, disoriented, and unable to move properly. This is why stumbling is a common side effect of drinking. This dangerous path to alcoholism is best treated at a rehab facility.
Detoxing from alcohol causes symptoms of withdrawal. These include:
Ridding the body of alcohol requires what is called tapering. When someone has been drinking for so long, the body needs to slowly rid itself of the toxins to best ease withdrawal symptoms and avoid the body from shutting down.
During alcohol detox, individuals are medically monitored 24/7 for safety and comfort. Non-addictive medications may be given to aid with sleep, control heart rate and blood pressure, or reduce pain.
Heroin and Fentanyl
Heroin is an opioid derived from another common painkiller, morphine, which is found within the Asian poppy plant. Its gooey and sap-like substance is further refined to make different forms of heroin. In its purest form, heroin is one of the most potent illicit drugs on the market.
When mixed with the chemical fentanyl, this drug is deadly. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid form, 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Most heroin overdose-related deaths have occurred when it’s been mixed with other drugs. When combined with other substances like fentanyl or alcohol, heroin can cause respiratory distress.
Heroin is no doubt one of the most abused and addictive substances, most commonly injected or smoked.
Heroin produces strong physical withdrawal symptoms, including:
For people who are addicted to strong opioids such as heroin, medical detox is necessary to recover and to avoid major complications like seizures, coma, and death.
Benzodiazepines, known as benzos for short, are prescription narcotics classified as central nervous system (CNS) depressants, given to people who have severe anxiety, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and seizures (epilepsy). These medications include alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), and lorazepam (Valium).
Addiction to benzos can happen quickly. People often assume that these strong medications are safe because they are prescribed by medical professionals. However, that’s not the case, as long-term narcotic prescriptions are typically avoided by smart and ethical doctors because of their addictive properties.
Quitting benzos on your own is not advised. Benzodiazepines can cause lethal withdrawal symptoms if not professionally treated through detox at a rehab facility. Withdrawal symptoms caused by taking benzos include the following:
- Grand mal seizures
- Difficulty focusing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Stiff muscles and discomfort
- Hand tremors
As benzodiazepine addiction can cause deadly seizures, which can lead to brain damage, falls, injury due to accidents, and death, it’s so important to seek help as soon as possible!
Medications Used During Drug Detox
There are specific drug detox protocols that need to be followed since everyone has different needs. Therefore, a properly designed medical detox treatment regime is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
During the drug detox process, withdrawal symptoms are controlled with anti-craving FDA-approved medications like methadone, buprenorphine, and naloxone (Suboxone). These are used to help manage opioid addiction and relieve withdrawal symptoms. They’re known as opioid antagonists, which stabilize the patient and are tapered off so as to not cause additional symptoms.
For example, to treat heroin addiction, patients may have to take a combination of these medications longer because of how addictive the drug is. Over time, the dosage will decrease and be tapered off until the patient is drug-free.
The duration of withdrawal symptoms strongly depends on whether the opioid is long-acting or short-acting. Whether heroin or other drugs are the choice of substance, inpatient care or medication is often recommended for optimum comfort, safety, and recovery.
What Causes People to Become Addicted to Drugs?
When someone uses drugs, the brain becomes naturally stimulated with neurotransmitters such as dopamine. We all have different DNA, and the way drugs and other substances metabolize in our bodies is just as unique.
Therefore, the chemistry within the brain becomes forever changed, and over time, the body produces less and less dopamine and other neurotransmitters, and it begins to become more addicted to the drug of choice. Professional help is the best path to take to recover from the cycle of addiction.
A Drug Detox Program is Necessary to Recover From Addiction
Whichever specific types of substances you abuse affect the spectrum of withdrawal symptoms you’ll experience. Therefore, they’ll also influence which type of detox is appropriate for you, and which type of treatment you’ll undergo.
Ken Seeley is Here to Help!
At Ken Seeley Rehab, our drug detox program helps people suffering from drug addiction recover and become sober. Individuals with co-occurring disorders will learn to manage and cope with their conditions through customized treatment plans and therapy techniques.
Relapse prevention and aftercare programs will help you or a loved one prevent relapse and live a sober lifestyle free from addiction. You are not alone! Contact us today to learn more about our drug detox program, and how we can help you get on the road to recovery.