Detoxification – Addiction Treatment

Introduction – Detoxification

Detoxification is an essential step in the rehabilitation of a drug addict. In a broad sense, detoxify means to remove a poison or the effects of that poison from a body. In a patient addicted to alcohol or other drugs, the body gets rid of the addicting substance or its effects during a detoxification process.

Detoxification is a physical process, but it also has various emotional and psychological consequences. Also withdrawal from severe addiction can have negative effects on the health. Therefore, detoxification should be best undertaken under the supervision of a qualified physician or a medical team. Detox is a very crucial step in the recovery process, as an addicted individual cannot participate properly in the rehabilitation program if the addicting substance is still present in the body or if the patient is suffering from the withdrawal symptoms.

Under expert’s supervision, there are three essential steps involved in a drug detoxification process:

  1. Evaluation: In this stage, the patient or addicted individual is first tested to see which specific substances are presently circulating in the bloodstream and their amount is also calculated. Other co-existing disorders as well as mental or behavioral ailments are also evaluated.
  2. Stabilization: This phase involves guidance of the patient about the process of detoxification. This may be done with or without the use of medications. But the treatment with medications is preferred. The patient is also explained about the expectations during the treatment and recovery process. Sometimes, people close to the addicted person are involved in the process of detoxification and their support is ensured to the patient.
  3. Guiding Patient into Treatment: The last step of the detoxification process involves patient preparation for actual recovery. Drug detoxification only deals with the physical dependency, but it does not take into account the psychological aspects of addiction. The process isn’t an end in itself. Therefore, this stage entails obtaining an agreement from the patient to complete the process by enrolling in a proper drug rehabilitation program.

Withdrawal Symptoms:

Alcohol and other drugs can inflict severe damage to the human body. But for addicted individuals, the absence of these substances in their system can also have adverse consequences on the health. For example, alcohol addicts can experience any symptoms ranging from shakiness and nausea to convulsions and hallucinations during the withdrawal. Although the withdrawal symptoms are temporary, they can be fatal in severe cases. This is the reason that the supervision of a qualified physician is important for the detoxification process.

The effects of detoxification vary from person to person and are dependent on a variety of factors. But the most common withdrawal symptoms associated with substance abuse are:

  • Alcohol –all the people stopping alcohol do not get the symptoms. The effects can be mild to severe. Some alcoholics can feel dizzy or nauseous within hours of taking their last drink and some others can experience cold skin, tremors, and a loss of appetite.
  • The most extreme consequence of alcohol withdrawal is known as delirium tremens, a potentially fatal condition. About 5 percent of recovering alcoholics experience this syndrome especially long duration drinkers. Delirium Tremens can include hallucinations, delusions and seizures. The mortality rate of this condition is about 35 percent, if left untreated.
  • Cocaine – Cocaine withdrawal is different from alcohol withdrawal in that the addicts experience a crash which is characterized by anxiety, irritability, fatigue, and depression following prolonged use or an intense binge of cocaine.
  • The malaise and agitation associated with cocaine withdrawal can persist for months after stopping its use. It can be accompanied by ideas of suicide. The cocaine addicts suffer commonly from mental disorders like depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Therefore, the mental health aspects of cocaine withdrawal are equally important.
  • Opiates – Heroin is the most commonly abused opiate. Other opiates abused include morphine, codeine, opium, and oxycodone. Opiate withdrawal symptoms begin usually within six hours of cessation. It includes abdominal pain, agitation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Some heroin users suffer from withdrawal phenomenon known as “itchy blood,” which causes compulsive scratching. This can even lead to skin injuries or bruises. The intense symptoms of opiate withdrawal (also called as dope-sickness) usually occurs within two to three days after the start of detoxification treatment.

The detox can generally take between three to seven days to eradicate physical withdrawal symptoms (longer in some cases).

Hospitals and rehabilitation facilities provide safe and supportive environments to the patient during and after the detox.

The detox is just one step in the addiction treatment. After this, the actual social, emotional, and psychological rehabilitation of the addict begins.

- Link of interest: Addiction Treatment News on Twitter

This article is not medical advice nor a substitute to professional health advice. Always consult a doctor.


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