Medical detox or going through a medically managed withdrawal in a clinical setting while coming off addictive substances is called detoxification. Medical oversight is highly recommended when a person quits taking the addictive substance and begins their withdrawal. During withdrawal prescription medication is often given to help ease the physical and psychological symptoms. This helps ensure that the person stays on a positive therapeutic recovery and avoids relapse.
Rehabilitation is different from medical detox however, which can take place as inpatient or outpatient. Detox is the first part of beginning treatment in the process of the journey of sobriety. Though it’s not a stand alone effective treatment on its own. They need more long-term treatment support. They need help understanding and uncovering the reasons behind their addictions. Rehabilitation helps address everything when it comes to fully overcoming an addiction.
Usually rehabilitation programs require you to go through a detoxification program before you are able to enter the program. Although, there are other rehabilitation programs that will help you detox while participating in their program.
After a person is medically hospitalized elsewhere they are strongly encouraged to immediately go into a rehabilitation program, being they meet a specific rehabilitation program’s requirements. However, in other cases people will begin a rehabilitation program that includes the medical detox within the rehabilitation facility.
What Happens to the Body and Mind during Detox?
The first stage of detoxification is when the person stops taking all addictive substances. Being that the body has become dependent on addictive substances, removing it greatly stresses the body out and places it into withdrawal.
The stress of the withdrawal that is created on the body and mental health will prompt medical professionals to prescribe prescription medications to help ease symptoms. These symptoms can be emotional and/or physical from withdrawal. There are also therapists that will help the person psychologically manage the effects of withdrawal, being anxiety and cravings for an example.
Usually within 24-48 hours withdrawal symptoms begin from alcohol or drugs, although depending on the specific substance it could vary. When your body becomes dependent, it also means your brain and other organs become dependent too on the addictive substance. It then relies on certain doses to feel regulated or good. Though, when the addictive substance exits the body, the mind and body react negatively initially. The withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe. The mild withdrawal symptoms can be managed with engaging in other activities and through distractions. However, other withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable and dangerous, including life-threatening. This is why medical oversight is highly recommended and is very important when going through detoxification.
Physical Withdrawal Symptoms
Mild physical withdrawal symptoms:
- Shaking or tremors
- Loss of appetite
- Physical weakness
Psychological Dependence Withdrawal Symptoms
- Tension or Worry
Serious Withdrawal Symptoms
More serious withdrawal symptoms:
- Increased heart rate or irregular heartbeat
- Dehydration from vomiting or diarrhea
- Severe depression or anxiety leading to suicidal ideation
- Rapid breathing
- Severe trembling
- Delirium tremens (a group of severe withdrawal symptoms, including seizures)
Nausea and pain, which can be the worst physical symptoms, can last roughly 7-10 days. When symptoms peak they will begin to lessen afterwards. For some, mild symptoms can linger for weeks or even months.
For some people who are severely addicted and struggle with their addiction they find drug replacement therapy useful. This is most often the case for opioid addicts who are addicted to heroin or fentanyl. During detox and rehabilitation, a person may be prescribed buprenorphine or methadone to help come off their harmful addiction. In time, they would eventually taper off their prescription drug potentially.
Medications Used to Help the Detox Process
For medical detox, prescription medications are often used. It is used to help ease withdrawal symptoms. It makes it less stressful on the person’s body and it helps make it less likely for them to relapse. The doctor monitors each prescription given and the person is supervised 24 hours, which makes it less likely for the person to abuse the prescription.
With the amount of addictive substances that exist, there is no one approach to a detox that works for everyone. Every addictive substance can cause a different cluster of their own symptoms and everyone can experience symptoms differently.
While there are certain medications that are approved by the FDA that can be used in treatment for addiction for certain drugs, there are still other medications that are used to treat specific withdrawal symptoms as well.
Drug replacement therapies to help people come off opiates, anti-seizure medications, anti-anxiety medications, anti-nausea medications, and antidepressants.
Here are a couple for examples of common drug and alcohol detox medications used in medical detox:
- Suboxone, a partial opioid agonist and a combination of buprenorphine. It’s prescribed to treat opiate addiction.
- Naloxone, an opioid antagonist, which reverses opioid overdose.
- Buprenorphine binds to receptors of the brain for long periods of time which helps people feel fewer cravings and helps ease withdrawal symptoms.
- Naloxone, is prevented from being abused, being if this medication is snorted or injected rather than taken orally, the naloxone will activate. It will bind to the opioid receptors in the brain to stop the effects of buprenorphine sending the person into immediate withdrawal.
- Suboxone is a combination of two medications Buprenorphine and naloxone, which take away withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
- Alcohol, Valium, brand diazepam, of which is a part of the benzodiazepine family. It treats many conditions such as anxiety and panic disorders. However, it also treats alcohol withdrawal. It’s useful for tapering in a clinical setting as it has a long half-life. It can also be prescribed to treat muscle spasms which can be a symptom of alcohol withdrawal.
How Long Does Detox Last?
Depending on the person the detox process can take different amounts of time. However, in most cases, it can take 5-10 days. The different factors that can affect the timeline are the amount of the substance ingested, the duration of the time the person has had the addiction, the person’s physical makeup, and the type of substance being abused.
The withdrawal timeline examples are:
- Heroin, several weeks
- Prescription painkillers, up to two weeks
- Nicotine, up to five days
- Alcohol, twenty-four hours or up to two weeks
No matter what the textbook says about how long withdrawal takes, it’s still a step that has to be taken and completed when overcoming addiction. It’s a personal journey and it can be very challenging and difficult, but in the end, it’s the most rewarding! Just detoxing from a substance is not the same as overcoming addiction and it’s imperative to complete a full addiction treatment after completing a medically supervised detox.
Aria provides a trusted medical detox program to help get you started on your road to overcoming your addiction, at their West Palm Beach Detox Program. Aria also has many treatments and programs available to help further your treatment after detoxing. Programs that are tailored for inpatient, outpatient, intensive outpatient, and partial hospitalization. There are also gender-specific programs, first responder programs, along with many types of evidence-based therapies.
Contact us today, to learn how our treatments and programs can be the most beneficial for you!