Drug detoxification is the process during which the body releases the toxins from drugs or alcohol which have built up in an addicted individual’s body. Withdrawal symptoms can be moderate to severe, depending upon the severity of the drug addiction, the types of drugs generally used, the health of the individual, and the length of time the individual has been addicted to drugs. It is important to remember that drug detoxification is not a treatment for drug abuse and addiction, but it is an essential part of the treatment process.

Why Is Detoxification Necessary?

When an individual who is addicted to drugs wishes to enter recovery, they must learn how to live without the benefit of drugs in their system. This is an emotional and physical journey that can take weeks or months to complete, but the earliest stages are crucial. If the drug addict is not drug free, it will be impossible for him or her to understand the impact that drugs have had on their lives. Drugs, by their very nature, are mind-altering. They make cognizant thought and problem solving impossible. Therefore, the individual must be free from drugs when they enter the treatment phase of recovery.

Early Stages of Drug Detox

In the first few hours of drug detoxification, the addict will become irritable. This phase begins soon after taking the “last” dose of the drug. Once the current “high” has worn off, the addicted individual will begin thinking about where and how they will obtain more drugs. Unfortunately, most addicts to not progress past this point of the detoxification process, unless they are committed to recovery and have a support system around them. If the drugs are not readily available, the drug addict will begin to experience more signs of early withdrawal, including:

  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Insomnia
  • Cravings

The symptoms will continue to get worse before they get better, unfortunately.

Intermediate Stage of Detox

Several hours into the detoxification process, the recovering drug addict will begin to experience serious physical withdrawal symptoms. The body and, most particularly, the brain have become tolerant of the drugs being introduced into the system. More importantly, the brain is expecting the drugs to perform vital functions. Essentially, the brain has “forgotten” how to work without the drugs. The neurotransmitters are expecting the drugs to perform the synapse operations that should occur naturally. Because of this, the body and brain will become ill as they begin to readjust to life without drugs.

The symptoms of intermediate drug withdrawal can last for days or weeks, depending upon the severity of the addiction. Some of the symptoms may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures and shaking
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Exhaustion
  • Aggression
  • Intense cravings
  • Desperation to obtain drugs
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Aches and pains in the bones or joints

This is the worst phase of the detoxification process. Once this stage has run its course, the recovering addict will begin to stabilize and experience relief from some of the worst symptoms.

Final Stage of Detoxification

After the most virulent symptoms have passed, the recovering addict will begin to feel better. Trembling may sustain for a few weeks and cravings on a much smaller scale may continue for months or years; however, the recovering addict will begin to feel and appear normal and healthy. The appetite should increase at this point as well, as the body may have been starved of vital nutrients for quite some time.

It is at this point during the detoxification process that treatment for drug addiction can begin in earnest.

Detox in a Medical Setting

If a drug addict wishes to enter recovery, it is a good idea to spend the detoxification hours in an experienced medical facility that is set up and staffed for this purpose. A trained medical staff can make the recovering alcoholic or addict more comfortable during the process by administering detox medications. While detox by itself is generally not fatal, the stress on the human body can lead to complications. Professional medical providers can help to ensure the safety of the recovering addict by monitoring vital signs and looking for extreme symptoms that could result in life-threatening conditions like heart attack or stroke.

Detox in a Home Setting

If an individual has decided to detoxify from drug addiction at home, he or she needs to make certain that they will be safe. They should take precautions that include surrounding themselves with people who are as committed to their recovery as they are. This can be incredibly difficult given the physical and emotional symptoms that the recovering addict is likely to endure. For instance:

  • Make certain that the house is stocked with food, water and emergency supplies to avoid the need to make trips out of the house.
  • Make certain the individuals caring for the addict will not succumb to repeated demands for “one more drink” or “one more hit” to alleviate symptoms. Attendance at support groups like Al-Anon can be very helpful for family members in this situation.
  • Make certain that there are no untoward visitors to the home during the detoxification phase who might convince the addict that recovery is not worth the discomfort.
  • Make certain that a treatment center is available after the drug detoxification process is completed.

While it is possible to successfully detox at home, it is highly recommended that the detox phase of recovery be handled in a professional, properly equipped treatment center to avoid immediate relapse and other complications.

Medications Are Available to Help

Since drug detox has many physical symptoms, it is possible to treat those symptoms as they occur. There are many medications available to help. For instance, when an individual is suffering from nausea and vomiting, dehydration may be of primary concern. In a properly equipped medical facility, it is possible to administer an IV of fluids that will keep the individual from dangerous dehydration as well as reduce the feelings of nausea.

Suboxone and buprenorphine for the withdrawal symptoms of heroin or other opiate abuse have been shown to increase the effectiveness of long-term treatment, as well.

Alternative Medicine

While some physical and emotional symptoms of withdrawal during drug detoxification can be treated with medications, there are other options that can help as well. Alternative medicine is the practice of using natural substances or non-traditional methods to treat various symptoms. There are many alternative treatments currently in use today, many of which have been used for centuries in various capacities. For instance:

  • Reiki: a centuries-old practice of using the movement of energy to relieve pain or promote healing
  • Acupuncture: an ancient art of using thin needles to trigger specific effects of healing and pain relief in the human body
  • Meditation: the ability to use one’s mind to control one’s ability to relax and manage pain or other withdrawal symptoms
  • Aromatherapy: the use of essential oils and the inherent chemical composition of the oils to promote pain relief, healing and to control anxiety during detoxification
  • Therapeutic massage: the use of hand-on massage techniques to relax muscles and release toxins more quickly into the body for purification and detoxification

Each individual recovering addict is different and unique. Therefore, detox will be a unique experience for each person. The most important aspect of drug detoxification is that the drug addict chooses life and health over continued drug use. The detoxification period, while difficult, will not last forever. It is possible to fight through the tough moments and find yourself drug free and clear on the other side as you embark on the remainder of the treatment process.

Services That Meet Your Needs

If you are searching for a drug rehabilitation center with comprehensive clinical services, on-site drug detox can be a very important factor to consider. Alta Mira has a fully equipped drug detox unit staffed by a highly credentialed team of medical professionals. We provide advanced detox treatment for individuals suffering from addiction to alcohol, opiates, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cocaine, stimulants and hallucinogens. Alta Mira is authorized to treat opioid dependence with buprenorphine.

Every client’s situation is different, but whatever the case, our staff is committed to making each person as comfortable as possible while he or she is freed from their dependency and restored to good health.

Rehabilitation is the Next Step

Of course, detox is just the first step toward recovery. Once the individual has stabilized, the work of rehabilitation can begin in earnest. At Alta Mira we believe that effective care for drug addiction must treat the whole person: mind, body and soul. In addition to providing advanced clinical care, individual counseling and 12-step group therapy, we offer access to a number of experiential therapies (including adventure and equine-assisted therapy) and holistic services (tai chi, yoga and guided meditation, to name a few).

Our experience has taught us that drug use is often a way of treating or hiding an underlying mental health problem. For this reason, we consider dual diagnosis to be a high priority from the very beginning of treatment. At intake, we conduct a battery of tests in order to get an accurate picture of each client’s mental health. Residents with dual diagnoses receive an integrated treatment plan for both their addiction and mental health issue.

Contact Alta Mira today for more information

Drug detox can be a very difficult process, but it is also a gateway to a life in recovery. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction and is in need of a drug detox center, please contact Alta Mira today. You can schedule a free and private consultation by calling 866-922-1350. Recovery is possible. Call today.

Drew PaxtonAbout Drew Paxton

Drew Paxton is the Executive Director of Alta Mira Recovery Programs. His experience in the technology and recovery industries spans over three decades. | LinkedIn