The first step in drug addiction detox treating or any chemical addiction is almost always detoxification. The process of detoxification removes the drug and/or alcohol from the system, and this is much more involved than merely “sleeping it off.” Drug addiction detox is necessary because a person cannot successfully participate in any treatment programs if he/she is in any way under the influence or if the chemical is still in their system.
Recovery starts when the drugs and alcohol is out of the system, therefore drug addiction detox is generally the first step...
This can be a tricky process and varies depending on the drug that is being withdrawn from and the individual who is going through withdrawal. Drug addiction is a disease of the brain. When a person uses drugs or alcohol, it chemically attacks the brain and changes it.
A common example of this is that when people drink alcohol, their inhibitions are lowered and they become willing to do things they may be unwilling to do when they're sober. Detoxification is the process the brain goes through to revert back to the way it was before the drug was being used. An alcohol hangover is a limited example of what the brain goes through during detoxification.
People should not try to detox without medical assistance, particularly from alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal is potentially fatal. The brain can react violently from the removal of alcohol, as it craves more.
Detox is designed to remove the symptoms of withdrawal and help the patient through the procedure safely. While alcohol detox is a relatively short-term process, it has long-term value for helping alcoholics in recovery.
The withdrawal symptoms usual begin between six and 48 hours after heavy drinking. The symptoms will both lessen and increase between 24 and 48 hours. Opiate and methamphetamine is less dangerous than alcohol but, in some people, can take two or three months for all withdrawal symptoms to disappear.
Part of the medical aspect of detox is the patient receiving a physical examination. This is a good idea because there may be some preexisting medical condition that could be exacerbated during detox. Conditions such as an irregular heartbeat, inadequate heart function, liver disease, alcoholic pancreatitis and digestive bleeding, can all be problematic in detox.
It is important for the patient to receive adequate medical care prior to the detox taking place.
Detox can be done in an inpatient or outpatient, but should always be under medical supervision. In their article “Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal”, Hugh Myrick MD and Raymond F. Anton MD, state that before 1980, most alcohol detox was done in a clinical setting, but since then, most treatments are done outpatient.
They went on to say that at present, fewer than 20 percent require admission into inpatient status. However, when needed, inpatient is the safest approach to alcohol detox. The important factor is the medical oversight of the detox. This is necessary because detox can be very difficult, if not traumatic.
Some people might only experience mild side effects of withdrawal, such as the “shakes.” They may also have a loss of appetite, headaches, sweating and insomnia. They may feel sick to their stomach and feel generally uneasy. But it could be worse and often is. You’re probably heard of people seeing pink elephants, which is a description of Delirium Tremors, the “DT’s.”
About 5% of patients experience these, and they occur usually between two to four days after the patient has stopped drinking. People can have convulsions, or experience autonomic hyperactivity, common to patients with epilepsy. Their eyes roll back and they shake. The withdrawal might also produce a seizure. The risk of seizures is high, as approximately 25% people will experience one during detox if not medically treated. You can see it’s serious business.
May only take a couple of days for alcohol up to couple of months for methamphetamine. Detox may only take a couple of days, but it can take up to two weeks for some patients. Other drugs usually take longer. Opiates take between two weeks to two months. While meth can take up to six months to be completely removed from your system.
Some possible drugs that are used by doctors during detox include selected benzodiazepines, buprenophex and anticonvulsant medications. In outpatient settings, where people have mild symptoms of withdrawal, carbamazepine is an alternative drug to benzodiazepine.
It is important to consider the whole person in addiction detox. That is why it is important for medical intervention before and during detox. It is the first and certainly one of the most critical steps taken towards recovery.