Detoxification, or “detox,” is a fundamental part of the addiction treatment process. It’s the means by which patients are able to arrest and repair the damage that their bodies have suffered in the wake of prolonged and untreated drug or alcohol abuse. Determining how to detox your body from drugs and alcohol requires examining your substance abuse history, symptomatology, and your level of withdrawal. For those with longer and more frequent histories of substance abuse, it is probably necessary to seek help from a specialist, as the brain and central nervous system have become dependent on the drugs to achieve normal function.
For those who have not yet crossed the threshold of chemical dependency, they may be able to enact lifestyle changes to help them detox or seek help from their primary care physician. A recent study from the University of Amsterdam, among other data, indicates that those who receive medically supervised detoxes are more likely to sustain abstinence.
Each patient’s drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms will vary based upon a variety of factors, including what type of substances they’ve been using, the frequency and duration of use, and other predetermined biological factors. There are, however, some common symptoms particular to drug and alcohol withdrawal:
Common Drug Withdrawal Symptoms:
Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms:
Drug and alcohol abuse create serious and profound changes in the brain’s chemistry, which is why it’s critical that users detox shortly after they start using. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that over two-hundred-thousand patients are admitted to the emergency room each year seeking detox from drugs or alcohol.
While it might not be the necessary choice for everyone, medically supervised detox from a reputable and qualified facility can help mitigate withdrawal symptoms and keep patients safe in the event of a medical emergency during the process. Medical detox is offered in conjunction with inpatient, outpatient, and other types of treatment programs. Residential detox tends to last five to seven days, while long-term detox can last for months. The withdrawal period is generally divided into three states: early, acute (when symptoms are at their worst), and protracted. Early and acute withdrawal often require residential or inpatient detox, while protracted withdrawal symptoms can be managed independently with the aid of medications like Suboxone® (buprenorphine), Vivitrol® (naltrexone), methadone, and others. These drugs are administered as part of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) regimen, a treatment approach that the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports can decrease opioid use, opioid-related overdose deaths, criminal activity, and infectious disease transmission, as well as help patients remain in therapy throughout their recovery.
In many cases, patients who have only begun recreational use of drugs or excessive alcohol consumption might not need the in-depth level of detox as those with more extended histories. In these cases, milder withdrawal symptoms like slight pain, fatigue, and nausea may be able to be managed with over-the-counter medications, exercise, physical therapy, and proper diet. There are a variety of vitamin regimens that may also be able to help these people diminish the onset of symptoms. Once substance use reaches the point of chemical dependency, these options may not be enough on their own to help patients detox, as withdrawal-related cravings may be too much to handle without professional help.
No matter how mild or severe an individual’s substance abuse may be, some form of detox is required to help the body revert to normal function. After detox, serious substance abusers should consider a comprehensive course of behavioral rehab, whereas those with limited history may just need to practice avoidance and basic relapse-prevention techniques. The most important thing is to get the help you need now, whatever that might look like.
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