Medical Detox for Drug and Alcohol Addiction


Detoxing from drugs is the name for the process of abstaining from the drug long enough for your body to rid itself of all of the substance in your body. The withdrawal from the drug can be harsh, and there is medical detox methods that help the person get their body rid of the drugs without some of the harsh withdrawal symptoms.

Medical Detox Process

There are some situations where the process of detoxification can be life threatening. Medical detox is the use of medications, treatments and counselling to help people avoid possible life- threatening situations caused by their decision to get certain chemicals out of their body.

There are several different medications used in this process. The medicines used will be determined by the drug the person has been abusing and other health factors.

How long does Medical Detox Take?

The detoxification process is different for every person. The amount of the drug that has built up in your system over time will help determine how long it will take the substance to be removed from the body.

The type of drug that has been used will also play a role in the length of time it takes to get clean from it. There is no exact timeline that can be given for everyone, detoxification happens differently for each individual.

Withdrawal and Cravings

Cravings for the drug you have been using will increase drastically during the time you are trying to detox. The symptoms of withdrawal may include sweating profusely, nausea, physical pain, depression and anxiety.

There are symptoms of withdrawal that cause mood swings, seizures, changes in appetite, memory loss, hallucinations, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and more. These withdrawal symptoms can lead to life-threatening complications.

Whenever medical detox is used, a different drug is given to the person so their body can release the substance they are trying to stop using, but they will not have the intense pain, nausea, and other physical and mental symptoms experienced when people try to stop a drug “cold turkey”.

What do the detox medications do?

The detox medications can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of withdrawal. When the doctors give a patient Methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone the medications help to make the cravings the person has for their drug of choice less. By giving the medications, and then slowly reducing the amount of the detox medicine the patient takes each day, the cravings of withdrawal can be managed. The individual has a greater chance at success because the cravings were reduced.

Anticonvulsant medications are given to help prevent the possibility of seizures during the detox period. Phenobarbital, Klonopin, and Keppra are frequent medications used for this purpose.

Anti-nausea medications are given to help alleviate the nausea and vomiting. Nausea and vomiting can cause the person to experience dehydration that can be serious so medications like Zofran, promethazine, and metoclopramide are prescribed.

Antidepressants like Prosac, Zoloft, and Celexa are often prescribed to correct the chemical imbalances that cause severe mood swings, agitation and anxiety in the recovering addict.

The medications used in this type of treatment recovery program are FDA approved to be used in this manner for these reasons.

How effective is medical detox?

The effectiveness of this kind of detox is very effective. It is a personalized treatment tailored specifically for the one individual’s needs. By using this treatment, the patient’s chances of survival are increased; it increases the person’s ability to stay in the treatment and recovery program long enough to say they are clean and sober.

Are the medicines used addictive?

Many people may have heard that the recovering addict simply becomes addicted to the medical detox substance. Like they are trading one drug addiction for another one. This is not the case.

There are federal statures in place for all medication assisted detox programs (MAT) to follow. For a time, the patient takes the prescribed medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and stop complications. The professionals of the recovery program will then help them step down from their dependence on the detox medications by gradually reducing the dosage and frequency of the medication.

Patients are very closely monitored while they are in a MAT program by medical professionals and therapists and counselors. The treatment does include the use of medications to alleviate symptoms but the backbone of the program is surrounded in therapy and counselling that helps the individual recognize the problem and make a plan for successfully stopping their drug usage.

The Process of Recovery

During the process of recovery, the individual will have live-in rehabilitative services at an approved facility. They will be monitored and guided through the process so they understand what is happening and they can face recovery with a positive attitude.

The patient will participate in private counselling sessions designed to help them discover why they started using drugs and what they need to do to address that issue. They will also be helped to see their successes and understand that recovery is a day-to-day process. Addiction is a disease and it has no cure. The symptoms of addiction can be handled and managed but the disease follows the person through their life. The patient has to learn to deal with this fact of life in a positive manner.

Group therapy participation will also be part of the recovery process. Individuals have to learn that they are not alone, there are other people going through the same thing. The group therapy enforces another support system that helps recovery become a possibility.

Behavioral therapy will be given so the patient can learn to change their behaviors and avoid future temptations and possible set-backs.

Who requires medical detox?

Many people who abuse alcohol require medical detox to prevent them from having serious injury or repercussions during their detox.

People abusing opioids and heroin often require medical intervention to help them be safe while they recover.

Anyone trying to recover that is experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms should seek advice on medical detox programs.

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

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