Between Hollywood’s graphic portrayals and the knowledge that your body will be reacting to life without drugs—causing withdrawal symptoms, cravings and emotions you can’t or don’t want to deal with—the idea of going into a detoxification program can be frightening. But it’s an important first step in the recovery process.
What Is Detox?
Detoxification is not actually treatment for a substance abuse disorder; it’s pre-treatment. It’s the process of getting alcohol or other drugs out of a person’s system and getting him or her physically stable. When you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, your body develops a physical dependence to the substance, and your brain undergoes chemical changes. Ridding your body of that substance can cause physical and psychological symptoms. When performed and monitored by healthcare professionals, detox can include relieving the physical withdrawal symptoms, such as delirium, tremors, nausea and more; and preparing the patient for ongoing treatment by providing psychological readjustment — that is, helping them learn to live without drugs.
Detox can take as long as five to seven days, after which time blood tests are taken to determine whether your blood still contains traces of drugs or alcohol. It should also include a thorough physical examination to see if any conditions have been caused or masked by ongoing abuse of drugs or alcohol.
Why is Professional Detox Necessary?
Rather than trying to go cold turkey on your own, going the medically monitored detox route is much safer. Going off drugs or alcohol abruptly can lead to fatal heart stoppage, organ failure and seizures. Alcoholics especially are susceptible to delirium tremens, or the DTs, a condition that demands immediate emergency treatment.
Supervised detoxification means you will be given medications to relieve distressing and painful withdrawal symptoms, rather than using again to relieve them.
A comprehensive medical detox plan will also include psychological support to help you address the emotional or physical reasons you became an addict.
In summary, detox is not treatment in itself, but the start of the overall treatment and recovery process. Besides getting you physically stable, it allows doctors and other medical professionals to assess you across a wide spectrum of factors and help create a treatment game plan that best fits you.
Help in Western New York
If you or someone you love needs help with substance abuse, please call our 24/7 line. We can help you find resources in our area.