Resources & Education

June 1st, 2017

The Risk of Overdose After Detox: What Causes this Dangerous Behavior?

Holding handsThe decision to detox is one that takes tremendous commitment and courage. When a detox program ends however, the work, and the commitment, does not. Individuals suffering from drug addiction are most at risk for drug poising or overdose immediately post rehabilitation, making this period in their recovery extremely dangerous, and their support network during this time essential.

The Risk of Overdose after Detox

During a substance use detoxification process, an individual abstains from drugs and alcohol, giving their body an opportunity to clear itself of all toxins. Detox programs are generally the first step of an inpatient substance abuse rehabilitation program. Such programs may last for several weeks. During this time, the patient works with a specialist, one-on-one, and possibly in a group, to understand the risk factors in their life that have led to their substance abuse, and learn the coping mechanisms needed to overcome their addiction.

By the time the patient is released from the program, they have likely spent several weeks completely drug and alcohol-free. What should be a period of greatest health and personal accomplishment can turn deadly, however, if patients in recovery are tempted back into their old lifestyle post-detox and rehab. After a period of detox, one’s body no longer requires a drug such as opioids to feel a perceived sense of normalcy, however the patient is likely to still crave the drug. Drug cravings are generally highest in the first few days after completing a detox program. If the patient does not remain in a rehabilitation setting, and is exposed to people or places where drugs are accessible, they are at risk of a potential relapse.

As a further complication, regular drug use, especially relative to opioids, results in an increased tolerance. However, one’s tolerance can drop during a period of detox and rehabilitation, which means if an individual consumes their drug of choice at the same quantity that they were using it before their detox, when their tolerance was higher, it could result in an accidental overdose, and possibly even death.

Preventive Measures

Experts agree that there are ways to mitigate the risks of an overdose after detox, and that all of them surround a proper support network that includes ongoing treatment by a rehabilitation specialist. Such preventive measures may include:

  • Participation in an ongoing outpatient program.
  • Participation in a detox and substance use recovery program that encourages prescribed medications. For heroin or pain killer addiction recovery, use of the opioid medication methadone, a drug used to reduce symptoms of opioid withdrawal and treat pain, has been shown to help patients more gradually overcome their dependence.
  • The support of friends and family members who are not associated with the patient’s past drug use, who can participate with the patient in drug-free activities.
  • Access to the drug Narcan (naloxone) to prevent death in cases of accidental overdose.

Substance Use Disorder Resources in WNY

If you or a loved one are ready to begin the road to recovery, know that you are about to begin a journey that will require a long-term commitment. The experts at Horizon Health Services are here to help, every step of the way, starting with a safe and effective initial detox, to ensure you have the support you need to break your drug addiction habit and stay healthy long-term.

Call us at (716) 831-1800.

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