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You need to understand that drug detox isn't a comprehensive treatment for addiction - irrespective of your substance of choice. Since addiction is both physical and psychological, you might benefit from some psychotherapeutic treatment if only to address your cravings and the changes that your long-standing drug abuse caused to your brain.
On its own, therefore, drug detox can help you stop abusing alcohol and drugs in the short term. However, without any follow-up therapy and care, your risk of relapsing into problematic and compulsive substance abuse might increase.
In most cases, drug detox will last as long as - or even a little bit longer than - your withdrawal symptoms. In most cases, it will be applied for as long as it takes for you to stabilize - both mentally and physically.
Apart from helping you stop abusing addictive substances in the safest way while supporting you through the symptoms of withdrawal that may occur, drug detox also has the goal of helping to prepare you physically and psychological for the therapy and counseling that should come immediately after.
In case of any co-occurring mental health complications - including mental health disorders likely anxiety and depression - antipsychotics and antidepressant medications might also be used.
In particular, depression is a common occurrence among people who abuse stimulants like methamphetamines, cocaine, and opioids like prescription pain relievers and heroin.
Therefore, antipsychotics and antidepressants might be used during your drug detox to help you stabilize from any psychiatric issues you have. Your doctor and addiction treatment specialists will administer stable doses of these medications to prepare you so that you can start working through any other issues that may be worsening and/or driving your substance abuse and addiction.
However, you should keep in mind that not everyone completes drug detox successfully on their first try. As such, you might require multiple attempts before your sobriety can take hold and you can start on more comprehensive drug and/or alcohol rehabilitation and treatment.
On the other hand, addiction is usually defined by the risk of relapse. Since it is chronic in nature, you should ensure that you only leave the detox facility after you are well enough to undergo treatment at a rehab facility.
Dangers Of Drug Detox
For most clients, the initial period of drug detox is usually hardest and most intense. As such, you need to get medical, psychiatric, and addiction treatment professionals to provide you with the care, support, and monitoring you require.
This is because some hours after your last dose of, say, heroin, you may experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms. These include:
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
- Increasing eye watering
- Excessive yawning
Even though these withdrawal symptoms might not be necessarily life-threatening, you might have a hard time dealing with them. As such, you might want to start using again to alleviate them.
This is why it is so useful to receive medical and psychiatric care when you detox from drugs like heroin. In fact, you might experience many other issues over the first few hours after your last use. Therefore, your medical team will first deal with these issues until they stabilize your condition.
Other potentially dangerous problems arising within the first few hours of detox include:
a) Psychotic Symptoms
Psychosis is a risky and dangerous complications arising from the effects of drugs like cocaine. To this end, using excessive amounts of these drugs might cause you to become paranoid and - eventually - experience psychosis. Some of these psychotic symptoms include delusional thinking and auditory and visual hallucinations. Psychosis might also arise from any co-occurring mental health issue - such as schizophrenia and lack of sleep arising from the abuse of stimulant drugs.
If you are suffering from psychosis as a result of substance abuse, it is highly likely that you will become unpredictable and start behaving erratically. Therefore, the drug detox facility will first address these issues and provide you with appropriate treatment before they can proceed with any additional interventions required.
b) Threat to Self
While withdrawing from mind altering and intoxicating substances like opioids, you may display severe depressive symptoms. These symptoms could be lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts, and completed suicides.
If you exhibit these symptoms, the drug detox facility will have to protect you and keep you under close watch around the clock. After these acute problems have been identified and assessed during your evaluation, the staff at the center will treat them immediately until they pass and you stabilize.
Only at this point will they turn their focus and attention to helping you deal with the symptoms of withdrawal arising from your detox.
Abusing some drugs might increase your tendencies towards violence. For instance, if you abuse bath salts - or synthetic cathinones - you might have a higher risk of hurting yourself (or others around you).
If you are a danger to yourself or to others, you may require restraint or sedation if only to protect you from yourself and protect anyone around you (including medical service providers) from any violent tendencies.
However, these measures will only be required if you attempt to harm others (or yourself) and become physically aggressive. Once the problem has subsided or completely disappeared, you can continue with drug detox.
Drug Detox And Withdrawal
Research on substance withdrawal shows that deciding to abruptly stop abusing different drug classes might cause a wide variety of intense and painful withdrawal symptoms - which might also prove fatal in some instances.
However, the symptoms you experience and their intensity will vary from one person to the next. A couple of the factors that could influence your individual experiences include:
a) Drug Half-Life
In general, short acting drugs tend to come with withdrawal symptoms that occur quite soon after your last dose. For longer acting substances, the withdrawal syndrome might delay for a couple of days.
b) Combining Drugs
Combining drugs - and alcohol - creates a comorbid dependence. This could lead to a unique collection of withdrawal symptoms, which may exacerbate one another.
c) Drug Dose
In the same way, the dosage of the substances you used to abuse when you entered detox will also determine your experience during treatment. Abusing drugs persistently could cause you to develop tolerance to them. As a direct result, you will have to increase your doses to ensure you feel the effects and impacts you desire.
However, abusing higher doses of drugs means that your symptoms of withdrawal when you decide to quit and undergo drug detox will only be intensified and prove to be more severe.
d) Co-occurring Disorders
The existence of any co-occurring mental/physical health disorders could also affect your detox. In particularly, in case you have physical conditions such as intense cravings and chronic pain or mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, these conditions could be amplified during withdrawal. This will naturally cause you significant distress.
e) Duration of Addiction
Using your substances of preference on a daily basis for a long period could cause higher tolerance levels. Simultaneously, this means that your withdrawal symptoms might prove to be more severe.
That said, the following are some examples of withdrawal symptoms that could develop as a result of abusing different classes and types of drugs:
This refers to the intense desire to use your drug/substance of choice if only to put a stop to any strong withdrawal symptoms.
ii) Mood Disturbances
These might include mood swings, agitation, and/or irritability.
iii) Physical Effects
You might also experience physical withdrawal symptoms, including flu-like symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, headache, and runny nose, and shaking, tremors, sweating, and chills.
iv) Sleep Disturbances
In spite of any intense fatigue you may feel during drug detox, it is also highly likely that you will also experience insomnia.
Even so, different drugs come with different withdrawal symptoms that are specific to the substance of abuse you were used to. Some examples of the symptoms of withdrawal that are related to specific drug classes include:
1. Benzodiazepines and Alcohol
These substances come with similar withdrawal syndromes as a result of their similar and related mechanisms of action. Some of their withdrawal symptoms include:
Opioids like painkillers and heroin come with the following withdrawal symptoms:
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Increased pain sensitivity
- Joint and bone pain
- Muscle aches
On the other hand, stimulants like methamphetamines and cocaine may cause intense withdrawal symptoms - most of which are psychological in nature. They include:
- Suicidal ideation and behaviors
Marijuana also causes the following withdrawal symptoms when you stop abusing it:
- Physical symptoms like stomach pain, tremors, sweating, and fever
5. Bath salts
Bath salts, or synthetic cathinones, produce the following unpleasant withdrawal symptoms:
- Sleep disturbances
Drug Detox And Treatment
Irrespective of your substance of choice, it is vital that you undergo drug detox at an accredited and licensed medical facility. This is always the safest, most logical choice - both when you have co-occurring mental health disorders and you don't have any.
In some cases, the symptoms of withdrawal you experience could lead to further complications and other serious health issues that will require immediate emergency medical attention, monitoring, and care.
As far as possible, therefore, you should never try to detox at home or on your own (otherwise known as quitting cold turkey). This is particularly so if your substance abuse is significant.
Instead, you might want to enroll into an inpatient/residential drug detox center. As such, you may be able to receive the 24 hour medical assistance you may require - and ongoing medical monitoring and therapeutic follow-up care, treatment, and rehabilitation.
Among the difficult aspects of substance abuse and/or addiction is learning how to build up the courage to seek the treatment you require to recover fully. However, irrespective of the type of intoxicating and mind altering substance you were addicted to, it is important that you first start by undergoing drug/alcohol detox before you get started on the road to full recovery.
By undergoing detox, you may be provided with every tool you need to find full recovery and sobriety - at least to a point where you may no longer face the risk of certain relapse. As such, detox is an important part of addiction treatment and rehabilitation and you should never avoid or ignore it.
In most cases, the best programs will act as a first step in ensuring you recover from the chemical dependence you built up during your addiction. After getting treatment, you can enroll into a full rehabilitation program to deal with all other issues pertaining to your substance abuse and addiction.
Since you spent such a long time abusing alcohol and/or drugs, your body and brain might have become accustomed to having these intoxicating substances in the system. As such, it could activate the cycles and processes of certain tolerance and dependence.
If you cut down on the amount of substances you use, therefore, you may experience severe and intense withdrawal symptoms. At this stage, your drug/alcohol abuse will be less about feeling happy, euphoric, and elated and more about ensuring that you do not suffer any withdrawal.
This is because withdrawal symptoms are usually potentially dangerous and extremely uncomfortable for many addicts and substance abusers. Physical dependence, on the other hand, could compromise your natural ability to stop using. This means that trying to overcome your addiction could threaten your life.
This is why you need to understand your addiction - or that of anyone close to you. After all, many people who are addicted do not continue the habit because they don't desire change or they are selfish. Rather, it could be because they don't have any option other than to continue using. At this stage, the only way to help them is by ensuring they get into a drug detox facility and/or progress and start eliminating the harmful substances and resultant toxins from their systems.
Overall, after the detox, the addict should be in environments that are free from the temptation and triggers of substance abuse. This is why inpatient treatment at a rehabilitation facility usually follows detox.
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