Drug & Alcohol Detox
by Emily Brown King
Drug & Alcohol Detox
Millions of Americans suffer from drug or alcohol addiction. The effect that addiction has on their health, families, and well-being is devastating. Everyone knows about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, so why do they continue to use them? Chemical addiction can seem almost impossible to overcome and it can control its victim's life. Besides being a mental addiction, the body's systems actually become dependent on the drug and may not be able to function without it. In many cases, a monitored medical detoxification is necessary to help break the cycle of drug abuse.
What Is Detox?
Detox is slang for medical detoxification, or withdrawal therapy. It is when a person is taken off drugs in a safe environment with the aid of medication to relieve side effects. Sometimes, patients may be able to undergo detox as outpatients, but many times the withdrawal effects are so severe that they need to be constantly monitored in a hospital or other medical setting. Detox is the best way to get someone off a drug quickly and safely, but it doesn't mean that it cures an addiction. Addiction recovery is a lifelong process that takes dedication and constant work. Detox can be the first step in preparing you for the fight.
Classes of Drugs
Detoxification treatments and side effects differ for different drugs. An addiction to a depressant such as alcohol is treated differently than a stimulant or opiate addiction. Some addictions carry more severe withdrawal symptoms than others. Treatments for different addictions can be more gradual and take longer. Other therapies may be necessary to accompany detox. This may include psychotherapy to deal with depression and anxiety. Synthetic drugs like methadone may be necessary to slowly wean someone off certain opiates. Other drugs like antidepressants may be necessary.
Inpatient detoxification requires constant medical supervision because of the danger of withdrawal effects. Before detox, the patient will be informed of what to expect. The person will then enter treatment, and their vital signs will be closely monitored. The time period for drug detox always varies according to the severity of addiction and the drug itself, but usually takes anywhere from three to seven days. Symptoms of withdrawal can include headaches, sweating, shaking, nausea, anxiety, depression and many other unsettling experiences. The patient will be made to feel as comfortable as possible and symptoms can be somewhat relieved with medication. Drugs like Klonepin and Buprenophex are commonly prescribed and can prevent seizures and other physical symptoms.
Depending on severity, alcohol detox can take anywhere from three to 14 days. In less severe cases, it can be treated on an outpatient basis. Minor symptoms can include restlessness and shaking, but more severe withdrawal can cause seizures and tremors. Symptoms can be treated with medications such as benzodiazepine or carbamazepine.
For the best chance of staying sober, treatment should not end after detox. Professional counseling is often recommended; an extended treatment program may be necessary. These are great tools for teaching addicts how to live a sober life and avoid relapse. Treatment programs may be inpatient or outpatient. Self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are great for providing long-term support. Many recovering alcoholics and drug addicts attend meetings their whole lives in order to maintain sobriety.