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Medical Detox


Medical detox is the term used when a person is withdrawing from a drug of addiction under medical supervision. The medical detox process is designed to break the body’s physical dependence on the drug.

As the process is conducted under medical supervision, the patient may be given prescription medications to treat any withdrawal symptoms that may emerge. The objective with medical detox is to reduce the severity of any symptoms, at the same time as ensuring the patient’s safety throughout the process.

Withdrawal Symptoms Associated with Detox

The withdrawal symptoms of detox will vary depending on the type of drug the person is taking. The severity of symptoms is also dependent on the length of time the person has been using, the dosage being taken, and the severity of the addiction. Symptoms include:

Meth Withdrawal: detoxing from methamphetamine (crystal meth) can produce severe psychological withdrawal symptoms, including overwhelming cravings to take more meth, anxiety, inability to feel any pleasure, nightmares, deep depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Heroin Withdrawal: detoxing from opioid drugs like heroin feels as though the body switches on every pain receptor in the body all at once after being blocked for a long period of time. The symptoms include intense cravings, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bone aches, muscle cramps, heavy sweating, irritability, runny nose, anxiety, and depression.

OxyContin Withdrawal: detoxing from opioid painkillers such as OxyContin (oxycodone) produces the same severe physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms as detoxing from heroin. The primary difference is that the symptoms will extend for a longer period of time, as OxyContin has a longer half-life than heroin.

Alcohol Withdrawal: detoxing from a severe alcohol addiction can produce potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that require emergency medical attention. It’s important that detox is conducted under medical supervision, as symptoms can include shaking, tremors, nausea, vomiting, headaches not associated with hangovers, insomnia, anxiety, fever, depression, hallucinations, seizures, and delirium tremens (DTs).

Why Is It Dangerous to Detox At Home?

It’s common for people to try and detox from drugs or alcohol at home, thinking that they’ll get through the detox process and somehow be cured of their addiction. The majority of users may expect the onslaught of physical symptoms, but most completely underestimate how severe the psychological symptoms can be.

Addicting drugs cause significant changes to the brain’s chemistry, reducing the brain’s ability to naturally produce dopamine or serotonin. When drug use stops suddenly, the brain isn’t able to adapt. As a result, the user experiences such fierce cravings to take more of the drug that they’ll do almost anything for another hit or another drink.

Studies indicate that an addict is at the highest risk of accidental overdose when they relapse back into substance abuse after detoxing. The body’s physical tolerance levels are reduced during detox, yet the user may continue to take doses at similar levels to what they were taking previously.

Seeking professional drug treatment options and detoxing under medical supervision reduces the risk of accidental overdose dramatically, as the person has a safe, monitored environment in which to complete the process.

Types of Detox Programs

There are several different types of medical detox available. The right drug detox process will depend on the type of drug being taken and the severity of the addiction.

Natural Detox: stopping drug use suddenly is called natural detox, although it’s often called ‘going cold turkey’. The user is at risk of developing potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms if the process isn’t done under proper medical supervision.

Medicated Detox: medicated detox is the term used when a person goes through the detox process under medical supervision. The intake of addicting drugs stops, but medical staff administer prescription medication to treat any withdrawal symptoms the user experiences. For example, an addict detoxing from crystal meth or alcohol may be given antidepressants, anticonvulsants, or antipsychotic medications.

Medically-supervised Detox: withdrawing from some types of drugs requires careful medical supervision, as the dosage levels of the drug being taken are tapered down over a period of time. Medically-supervised detox is more common with detoxing from sedative medications, such as Klonopin (clonazepam), Valium (diazepam), and Xanax (alprazolam).

Medical Detox: medical detox is commonly used to treat people recovering from addiction to opioid drugs, such as heroin or OxyContin. The person is given prescription treatment medication, such as Suboxone or methadone, to replace the drug of addiction and reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Over a period of time, the dosage level of the treatment medication is reduced until the person is free from drugs.

Why Seek Treatment in a Residential Treatment Facility for Detox?

A recovering addict has the best possible chance of achieving a successful recovery when the process is conducted under medical supervision in a residential treatment facility. Doctors are able to administer appropriate medications, while other medical staff can provide around-the-clock supervision to ensure the patient’s safety throughout the process.

Find the help you need to get back on the right track by contacting an addiction specialist. Today can mark the start of your new beginning.