Whether you are addicted to crack, heroin, cocaine, prescription pills, alcohol, or any other substance, the first step to recovery is checking in to a drug and alcohol detox program.
These programs will help you weather the uncomfortable and often unbearable withdrawal symptoms while getting clean. But beyond that, they will also keep you safe from any dangerous or even life-threatening complications that may arise along the way.
It is normal to have questions about drug and alcohol detox, particularly if you have never really thought about addiction treatment before. Northpoint Washington would like to address many common questions to help you choose to get professional help and put your mind at ease about what you can expect during this crucial phase of recovery.
What Is a Drug and Alcohol Detox Program?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, detoxification is the process of allowing the body to rid itself of a drug while managing the symptoms of withdrawal. Detox alone is not treatment but is often the first step in drug treatment. Treatment with behavioral therapy and medication, if available, should follow detox. Essentially, detox serves as the first step toward recovery to manage the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal that occur along the way.
For the most part, withdrawal is caused by the body re-adapting to life without your substance of choice. It works like this:
- As you became addicted, your body experienced physical changes along the way. Certain cell receptors grew or died off, chemicals became less or more potent, and your body grew more tolerant of the substance as a result. And because of those changes, your substance abuse becomes normalized.
- Once you remove the substance, your body cannot function normally because of those physical changes. Consequently, you experience a host of uncomfortable and downright painful side effects as your body gets back to normal.
- One of the main functions of a professional drug or alcohol detoxification program is to ensure that you remain as safe and comfortable as possible as your body progresses through withdrawal.
What Happens at a Drug and Alcohol Detox Center?
In a medical detox program, your withdrawal symptoms will be treated by a host of prescription medications. While choosing a medical detox program might be tempting, there are a few downsides:
- Many of these drugs have a long list of uncomfortable side effects.
- Some of these medications can be quite addictive on their own.
- The medications you are given will depend on your substance of choice. Some examples are:
- Opioids – Methadone, Buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex), and Naltrexone (Vivitrol)
- Alcohol – Disulfiram (Antabuse), Acamprosate (Campral), and Naltrexone
- Stimulants – Anti-Depressants and Anti-Psychotics
- Benzodiazepines – Long-Acting Benzodiazepines
While some alcohol and drug detox programs utilize medication to repress withdrawal symptoms, others rely on a holistic treatment philosophy. These treatment protocols focus on supporting the body naturally during the detox process rather than using a battery of prescription medications to treat withdrawals.
Holistic drug and alcohol detox treatments use three main forms of therapy to help jumpstart this natural process:
- Nutritional therapy
- Exercise regimens
- Supplementary treatments, like yoga or mindful meditation sessions
Many holistic detox programs also use other well-researched and evidence-based behavioral therapies like motivational enhancement therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy. There are plenty of other possibilities when it comes to which behavioral treatments your chosen program will use, but, in the end, each one of them will help make withdrawal easier to bear and sobriety simpler to maintain.
The Benefits of Professional Drug and Alcohol Detox
- A commitment to quitting – One of the most important aspects of a drug or alcohol detox program is that it can keep you from turning back to using when your willpower fails.
- Increasing your water intake – Proper hydration is critical when it comes to getting through the worst of your drug and alcohol withdrawals in one piece.
- Getting professional support – The expert staff at a detox facility for alcohol and drugs know what to expect during withdrawal, how long it can last, and, most importantly, how to make it far more manageable along the way.
- Receiving medical support – The most obvious benefit of a professional detoxification program is that you will have medical staff monitoring you as you progress through withdrawal. The detox process can be quite hazardous, with the potential for seizures, dehydration, and malnutrition.
- Getting peer support – In a professional alcohol or drug detox program, you will be surrounded by people in the same boat as you. They can truly empathize with your situation and offer a different kind of support that may end up being much more meaningful. Whether or not you have this kind of support could be the factor that separates you from recovery or relapse.
- Getting in touch with your spiritual side – If you subscribe to a faith, some detox programs offer programs that use this spirituality to help individuals persevere through the toughest withdrawals. The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, for instance, suggest tapping into a higher power to aid in recovery.