Detoxification, or detox, is often the first step in addiction treatment and recovery. It’s the process of flushing out all the toxins in the system accumulated from drug or alcohol abuse.
Stopping the use of drugs or alcohol can be uncomfortable, dangerous, and, in some cases, life-threatening.
That’s because substance abuse affects your:
After prolonged use, your body and brain become used to and even dependent on those substances. They alter the way your brain functions, affecting your:
When you cut the supply of alcohol or drugs, your brain and body are thrown into disarray because of chemical and neurological imbalances. In many situations of detox, urgent and quick medical assistance is needed to ensure a person’s well-being. That’s why quitting cold turkey—suddenly and on your own—is almost never the right choice.
Medical detox puts you in the care of healthcare and psychological professionals, so they can monitor your progress, help keep you comfortable, and give you medical help if you need it.
Some drugs need to be tapered off, or your body can go into shock and/or experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Other drugs cause withdrawal symptoms that require prescription medication to manage. Therefore, the safest way to detox is to have a team of professionals ready to help whenever you need it.
If you have a medical condition or another mental health disorder, it’s especially important to detox in a professional setting with experts who can manage the side effects of co-occurring disorders. The same is true if you use more than one drug.
Medical detox is also the best option for those who cannot detox in a stable environment. Being in an unsafe, uncontrolled environment can put you at risk of accidents and relapse.
Medical detox is the opportunity to safely, comfortably, and effectively cleanse your body of alcohol and drugs through cutting-edge medical, holistic, and therapeutic approaches. If you or a loved one is in need of drug or alcohol medical detox services, our Footprints to Recovery admissions coordinators are prepared to help you begin the rehab process.
After medical detox, our addiction treatment specialists will recommend a specialized treatment approach to help you fully recover from addiction. Detox is the first step in the process; treatment helps solidify your lifelong sobriety.
Some drugs have more significant withdrawal symptoms than others. When you use psychoactive drugs, the chemistry of your brain changes to accommodate them. Eventually, your brain becomes used to that level of neurotransmitters, hormones, and chemicals. Drug abuse can also cause a flood of dopamine or serotonin, which helps regulate your moods and emotions. This is what causes the high associated with drug abuse. When these drugs wear off, you experience a crash, as your brain attempts to balance itself.
The more often you use drugs and the higher your doses, the longer it can take for your brain to achieve that natural balance. Eventually, you will be dependent on the drugs. If you stop using them, withdrawal sets in.
Many people go through a range of symptoms in detox, and they vary depending on the substance abused. Physical withdrawal symptoms can include:
Not all effects are physical; some are psychological. You may experience:
Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused addictive substances. It’s legal, cheap, and socially acceptable to drink. Many people who drink alcohol do not suffer from alcohol dependence or addiction. But regularly consuming high doses of alcohol, as well as mental and genetic factors, can lead to addiction.
Typical alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually start about eight hours after the last drink. Their intensity depends on your level of addiction, your general health, genetic factors, and more. While not everyone experiences all of them, some of the most common alcohol withdrawal symptoms are:
LEARN MORE ABOUT DETOXING FROM ALCOHOL HERE
Opioids, or opiates, are drugs that derive from the opium poppy. This class of drugs includes illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl, but the prescription painkillers and morphine are also opioids. While they can be safe to use when prescribed and properly used, opioids are highly addictive.
During opioid withdrawal, cravings for the drugs and symptoms can be very intense. Though symptoms themselves are not usually life-threatening, the high level of discomfort makes relapse likely. Because of this, medical detox is usually recommended.
Symptoms of opioid withdrawal include, but aren’t limited to:
LEARN MORE ABOUT DETOXING FROM OPIOIDS HERE
Benzos are a class of prescription drugs that includes:
They’re often prescribed to manage anxiety or sleep disorders and generally only for short-term use because drug tolerance and dependence builds quickly.
When it comes to benzos, there is a difference between addiction and dependency. When you take benzos, your brain becomes used to them as your tolerance lowers. Benzos “balance out” neurotransmitters so the brain can deal with the symptoms of mental disorders. This means that anyone who takes benzos becomes dependent on them, but not necessarily addicted.
For this reason, when you stop taking benzos, you must do so by lowering your dosage little by little. This is when you can tell if dependence has become an addiction or not. If you’re not able to wean down your dosage, you might be addicted.
Benzos work as central nervous system depressants. If their supply is cut suddenly after chronic use, it can cause a dangerous rebound in brain chemistry and central nervous system activity. Like alcohol withdrawal, benzo withdrawal can trigger life-threatening symptoms, such as seizures. Benzo withdrawal is comprised of three stages:
1. Early withdrawal
Early withdrawal usually brings on the symptoms the benzos were treating, such as anxiety or insomnia. They might start in a matter of hours or days after the last dose.
2. Acute withdrawal
After a few days, you will start developing acute withdrawal, which can last between two weeks and months. The possible symptoms are:
3. Protracted withdrawal
The final stage of the process—protracted withdrawal—doesn’t affect everyone. Only 1 in 10 people experience it, but it can be brutal. Those who suffer from it might experience withdrawal symptoms even years after quitting, and at random.
People experiencing protracted withdrawal report:
LEARN MORE ABOUT DETOXING FROM SEDATIVES & TRANQUILIZERS HERE
Stimulant drugs, like cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy (MDMA), and prescription ADHD medication, increase the activity of your central nervous system. Prescription stimulant drugs are meant to help with focus, mood, and vigor. They can be safely used to treat multiple disorders, as long as a doctor’s orders are followed.
In general, the symptoms of stimulant withdrawal include:
LEARN MORE ABOUT DETOXING FROM STIMULANTS HERE
Any drugs that have mind-altering effects can impact your brain chemistry. Your brain becomes used to working a certain way, which means, eventually, prolonged use can lead to addiction.
Detoxing from the following drugs can also lead to withdrawal symptoms:
Barbiturates are sedative-hypnotics. They were often used for the same effect as benzos in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Because the right dose can be hard to predict, they are only prescribed in incredibly specific cases, like:
Marijuana can be addictive and cause long-term to permanent damage. While it has been prescribed for medicinal purposes, recreational use is not as safe. Compared to marijuana of the 1970s, marijuana today has higher levels of THC, making it more capable of intoxicating and making people addicted to it.
Marijuana alters brain function, like lowering the production of neurotransmitters. This causes your brain to need marijuana in order to function. It can also affect brains that are still developing, so using it at a young age can cause permanent damage.
Sleep aids, mood stabilizers, and antidepressants can also cause withdrawal symptoms.
Multiple factors can impact the intensity of your withdrawal symptoms:
1. The type of drug you’ve been taking regularly – If you used multiple substances, that would also play a big role in your withdrawal symptoms and the medical approach for detox.
2. Your level of dependence – This can be influenced by:
The longer and more frequently you used drugs or alcohol, the harder it might be to quit. If you have been taking a lot of drugs for a long time, your level of dependence is probably high. And the fact that drug tolerance goes down over time means you need higher doses to have the same effects. All this points to a longer detox period, since your body is in need of the substance to function.
Medical and mental health disorders can complicate drug withdrawal symptoms and make them worse. Since addiction causes physical and psychiatric symptoms, having other disorders triggering them can make diagnosis and the treatment harder.
If you have a co-occurring psychiatric disorder, like depression or anxiety, a proper treatment plan needs to be made. Both disorders must be addressed separately, as they feed off each other. Not treating one can make the other one worse or lead to relapses.
Any physical restrictions or problems you have will affect how withdrawal symptoms show up. Even allergies can affect the medication that should be used for detox and could make withdrawal symptoms worse.
Any prescription medication you take will also influence withdrawal symptoms and treatment.
For these reasons, medical detox is especially important. Medically trained professionals will take your background into account as they create your treatment plan, and they’ll keep you safe during withdrawal.
Detox typically lasts three to seven days, depending on:
As a general rule, withdrawal symptoms can kick in as soon as the drug stops being active in your bloodstream. That’s usually between a few hours and a day after the last dose. Symptoms usually peak in the first two or three days. Then they wane as your brain works to achieve chemical and functional stability.
The first few days of drug detox are a crucial time. A professional detox program can help manage and regulate your brain chemistry during this vulnerable period.
During detox, trained professionals may use the following to stabilize any psychiatric and physical symptoms:
The end goal of detox is twofold:
Treatment professionals will ensure you stay safe and healthy while helping to control cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms.
There are three main detox options; they each have their strong points:
You should choose based on your medical needs, not your wants.
Inpatient detox requires that you check into an addiction treatment facility and only leave once treatment is over. It is an in-depth, immersive treatment approach, so it tends to be short. You’ll stay in a controlled environment and have medical and psychiatric supervision 24/7. This service setting is highly recommended if you have severe symptoms or are a danger to yourself or others.
Outpatient detox is an option for moderate to mild cases of drug addiction. Not everyone who abuses drugs experiences the most intense withdrawal symptoms. In an outpatient program, you won’t stay at the treatment facility; you will come in for sessions. The number of visits a week and their duration depend on your needs. They can range from three to six days a week, or even daily. They can be either short or longer sessions—from three to eight hours a day.
At home detox is not an option at Footprints to Recovery, but it’s a decision some people make. Detoxification comes with many risks, which is why doctors often do not recommend at-home detox. Though it might be tempting to try to maintain your routine, at-home detox requires more than just willpower. It could work, but the chances of relapse are extremely high. And not detoxing properly can lead to medical complications.
Medication is often used during detox to balance brain chemistry and treat major physical symptoms. These can include over-the-counter drugs, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), gastrointestinal medications, antihistamines, and so on. Professionals in a medical detox setting can make sure to use medications that don’t trigger or worsen withdrawal symptoms.
The following prescription medications are commonly used during detox:
Certain drugs, such as opioids, alcohol, and benzodiazepines, are usually not stopped abruptly. In cases like benzos, the drug you’re on might be replaced by other medications while you transition to lower doses. This can help stabilize your brain and central nervous system during detox. Once the transition to the new medication is done, they can be tapered down in medical detox.
In other cases, prescription drugs might be used to treat your symptoms, but not the addiction itself. For instance, there are no specific medications that are FDA-approved for the treatment of stimulant dependence. During stimulant detox, medications that treat specific symptoms of withdrawal, such as sleep aids for insomnia and mood stabilizers for anxiety and depression, can be helpful.
Insurance providers usually do cover detox. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), substance abuse treatment is one of the 10 essential health benefits.
Typically, detox needs to be classified as “medically necessary” to be covered under insurance. You will need to check with your insurance provider directly to find out what your individual plan covers, and how much. You may have a deductible to pay first or associated copays. In some instances, you may need to pay for your detox services upfront and then get reimbursed by your insurance company later.
Your insurance company may ask you to get prior authorization for detox services, obtain a referral from your primary care provider (PCP), or use an in-network provider for detox, depending on your specific plan and coverage.
Insurance coverage varies from state to state and providers. Since the specifics vary so much based on your personal plan, it can be tricky to ascertain your exact level of coverage. Detox providers and your insurance company can help you determine what your exact out-of-pocket costs will be.
You can start the process of insurance verification here.
Payment plans are an option that allow for the gradual payment of the full price. You can also pay for treatment with a credit card, through this might affect your general credit. If you have good credit, a personal loan, private loan, and/or home equity are options.
Detox helps you reach stability after quitting drugs or alcohol, but it is only the first step towards recovery. It manages the physical symptoms of drug withdrawal and helps you get a handle on cravings. It doesn’t address the root causes of your addiction.
You will need a substance abuse treatment program to help you with that. Addiction treatment should include:
Medications; nutrition planning; exercise programs; and additional holistic treatment, like massage therapy, yoga, chiropractic care, and acupuncture, can also aid in the healing process. The programs at Footprints to Recovery can help you address the physiological and behavioral parts of addiction. You’ll learn how to make positive lifestyle changes and take the time to instill healthy habits for a sustained recovery.
Have questions about our how our drug and alcohol detox programs work? Our compassionate staff at Footprints to Recovery is standing by to answer any questions you might have. We’re waiting to hear from you!(855) 628-2899