Drug Detox: Process, Side Effects & Detox Centers

Detox is the process of withdrawing from drugs. Most people require detoxing for five to 10 days. The aim is to clean out every last vestige of the substance. If you’re addicted, drug detox isn’t simple, and it might be deadly.

Once the body becomes dependent on a substance to function, withdrawing from it will lead to physical and emotional side effects or withdrawal syndrome. The detoxification process involves allowing the body to gradually rid itself of the substance so as not to cause any significant discomfort. Medication may be necessary because addiction can affect how your body functions.

It’s easy to understand why drug detox is essential. After all, you don’t want to continue taking drugs that are harming your body. You might want to quit as soon as possible. Without drug detoxing, the withdrawal will occur regardless of how ready you are for quitting.

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What is Drug Detox?

Drug Detox: Process, Side Effects & Detox Centers

The natural process of removing a substance from the body is known as drug detox. A medical detox program, also known as “medically managed withdrawal,” uses a combination of therapies (such as medicines and other treatments) to safely manage the adverse effects of quitting drugs.

Drug detox aims to lessen the possibility of physical damage from quitting a substance (or substances) after lengthy usage.

It’s important to distinguish between a professional detox program and substance abuse treatment. In contrast, “detox” and “rehabilitation” are sometimes used interchangeably. Substance abuse rehabilitation entails a wide range of ongoing services to help someone recovering from drug addiction socially and psychologically.

Detox facilities, on the other hand, attempt to medically stabilize patients, alleviate their withdrawal symptoms, avoid any adverse consequences of withdrawal, and help them in transitioning into a substance abuse rehabilitation program or another type of long-term treatment.

Why is Drug Detox Important?

If you are addicted to drugs, it’s essential to know you are not alone. Close to 23 million Americans over the age of 12 have abused illicit drugs in the past month. If you’re part of that statistic but want out, drug detox will keep you alive until your official rehabilitation begins.

People often abuse various street, prescription drugs, or illegal substances. The risk of addiction exists with almost all types of drug use, no matter the substance. That’s why it’s important to detox from all drugs.

Drugs are chemicals that change the way your body functions. When you abuse them for a long time, they can take control of your life and make quitting difficult.

Detoxing from drugs is necessary for your health. It should be done in a safe environment to go through this process without any complications. Reasons to detox include:

  • It reduces the risk of continued use. If you stop using, you can’t get high.
  • It reduces the risk of overdose. If you quit using while still feeling the effects of the drug, you might take more than initially intended, resulting in an overdose.
  • Your body will recover without any difficulties. By quitting all drugs at once, your body won’t have to deal with multiple withdrawals at once.
  • You’ll be able to focus on your treatment plan. Detoxing from drugs can’t take the place of substance abuse treatment.

You should use the time you spend detoxing to find a rehab program and determine what type of treatment you want to pursue after detoxing.

What is the Process of Drug Detoxification?

The process of detoxing varies depending on the drug you’re quitting. For example, methamphetamine withdrawal can last anywhere from two to six weeks; alcohol withdrawal, on the other hand, lasts for less than three days. Painkillers like Vicodin and heroin produce some of the longest withdrawals because they suppress breathing rates.

The three essential components of drug detox are the following:

  • Evaluation – detoxification experts at a facility, conduct a comprehensive physical and mental examination of patients as part of their assessment. Tests can be used to determine a person’s acute intoxication and withdrawal risk, biomedical issues, and more. The medical practitioners can recommend a detoxification level and create an individualized treatment plan for patients based on this evaluation.
  • Stabilization – may be done in a detox center following a personalized treatment plan, prescribed therapies, and medications. It assists a patient journey through a safe withdrawal experience.
  • Encouraging patient engagement in longer-term substance abuse therapy – This stage is crucial in keeping someone in recovery and avoiding a return to addiction. Detox alone is rarely enough to help someone achieve long-term recovery when addressing the complex psychological and social issues drug abuse entails. The objective of detoxification therapy is to get clients ready for their next best phase of treatment, which may be short-term residential treatment, long-term residential treatment, or outpatient care.

Although these are some of the most common components and goals of detoxification, patients’ objectives, length of treatment, and the overall process may all differ. To assist a patient manage their withdrawal symptoms safely, comfortably, and in a controlled setting at a professional detoxification facility.

What medications are used during Drug Detox?

Various medications may be used to assist patients in managing their withdrawal symptoms safely, comfortably, and in a controlled setting at a professional detoxification facility.

Benzodiazepine – Benzodiazepines are sedatives that ease anxiety and relax muscle spasms. They can reduce the risk of seizures in people with substance abuse who suddenly stop using alcohol or drugs that slow the nervous system.

Methadone and buprenorphine – The methadone and buprenorphine programs help people overcome addiction to opiates such as heroin by relieving withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

An opiate blocker, like naltrexone (Vivitrol) – Vivitrol is an FDA-approved medication that blocks the effects of opioids, helping to prevent relapse.

What is Substance Abuse Treatment?

Treatment for substance abuse focuses on stopping drug or alcohol abuse, and learning how to function without depending upon the abused substances. Treatment can occur in an inpatient rehab center, outpatient program or at home. The length of time spent in treatment varies widely based on each person’s unique circumstances.

What are the different types of Drug Detox?

There are several types of expert detoxification treatments accessible to fit each patient’s clinical needs. Many detoxification solutions employ the “medical model” of detoxification. It is where doctors and nurses administer drugs to assist individuals in safely withdrawing.

Detoxification can occur in a wide range of settings and at varying degrees of intensity. Within the realm of treatment, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration divides detoxification into five “degree of care” placement levels, including:

  1. Ambulatory Detoxification Without Long-Term On-Site Monitoring. This level of care is an organized outpatient program monitored at set intervals. This form of detoxification, for example, may take place in a doctor’s office or under the care of a home health agency.
  2. Ambulatory Detoxification With On-Site Extended Monitoring. This level of care, which is similar to placement care but necessitates licensed nurses who monitor patients for many hours each day, is called post-acute detoxification.
  3. Managed Detoxification in a Residential Setting. This sort of detoxification is usually referred to as “social detoxification.” It relies on peer and social assistance rather than medical supervision, although it does have 24/7 care.
  4. Medical Detoxification is a Controlled Setting. This level of care is more stringent than the clinically managed residential detoxification level of care. Inpatient detoxification includes 24-hour attention and supervision, and assistance for patients undergoing withdrawal symptoms.
  5. Intensive Inpatient Detoxification in a Medically Managed Environment. The most restricted level of care in the detoxification program is at this stage. It provides 24-hour attention and supervision for persons experiencing withdrawal symptoms in an acute care hospital setting.

Detoxification procedures can be administered in an inpatient, residential, or outpatient setting, and they might be part of a more extensive substance abuse treatment program or operate on their own. Patients with complicated medical or mental health issues are more likely to need detoxification in an inpatient facility.

What are the Side Effects of Drug Detox?

During drug detox, patients may experience symptoms and adverse effects of substance withdrawal. Drug detox side effects are dependent on the drug used, although some of the most common side effects include:

  • Mood changes such as mood swings, anxiety, depression, and agitation.
  • Body changes such as flu-like symptoms, shaking, nausea, and headaches.
  • Cravings, particularly for the drug they are attempting to quit.

What is Withdrawal Syndrome?

Drug withdrawal syndrome occurs when a person dependent on drugs has to quit using drugs after a long time. Withdrawal syndrome is usually full of unpleasant side effects, which vary according to the type of drug dependence and length of use.

The severity of withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable or even dangerous, which is why it is recommended that individuals receive medical detox treatment to achieve the safest transition possible.

What is Quitting Cold Turkey?

Quitting “cold turkey” (stopping drug use abruptly without tapering off) may lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia, hallucinations, and convulsions. Some people also experience depressive effects during the withdrawal period, including anxiety, nausea, and vomiting. These can develop within 24 hours after quitting and peak within 72 hours.

On the other hand, certain medicines might be pretty dangerous if you quit them “cold turkey,” or all at once. When alcohol is stopped abruptly after long-term, chronic use, it can trigger seizures, delirium, nausea, and sometimes death.

Quitting opioids cold turkey is not necessarily deadly, but stopping them abruptly may still induce uncomfortable symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, as well as other flu-like problems. Drug cravings are also a typical symptom of moderate to severe opioid withdrawal. When someone experiences all of these things at once, they will likely relapse and resume using the drug.

Because of this, it’s a good idea to get medical advice before stopping any drug cold-turkey. It may also be beneficial to contact a drug detox facility to see whether a medically supervised detox program is suitable for you.

What is Tapering?

Tapering refers to a steady decrease in the use of a substance over time, which allows the body to adjust slowly and helps prevent unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Although reducing consumption gradually does not eliminate all withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting substances such as benzodiazepines or alcohol, tapering can be an excellent way to minimize discomfort and the chances of relapse.

It is common among alcoholics who switch from a daily habit to a weekly pattern or from a weekly to an every other day habit. When at all possible, it’s usually best to try and taper benzodiazepines over several weeks before quitting completely. Unfortunately, this may not always be possible, and in some cases, it can take months.

How Does the Tapering Process for Drug Detox Work?

So you’ve been going to your doctor regularly, and he’s finally agreed that you’re ready for drug detox. That’s a great thing! Now the question is: What happens next? Well, there are a lot of different factors involved in this process, but it breaks down into three simple steps.

What kind of treatment do I need?

This is the first question that comes to mind. In order to answer that, your doctor will prescribe a specific treatment regime for you based on his assessment of your needs. There are a variety of treatments for drug addiction available, and each one might have different steps involved – these often depend on how severe the addiction is and what kind of drug is involved. For example, some treatments might require taking certain medications (like methadone or buprenorphine), while others can be done without them (such as behavioral therapy).

There are three main treatment models that will be covered in more detail below:

Medication-assisted treatment: This model uses either buprenorphine or methadone to help control cravings.

Behavioral therapy: This is a “cold turkey” model that uses counseling to help patients deal with the psychological aspects of withdrawal, often combined with cognitive behavioral therapy.

Holistic treatments : Holistic treatments can include yoga, acupuncture, nutritional supplements, meditation and more.

Is medication required?

In most cases, medication is needed to help the body through the process of withdrawal. Without this, it’s possible that there could be severe consequences, such as seizures or death due to an overwhelming amount of stress on specific organs. In some situations, a doctor might decide that trying to stop using drugs without any type of medical support is more dangerous for a particular patient, while others might be okay going through the process “cold turkey.”

The one exception to this is marijuana. In most cases of mild-to-moderate weed use, it is possible to stop using on your own without severe consequences or withdrawal symptoms. However, if you’re smoking weed every day and in large quantities, you might benefit from using a detox pill to help your body naturally expel the THC that’s built up in your system.

Which drugs are being used?

This is another factor that will influence what kind of treatment you need. Generally speaking, the harder the drug is on your body, the more likely it is that there will be some type of withdrawal when you quit. One exception to this is Xanax (alprazolam); although it’s a benzodiazepine that can be very addictive, the mild withdrawal symptoms mean that most people don’t require medication during detox for this drug.

The same can be said, in some cases, for hydrocodone . Although it can very easily become addictive, there are usually no symptoms of withdrawal when you stop taking the drug. However, this depends on how long you’ve been taking it and what your dosage was; in some people who have used high doses every day for many months, there might be physical effects that require medication during detox.

Finally, another exception to this rule is THC and CBD . These are the primary chemicals in weed, and they have been shown to help people suffering from a variety of different health conditions. Because of this, there’s no need for detox when you stop smoking weed unless it was interfering with your daily life or causing other problems (such as making you hungry all the time).

How severe is the addiction?

The more severe your drug addiction, the more likely it is that you’ll need medication during detox. This generally applies to opioids and benzodiazepines; although it’s possible to go through withdrawal without these medications, most people would experience very uncomfortable or even life-threatening symptoms.

Where to have Drug Detoxification?

Substance addiction is a mental illness that can be treated. It has physical and psychological side effects. As a result, detoxing on your own without any help or supervision is frequently not recommended.

Nonetheless, you can select where to go through detox in various ways. You may pick your house or an outpatient facility, an inpatient rehabilitation center, or even jail if necessary. The best solution for you is determined by several factors, including:

  • What substance do you use?
  • How severe is your addiction?
  • Whether you’ve had previous severe withdrawal symptoms
  • If you have other health issues

If you’re unsure about any medication, talk to your doctor or an addiction specialist about the best option for you.

Hospital Drug Detox

Medical professionals in a medical setting provide hospital drug detox.

It’s recommended for people who have developed severe withdrawal symptoms, individuals with multiple addictions, and if you are taking medications.

Presently, more hospitals have expanded their detox and addiction services. Some doctors prescribe buprenorphine, a narcotic that helps with opioid withdrawal symptoms without producing a “high.” You would be admitted to the hospital in this situation. Determine if hospital detox is right for you and talk to your doctor about it.

Inpatient Detox

Inpatient detox programs may include peer support as well as medical treatment. Others might consist of 24-hour round-the-clock medical monitoring with physicians and nurses on call at all times.

Individually tailored inpatient medically supervised programs are generally the most expensive alternative. However, if you don’t have health insurance or enough money to pay for this treatment, some inpatient detox programs assist those who can’t afford it.

Intensive inpatient medical treatment centers provide the most intensive care and monitoring. These programs can help you stay safe and healthy while you taper off dangerous drugs.

After a program like this, you may go to a lesser-supervised residential facility or whole-home treatment after detox and your health has stabilized.

Is Detox at Home Possible? 

Some people choose to detox at home instead of going to a facility. If you don’t have insurance and can’t afford a treatment center, this option might appear more appealing.

However, detoxing at home entails dealing with the difficulties on your own. You won’t have a professional to advise or supervise you. You might not have access to medication to make things easier.

Not all drugs prescribed for detox are available to purchase at a pharmacy. People who detox at home (but do not subsequently obtain substance abuse treatment) are more likely to relapse. They also have an increased chance of overdose if they relapse. That’s because when the narcotics leave your system, your body will be unable to process the same quantity as before. 

Additionally, the change in your chemical balance may provide you with an intense craving to use again.

If this is what you choose to do, it’s best to support friends or family nearby at all times. You will need someone to call if you feel overwhelmed or experience withdrawal symptoms that are too severe for you to handle.

The Dangers of Improper Detox

Quitting abruptly or on their own might induce severe withdrawal symptoms in someone with a substance use problem. The difficulties of detox may include physical and mental symptoms.

If a person suffers from severe psychological symptoms, they may be driven to self-injure. It’s typically preferable to work with a medical expert to establish a drug detox plan and have oversight throughout the process.

There are several risks of detoxing at home without the help of a medical expert. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome, or delirium tremens, is a severe condition in which a person may suffer from agitation, tremors, a rapid heart rate, and high blood pressure. This effect generally occurs within 24 to 48 hours after stopping drinking. When it isn’t managed, it can be fatal.

An expert in detox from drugs and alcohol will have the ability to manage the withdrawal issues you experience when your body no longer contains any of these substances.

How Long Does Detox Last?

The length of time it takes to detox depends on the substance used, the quantity used, and how long the individual has been using it. It also may be determined by the person’s physical and mental condition at the start of treatment. People who are highly motivated to begin detoxification might experience lesser symptoms than those who are hesitant to quit.

The detox process might take longer if a person uses more than one substance or has a co-occurring mental health condition. The procedure generally takes between seven and 14 days, but it can last up to a month in some cases.

What is the Cost of Drug Detox?

The price of drug detox is determined by several elements, including the payment method you choose, the facility you’re attending, and the degree of care given.

Detoxification treatments may be entirely or partially paid for by insurance, but there are also free rehabilitation and detox programs and those that accept Medicaid. Check below to see whether your insurance policy covers a detox at a facility.

Practical Tips to Get Through Drug Detox

Consult with a certified detox center – If you have medical insurance, find a facility on your plan’s list of providers. If you do not have a doctor or pharmacy that works with your insurer, call around to local hospitals and drug rehabilitation facilities in your area. They will likely know the best detox resources in your area.

Have a Nutritious Diet – The stress of withdrawing from an addictive substance can put your entire digestive system into chaos. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are all typical symptoms. Even if you’re not hungry, eat a nutritious meal. Your body requires nutrients, especially vitamin C and niacin, to detox successfully.

Fish, lean meats, and legumes are all excellent sources of protein. Chicken soup can help you through drug detox, just like the flu. Chocolate will also make you feel happier by releasing endorphins.

Increase water intake – To withdraw faster, water flushes away drug toxins. To keep your organs, especially your liver, detoxifying, you’ll need to replenish the water you’ve lost through vomiting and diarrhea.

Sweating, a runny nose, and other unpleasant symptoms are typical with detox treatments. Colder water aids in the cooling of feverish body temperatures. To fully hydrate, drink about 100 ounces or 12 cups of water each day. Fruits and juices may also help hydrate.

Be physically active -During drug detox, you may find yourself curled up in a fetal position and weeping. It’s a challenging procedure, but it’s doable! Regular, low-intensity exercise can aid your recovery. Dopamine is a feel-good hormone that is released when your blood is pumping. Take a stroll or do some moderate jogging.

Play a fun game of basketball or kickball with your friends. When cravings strike, get into some lunges and squats. Distracting yourself by walking around prevents you from getting down in despair.

Do breathing exercises – Breathing deeply activates stretch receptors in your lungs, which keep your nerves calm. Each exhale removes pollutants and stress. Increasing the amount of oxygen delivered to your cells will also help the drug detox process.

Begin by relaxing in a peaceful location. Close your eyes and cleanse your thoughts. Draw a deep breath from your nose to your diaphragm. Hold the breath for seven seconds before exhaling for eight seconds. To sleep better, practice deep breathing for 10 minutes before going to bed each night.

Lean on Your Support System – Family and friends who fully support your decision to get clean can give you a hand during drug detox. Surround yourself with positive, capable people. If they don’t believe in your ability to complete the procedure, it’s harder for you to maintain faith in yourself.

Next Steps After Drug Detox

Detox is the first step in recovering from a substance use disorder and pursuing a healthier lifestyle. It might be challenging to maintain this way of life after completing detoxing and not go back to old drug habits.

To continue to heal after detox, a person will usually need additional therapy to deal with underlying problems or causes that may have prompted them to use in the first place, such as inpatient treatment.

It’s also critical to address the mental consequences of drug addiction to create the foundations for successful rehabilitation. Therapy can also help reduce relapse by assisting you in changing your behavior and the thinking processes connected with drug use and treating your depression.