Drug Detox Articles

How to Get Through Detox

By Suzanne Kane

If you want to get clean and get on with your life free of drugs and alcohol, you first have to get through detoxification or detox. No treatment facility or center will treat you with drugs and/or alcohol still in your body. It’s as simple as that. What is detox? What should you be prepared for? More importantly, can you survive it? Here are some answers.

What Detox Isn’t
First, let’s dispel some myths about detox. Contrary to some pretty scary movie depictions, a detox center isn’t a dreary, dark place. Nor is it like bedlam in an insane asylum. And toss aside any mental images of grim-looking doctors and overcrowded hallways with screaming and wailing patients. Detox isn’t any of these.

Detox 101
Boiling it down to its pure essence, to detox means to rid your body of all harmful substances. In this case, that means the toxins from drugs and/or alcohol. There are actually three phases of detox:

  • Getting the drugs/alcohol out of the system.
  • Physically getting clean. After cleansing the body of drugs, the patient needs proper nutrition, diet, and physical exercise. The purpose is to restore the body to a more natural, balanced state.
  • Detoxing emotionally. It’s important to treat the emotional dependence on drugs and/or alcohol, which may be as powerful as the physical dependence.

Detox is the first step in quitting drugs and alcohol and getting clean and sober. Get it in your head right now: Without therapy, detox alone won’t allow you to keep off either drugs or alcohol.

Some people who have only recently begun drug use, or who use drugs infrequently, of less toxicity, or certain types of drugs, may be able to quit “cold turkey.” That is, they just stop taking the drugs or alcohol and don’t seek any support or treatment. This rarely works. Why? Because while they may temporarily stop using, they haven’t treated the underlying causes of why they began in the first place, and they haven’t developed any coping skills to avoid getting into the same situation again.

The more time you’ve been using, the more frequently you use, and the type of drug you use all factor into what kind of detox you can expect to experience. There are withdrawal symptoms associated with detox from any drug or alcohol dependence or abuse. Simply put, the longer you’ve been at it, the tougher time you’ll have to go through. That isn’t to say that your withdrawal symptoms can’t be managed. The goal of licensed, professional drug and alcohol treatment centers with medically-supervised detox units is to make you as comfortable as possible during the detox period.

Can you do it on your own? Some people can, but it’s not recommended. Detox can cause intense symptoms. During withdrawal, addicts should not undergo detox without medical supervision. Why would you want to subject yourself to the unpleasantness and responsibility? Besides, the outcome is pretty certain: You’ll only fall back into your former drug-using ways without treatment. Better to allow the professionals to help you get on the healing path.

How Alcohol and Drugs Affect Detox
Here are some broad categories of addiction and how detox is impacted. It is not all-inclusive and is only meant as an overview:

Alcohol – acts as a stimulant and a depressant. It wreaks havoc on the brain and nerve connections. It’s also physically addicting. The need is physical, and it’s real. Your body has become so used to alcohol that not having it makes you ill. Suddenly quitting alcohol can cause convulsions, hallucinations, and even death from heart failure.

Cocaine and Amphetamines – These drugs stimulate the brain’s “pleasure center” by increasing output of the neurotransmitter dopamine. When stimulants are abruptly discontinued, the output of dopamine stops. Fatigue and sleep disturbances result. Coming down from cocaine means you may experience depression, agitation, drug cravings, anxiety, crashing, hyperactivity, hallucinations, and even paranoia.

Tranquilizers – Benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Valium, and Xanax work just the opposite of stimulants. When these drugs are suddenly stopped, the person becomes jittery, has problems sleeping, and becomes shaky. Nerves become extremely sensitive to any type of stimulus.

Opiates – Drugs such as heroin, morphine, Vicodin, and OxyContin produce very strong physical withdrawal symptoms. These intense, painful, and potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms must be medically supervised during detox.

Things to Keep in Mind During Detox
Try to keep a sense of humor. That sounds ludicrous, given the fact that some detox can be pretty scary (heroin, for example), but you have to keep the end goal in mind: You need to be free of drugs in order to begin treatment. And treatment is the ultimate means to an end: successful recovery.

Take it one day at a time. For some drugs, detox may be a matter of 1 to 2 days, while more damaging or long-term drug abuse may take 3 to 5 days or longer.

If you are offered medications to help make detox easier and less painful—or to reduce drug cravings—take it. There are new medications approved for treating withdrawal symptoms that are not addictive. The sooner you get through detox, the sooner you can begin treatment to overcome your addiction or dependence.

Focus on long-term goals. It’s not too soon to begin crafting your vision for the way you’d like your life to be in recovery. You’ll be doing lots of planning when you’re in treatment, but for now, it’s helpful to have something constructive and positive to think about.

Stick to it. If you give up and leave detox, not only will you be right back where you started, but you may even start using more. Think of it this way: less than a week to get drugs out of your system is a small price to pay if you’re really serious about getting clean.

Ask for help. Don’t feel that you have to go it alone. While detox is a uniquely singular experience, since only you know what you’re feeling at any given time, make sure you communicate any physical or psychological symptoms to the professionals attending to you. Again, their goal is to help you through this so that you can begin treatment.

Get enough sleep. One of the withdrawal symptoms that is hard to overcome is the inability to sleep. Frankly, insomnia may plague you for a while even into treatment. Take advantage of medically prescribed, safe medications to enable you to sleep. Later on, in treatment, you’ll be able to participate in yoga, meditation, and other means of helping you to relax so you can sleep without interruption.

Drink lots of fluids. Your body needs to flush out the toxins, especially from the liver. The best hydration is water, followed by fresh juices.

Why Bother to Detox?
You can’t get into any drug and alcohol treatment program if you don’t first detox. Your body has to be free of drugs and/or alcohol for a period of time, usually 48 hours. If you continue taking drugs and/or alcohol and never detox and go into treatment, you may die from accidental overdose or accumulated physical deterioration. Most of all, you should detox so that you can begin to heal.

Is There Any Guarantee?
The only guarantee you can count on is the fact that if you commit yourself 100% to getting clean and to abstaining from drugs, when you enter detox and stay with the program, you’ll be on your way to the next stage of the process: treatment. If you can believe and trust in yourself, and accept no excuses that you may tell yourself when the going gets tough, you can be sure you will not only get through detox, but you’ll be a stronger person because of it.

What else is certain? There are people who love you and people who will watch over and care for you. Your friends and family will be rooting for you to succeed. And the professional staff of the drug and alcohol treatment facility will be on your side as well, assisting you with compassion, expertise, and dedication.

What are you waiting for? Get into detox now. It’s the first step to the rest of your life in recovery.

Detox Methods for Older Adults

Older adults have special needs, both physically and psychologically, that require special types of treatment. The detox programs that are generally used in the treatment of teenagers and adults are not quite appropriate for older adults unless those programs have been altered to suit the needs of the population that is aged 55 and over.

The first problem that is typically encountered in the treatment of older adults is simply properly diagnosing the presence of an addiction. One reason this is a problem is because of the way older adults metabolize substances. For example, older adults may become intoxicated after consuming only a small amount of a substance, whereas younger adults might require larger amounts in order to become intoxicated. This is particularly true with alcohol.

Another problem that exists with diagnosing older adults is that some of the signs or symptoms of addiction can easily be confused with symptoms of conditions that are related to the aging process. In an effort to combat these diagnostic problems, researchers are trying to develop new methods for diagnosing older adults.

In order to treat older adults properly, it is necessary for them to receive medical treatment that is more intensive than younger adults require. A greater focus on medical treatment is necessary primarily because the withdrawal symptoms tend to be much more pronounced in the older members of the population. In fact, withdrawal can be a very difficult and dangerous process for older adults because of the severity of the symptoms that they normally experience.

The entire treatment process is very difficult for older adults because of all the changes they must go through in order to be free of their addictions. Not only do they have to admit to having an addiction (which is often quite difficult), they also have to endure psychological counseling, detoxification, and behavior modification. It is usually considerably more difficult for older adults to make changes in their lives than it is for younger people.

When older adults enter a detox program, health care providers might also have to deal with other medical problems that the patient has. In addition to pre-existing health conditions, many older patients also have mental health disorders such as depression or dementia. In fact, many older adults develop substance abuse problems because of the mental health issues they have. This connection is one that is currently being researched, but the association between mental and psychological disorders and substance abuse in older adults is quite significant.

Some substance abuse treatment facilities have developed specialized programs specifically for older adults. These types of treatment programs are geared towards helping these adults with their unique set of problems. They focus on private counseling and behavior modification sessions so that the patients will feel more comfortable than they would in group settings, and they address the presence of any other health issues that the patients have so that a complete treatment plan can be administered.

Drug Detox Services: Rapid Detox Is Not the Safest Way to Go

For people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is often very difficult for them to simply quit, even if they really want to. With certain types of drugs, it is actually dangerous for people to attempt to “go it alone” because of the very real potential for life-threatening side effects to appear without warning. The solution to this dilemma is to seek help at a reputable substance abuse treatment facility.

While there are some treatment facilities that are now promoting rapid detox methods, you should be aware that this type of detox is not recommended because of the dangers the treatment presents to patients. With this type of treatment, patients are essentially unconscious while they are being detoxed. Aside from the physical dangers that this type of treatment presents, you must also consider the fact that with rapid detox, the root cause of the addicted person’s problems is not being addressed. This, of course, is very likely to lead to a relapse.

For people who have addictions to drugs or alcohol, their bodies and minds have changed on a very basic level, which has caused their bodies to start producing more of some chemicals and less of others. In order to achieve the healthy balance that our bodies need, it is necessary for people to undergo a full service type of substance abuse treatment.

With any reputable treatment program, detoxification should occur first. This process can last for up to seven days, depending on each individual’s specific needs. This process is usually the most difficult for patients to get through; not only physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. This is why it is so important that people seek professional assistance as they try to break free of their addictions. Without this kind of monitored help, many people will ultimately be unsuccessful in their endeavors.
Once the detox portion of treatment has been completed, patients are then ready to begin working on treatment for their underlying problems. The treatments at many substance abuse facilities consist of counseling or psychological therapy, exercise programs, diet and nutrition counseling, massage therapy, and acupuncture. All of these components are essential for restoring health to both the body and the mind.

Massage and acupuncture are particularly important, and they should both be continued throughout a patient’s stay at a treatment facility. The reason for this is that toxins build up in our muscles and tissues simply from things that we are all exposed to on a daily basis. For individuals who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, the amounts of toxins that build up in the body are considerably more than average.

If patients do decide that seeking help from a substance abuse treatment facility is the best course of action for them, they should take the time to research facilities before choosing one.

Suboxone for Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

For a number of years, those individuals who were dealing with an opioid addiction, the only method of treatment was to visit a methadone clinic daily. While this method was proven effective, it had a downside: taking time out every day to visit the clinic; the stigma associated with visiting a clinic; a loss of privacy and close doctor/patient relationship in the treatment of the addiction.

Of course, without following these methods, the patient either needed to stay on the opioid, or deal with the symptoms of withdrawal, which could include rapid breathing, incessant yawning, crying, hyperactivity, sense of heightened alertness, agitation, an increased heart rate, fever, dilated pupils, gooseflesh, tremors, muscle twitching, hot and cold flashes, aching muscles, appetite loss, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

When SUBOXONE was approved for use in the treatment of opioid addictions, many patients and doctors recognized the value that it would add to treatments. Studies not only identified that the drug was an effective first line treatment for opioid addiction; it was also proven to be an effective home-based treatment that could eliminate the daily clinic visits.

While every patient is different and reactions will vary according to a number of variables, the overwhelming majority of those sharing their experience with SUBOXONE have been positive. One patient in particular noted her excitement for leaving the methadone clinic behind while also relieving all cravings for opioids. Some side effects were noted in this case, but nothing that thwarted her enthusiasm for SUBOXONE.

Another patient testimony shared the improvement in the quality of life. She is more active than ever and feels more alive than on any other treatment. She truly believes that SUBOXONE gave her back a normal life. At the same time, another patient cited the horrors of her experience with the drug. In that particular instance, the patient felt she was erroneously put on the SUBOXONE to treat a pain condition. She had never had an addiction to opioids and the chemical reaction in her body to the SUBOXONE wreaked havoc on her system that landed her in the emergency room.

SUBOXONE can be very effective for those dealing with an opioid addiction as it allows the patient to get slightly high, without allowing them to get “wasted”, presenting a ceiling effect. With a half life of around 35 hours, patients only need to dose once or twice a day, enabling them to break their behavioral habits that generally accompany addiction. The drug eliminates crashes or even feelings of “coming down” off the drug, allowing the patient to feel steady.

The use of buprenorphine – the active ingredient in SUBOXONE – has only been available for the past few years to treat patients with opioid addictions. Until this drug became available for patient prescription within their private doctor’s office, patients had to enter detox for the initial stages of withdrawing from the opioid. Daily visits to methadone clinics followed and didn’t always prove successful.

SUBOXONE allows these patients to have greater privacy and control over the treatment of their addiction, while also removing the severe withdrawal symptoms associated with coming clean from an opioid drug. Most importantly, it has allowed many patients to keep off of the opioid drugs for long periods of time or even for good. Severe withdrawal can be the main obstacle in recovery from opioid addictions. By removing the severity of the treatment, SUBOXONE has proven to be able to give patients a steady choice in treating withdrawal and enabling recovery.