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The first and most important step in drug or alcohol addiction recovery is drug and alcohol detox. This is typically an in-patient program in which people are monitored by trained medical professionals as they gradually wean their bodies off of their drugs of choice. Physiological dependence on certain substances can result in unpleasant and even dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Opting to undergo detoxification in a reputable clinic is therefore the best way to ensure that this process is both safe and successful.
In some instances, it may be necessary for doctors to administer pharmaceutical drugs throughout the detoxification process. This is especially true in the instance of alcohol addiction. Doctors issue prescriptions for alleviating withdrawal systems and for ensuring that all vital signs remain stable. These efforts are performed compassionately and humanely and detox facilities are often staffed by people who have successfully battled addictions of their own in the past. This gives patients access to team members who have a keen understanding of their needs and emotions, particularly when planning the next steps in their ongoing recovery efforts.
People who are eager to change their lives or who are reticent to enter a formal treatment environment may be tempted to undergo the detoxification process on their own. While there are some instances in which these efforts can and do prove successful, there are many times when at-home detox could be detrimental to the individual's overall health and well-being. Physiological dependence on drugs and alcohol does more than elicit serious cravings for these substances once the body is denied. People can experience major changes in neurological functioning, anxiety, tremors, heart palpitations, confusion, insomnia, nightmares and headaches. In extreme cases, sudden cessation of drugs or alcohol may even result in more serious developments such as organ failure. Hand tremors and an erratic heartbeat are two of the first and most common signs among people who are experiencing physiological withdrawal during drug and alcohol detox.
Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS) is common among heavy drinkers who are addicted to alcohol and unable to gradually limit their intake of alcoholic beverages. Delirium tremens is the most severe form of AWS and can include seizures, severe dehydration, extreme agitation and confusion as well as auditory, visual and tactile hallucinations among other things. Entering into a formal and monitored drug and alcohol detox program is the surest way for heavy drinkers to avoid these developments. Medication can be administered to gradually and safely wean the body away from alcohol until physical dependency is no longer an issue.
Similar developments can also occur among people who are attempting to detox from illicit substances or prescription drugs. Physical dependence occurs when the body has become so reliant upon a substance that it is no longer capable of functioning without it. The withdrawal symptoms that present themselves when the body is denied any substance that is dependent upon is the body's way of alerting the user that it requires more of the substance in order to continue functioning in what has become its new state of normalcy. Through formal drug and alcohol detox, it is possible to gradually reduce the intake of substances by using pharmaceutical alternatives and receiving optimal nutritional and medical support. This is far different from simply stopping drug or alcohol use at home without the benefit of medical attention.
One of the key challenges that people face throughout the detoxification process is maintaining the proper balance of essential nutrients. The medical professionals on staff at detox clinics are trained to deal with each individual according to his or her own needs and based upon the type of alcohol or drugs that are involved, individual levels of health, the length and extent of addiction and all other relevant, medical factors. Each patient is diligently reviewed to ensure that dehydration, extreme weight loss and other nutritional problems do not occur.
It is important for patients and their family members to note that drug and alcohol detox is merely one step in the overall recovery process. The professionals who work at a drug and alcohol detox center can assist their patients in preparing for a longer and more aggressive form of rehabilitation that will include individual and group counseling, goal-setting and the development of essential life skills. Once people complete the detox process, it is generally best for these individuals to proceed directly to the next stage of treatment rather than making an immediate return to their old social circles and life habits. In many instances, both detoxification and in-patient addiction treatment can be provided at a single facility so that the transition to the next stage of the recovery process is both seamless and problem-free.
Choosing the right drug and alcohol detox facility is important for ensuring patient success. This is especially true when both detox and addiction treatment will be received in the same location. It is vital to consider the underlying philosophy of a program before committing to it as this will reveal the guiding principles that are used in when issuing treatment. Treatment centers can be faith-based, science-based or based on a diverse range of alternative therapies and practices. The philosophy of an establishment will often reveal whether or not the providers will be willing to alleviate withdrawal symptoms through the use of pharmaceutical products, dietary changes or herbal remedies. All drug and alcohol detox facilities, however, are obligated to make any medical interventions that are necessary for preserving the well-being of patients, particularly those who physically addicted to their drugs of choice.
There are many reasons why drug and alcohol detox is the first and foremost step in a successful recovery effort. People who are addicted to alcohol, prescription medications or illicit drugs will have the first real opportunity to assess their circumstances and life habits once their bodies and minds are free of the physiological effects of substance abuse. Moreover, the professionals who assist with the detoxification process can make informed recommendations on how to best proceed with the next phase of the recovery process based upon individual health, circumstances and needs. Although detoxification is commonly viewed as the most challenging part of addiction recovery, it is also the shortest. People will invariably spend more time engaging in positive and reaffirming activities once they have proceeded to the next phase of treatment.