Drug and alcohol addiction is a chronic, progressive condition that causes lasting changes in the memory, motivation, and reward centers of the brain. It is also marked by periods of relapse and remission.
These psychological changes often reduce impulse control and create strong cravings for the drug/substance of preference. They might also lead to negative effects on finances, employment, and relationships, or even precipitate problems with the law.
As you try to overcome your addiction, therefore, you might have to undergo detoxification. But what is a medical detox? What does it involve? How would you benefit from one? These are all questions that you need to ask before you sign up for treatment.
That said, you might be able to understand addiction through the ABCDE concept, which goes as follows:
In most cases, drug and alcohol addiction might make it difficult for you to maintain abstinence in the long term. As a direct result, many users tend to relapse after a period of relative sobriety.
Similarly, addiction and substance use disorders are often marked by a general inability to control your behavior. This may lead to poor decision making, as well as trouble at school, work, home, and in your relationships.
Another common characteristic of addiction revolves around the strong urges you will get to use your preferred substance. These urges often lead addicts to relapse.
4. Diminished Ability
Drug addiction may cause you to fail to recognize even the subtlest issues with your behavior and in your relationship.
Last but not least, addicts often find it difficult to manage or express their emotions. Their substance use disorder may even numb or mask these emotions and make it more challenging for the addict to deal with and experience healthy emotions whenever they are not intoxicated.
In the same way, the continued and escalating drug and alcohol abuse that often accompanies addiction and dependency might increase your chances of experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop such abuse.
Medical detox is among the interventions that might be applied to help your body manage these symptoms. Read on to learn more about detoxification:
Otherwise simply referred to as detoxification, medical detox is usually the first step in the addiction rehabilitation and substance abuse treatment process. As you look for answers to the "what is medical detox?" question, therefore, you should know that this process often lasts for several days - although it might extend to a couple of weeks.
Some of the treatment programs are also designed to only last all through the acute phase of the medical detox process, although others might last longer than that. However, the comprehensive care provided at the same time makes it easier for you to move from detoxification into a full-time addiction rehab program.
That said, the medical detox is often the starting point for comprehensive treatment. By itself, the detoxification might not be able to treat your understand substance use disorder.
According to a recent article published by NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), the typically brief and intensive outpatient medical detox program that is followed by medication treatment to deal with drug cravings often works effectively when a rehab facility needs to initiate and maintain long term abstinence from drug and alcohol use among addicts.
This article contributed to the studies arguing that medical detox might be a crucial first step towards long term recovery from addiction. That is even if it is not completely sufficient in the overall treatment of addiction.
In many cases, detox is designed to deal with most of the unpleasant and dangerous withdrawal symptoms, as well as the strong cravings, that tend to arise whenever an addict decides to stop using drugs and alcohol. As such, it is vital to recovery and there are several options that you can fall back on as you look for the right medical detox facility.
To further answer the "what is a medical detox?" question, you need to keep in mind that this is a process that is designed to safely and systematically withdraw you from addictive substances. It is usually performed under the care and supervision of a trained and experienced physician.
Using drugs and drinking alcohol often causes physical dependence over time. When you stop such use, you may experience severe withdrawal symptoms. To this end, medical detox may help in the treatment of the immediate bodily effects that arise when you stop using drugs and alcohol. It also removes all the toxins that your persistent substance abuse left in your body from the drugs and alcohol you used to take.
Detoxification may be performed on either an inpatient (at residential treatment centers and hospitals) or an outpatient basis (such as in private clinics, addiction clinics, and mental health centers).
Inpatient detoxification will allow the medical team to closely monitor you and prevent you from abusing your preferred drugs and other addictive substances. The residential care provided might also speed up the detoxification process because it will protect you from situations in which you may be tempted to relapse.
Outpatient detox, on the other hand, comes with the advantage of being comparatively less disruptive to your lifestyle. It might also prove to be less expensive in comparison to inpatient detoxification.
The choice of a medical detox, however, will depend on a variety of factors. These include, but are not limited to:
Although most addiction treatment and rehabilitation centers maintain their own detoxification facilities in-house, others will make arrangements for you to take advantage of the medical detox programs provided at sites located nearby - including but not limited to clinics and hospitals. Luckily, there are many licensed and certified detox facilities in most neighborhoods in the United States.
To further understand the "what is a medical detox?" question, you need to know how detoxification works. In most cases, the detox process involves 3 crucial steps:
That said, the medical detox takes place in a variety of settings which may follow different methods and models. Like with drug and alcohol rehabilitation, there is no single universal treatment method that works well in all detox situations. Rather, the treatment ought to depend on the particular needs of the patient while also addressing their personal beliefs and respecting cultural diversity.
Among those who are physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol and drugs, withdrawal is one of the central features of medical detox. According to NIDA, withdrawal refers to the time period during which the patient's body will start adjusting to the lack of the drug/substance it is dependent on. This often involved a variety of uncomfortable symptoms and conditions, which start after you stop or lessen your substance abuse. The severity and duration of the withdrawal symptoms will typically depend on the type of drug/alcohol you have become dependent upon.
For most preferred substances of abuse, medical detox often takes an average of anywhere between 5 and 7 days. However, some of the withdrawal symptoms might still continue for weeks (or even months) after you stop abusing drugs/alcohol.
Luckily, these symptoms are easy to manage and will certainly improve with time due to the medical detox. Examples of physical symptoms include cold flashes, vomiting, diarrhea, insomnia, and muscle pain - which tend to last for several days or weeks. On the other hand, psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression may last for some months. The treatment provided through the detoxification process will address most of these symptoms.
Medically managed drug and alcohol detoxification refers to the use of drugs and medications to help addicts through the initial stages of treatment for substance use disorders and addiction.
It is generally believed that medications are not always necessary for detoxification. However, SAMHSA reports that detox facilities should take care to ensure that their patients receive the right assessment and diagnosis before they administer the recommended protocol.
For instance, patients should be separated into specific categories to further understand and determine their needs. These general categories might include:
a) Extreme Withdrawal
This category includes those with a history of extreme forms of withdrawal - which might involve severe symptoms like delirium and seizures. This group will require treatment and detoxification with medications and drugs as soon as they check into the detox facility.
b) Normal Withdrawal
This group covers those who are already experiencing either severe or moderate withdrawal symptoms. This category may also require immediate medical detox and medication intervention.
c) Under the Influence
In this category, you will find patients who might still be intoxicated and under the influence of drugs and alcohol but who have not yet shown the typical withdrawal symptoms and signs of abuse. In this case, it is recommended that the medical detox facility observes the patients for any withdrawal symptoms 6 to 8 hours after they last used. The facility may also delay the decision to provide treatment until these symptoms manifest themselves.
That said, there are specific types of medication that are often used during the medical detox. These may include, but are not limited to:
In general, there are two different methods currently being used in the management of alcohol and drug detoxification. While some experts might shy away from the use of medications to help patients through the withdrawal stages, others believe that this is still the best process to take.
To this end, getting answers to the "what is a medical detox?" question will help you understand why this is still the most widely used practice in the US, and why most patients find that it is the most effective way to stop their drug and alcohol abuse and start on treatment for addiction.
However, there are instances in which the introduction of other drugs might not prove to be beneficial at all - depending on the particular circumstances, of course. For instance, research shows that over 22 million Americans have abused prescription drugs for recreational reasons. For these people, it would not be a good idea to undergo medical detoxification. Instead, the tapering method might work better.
Although this is no universal cure for addiction - or a magic pill that will allow you to undergo detoxification without experiencing withdrawal symptoms, there are some medications that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved for medical detox.
The medications used should only be those that will make the withdrawal process more tolerable and safer for you. Luckily, when the right drugs are administered, the withdrawal symptoms you experience may be effectively managed.
Consider the following examples of the drugs that are commonly provided during a medical detox:
1. Alcohol Withdrawal
For alcohol withdrawal, the medical detox center may prescribe benzodiazepines. These drugs are effective because they tend to provide a sedative effect that may help reduce the anxiety that is often associated with most alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Other drugs that may be used - in addition to the benzodiazepines - include anti-seizure medications and anticonvulsants.
2. Opiate Withdrawal
Methadone (which is also referred to as Subutex and Suboxone) and buprenorphine are some of the drugs administered to help addicts recovering from opiate abuse and experiencing withdrawal as a result of quitting their drug use.
3. Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
Many patients will usually be able to switch to an alternative benzodiazepine medication, or even benefit from consuming Phenobarbital substitution drugs. In most cases, the medical detox team may use the tapering method for patients who are addicted to benzodiazepine - a method that has proved to work time and time again.
4. Stimulant Withdrawal
Although the Food and Drug Administration is yet to approve specific medications to help patients suffering from stimulant withdrawal symptoms, there are certain addictions that may be treated using benzodiazepines as the drug of choice for medical detox.
For patients who are addicted to methamphetamine and cocaine, this is the best approach to detoxification. Although benzodiazepines are also addictive, they also tend to counteract the typical effects of stimulant abuse and addiction. Additionally, they may calm down the effects arising from stimulant withdrawal due to their sedative quality and properties.
For some people, medical detox might not seem like the way forward. As such, they may choose to try and quit alcohol and drugs without professional or medical assistance.
Among these are those who prefer to endure the short-term withdrawal symptoms that arise when they first stop using drugs and alcohol. This may occur when their supply goes or when they are forced to keep away from the substances for a short time.
Unfortunately, this means that the addict may start believe that they understand how severe withdrawal can get, and - in the process - develop a misunderstanding of what it really means to undergo withdrawal when they decide to permanently stop their drug use.
This experience where you stay without the drugs (or alcohol) you are used to for a short period may mistakenly cause you to believe that you can easily stop using on your own whenever you are ready to do so.
However, almost just about every addict who decided to quit drugs and alcohol through cold turkey approach ends up failing and relapsing back to use. This is usually because no one can truly be prepared for the consequences that arise when you try to stop on your own. As a result, the following might happen:
a) Addiction Cycle
For starters, you may enter into a cycle of severe addiction that usually causes you to use drug/alcohol, stop using, experience withdrawal, and start using all over again. This addiction cycle is dangerous because it will only serve to reinforce the idea in your mind that you need alcohol and drugs to survive and move from one moment to the next.
Secondly, when you get to the relapse part of the cycle we have just described, you will be at a higher risk of experiencing an overdose. This is in comparison to those who choose to overcome their addiction using the medical detox methods that will require you to receive professional treatment and support.
Overdose will happen because the tolerance levels in your body will change quickly. Once you stop using alcohol or drugs, this tolerance level may decrease. Therefore, if you reintroduce the same (or a greater volume) of the addictive substance into your body, you may experience overdose - which, at its most extreme, might prove fatal and lead to sudden death.
To this end, the risks associated with trying to quit cold turkey are real. In fact, overdose is now ranked among the leading causes of accidental death within the United States. For instance, there were over 47,000 lethal overdoses in 2014 in the country - a number that has been increasing since then.
That said, it is not uncommon for addicts to try stopping their substance abuse through the cold turkey method a couple of times. However, doing so only increases your risk of overdose, death, and a variety of severe withdrawal symptoms.
To this end, the safest method for you to completely quit your habit is a medical detox. This is because undergoing this kind of detoxification will ensure that you have a team of experts monitoring and assessing you for any urgent medical issues that might develop.
Addiction experts and specialists are in agreement that the sudden stopping of drug/alcohol use tends to be dangerous. As a direct result, some addicts might try the tapering method while quitting their use.
The generally accepted theory is that this method reduces the occurrence and severity of withdrawal symptoms, and might also produce better outcomes especially in comparison to quitting cold turkey.
Still, there is o research to demonstrate that the tapering method - when done at home and without medical supervision - will reduce the effects of drug and alcohol withdrawal even though it might help protect the addict against the typical medical complications that arise from suddenly quitting cold turkey.
That said, you can do tapering in a variety of ways, including but not limited to:
There are many risks involved with detoxing from drugs and alcohol at home, depending on the substance you are trying to detox from. However, there are addicts who will still want to try it. If this is the case, it is essential that you have the right supplies around.
In general, you can detox from home as long as you are able to rest for long durations, take lots of liquids and fluids, and eat nutritious meals. The extra supplies that you should stock include, but are not limited to:
It is also highly recommended that you talk with a doctor about your plans to conduct the medical detox on your own at home. He/she might prescribe medications to help with the process, as well as offer advice that you may find helpful in the process.
In the same way, it is essential that you have someone supervising you as you detox at home - if this is possible. The supervisor should prepare for a minimum of 3 days of dealing with withdrawal symptoms - which are likely to start diminishing on the third day.
As mentioned above, it is essential that you consider the risks that come with home detoxification before you decide to continue with one. Once your body has established psychological or physical dependence on your substance of preference, it might go into shock when you suddenly stop using. This may lead to a variety of medical complications that will require immediate medical intervention and attention.
Some of the risks that you should anticipate, therefore, include:
Where possible, you should make every effort to undergo medical detox at a facility staffed with trained doctors and other addiction treatment professionals who understand all the risks associated with detoxification. These personnel are better placed to administer the right treatments and intervene when and if required. Similarly, the addict/patient undergoing detox should receive supervision at every time to ensure their safety and wellness.
One of the concerns that you may have regards the cost of undergoing medical detox - or any other kind of addiction and substance use treatment. As such, you may assume that receiving this type of professional help means that you have to pay for yourself. Since most of addiction rehabilitation facilities tend to be so expensive, many who would benefit from detox put off the idea thinking that they lack the resources to undergo the process.
Luckily, the Affordable Care Act has made it possible for those in need of addiction assistance to get the help they need without necessarily worrying about the costs associated with treatment.
According to the stipulations of this Act, insurance companies are now required to provide coverage and all necessary benefits to help addicts cover the cost of care and medical detox. If you need help, apply for the right kind of health insurance that will enable you receive these benefits by visiting the HealthCare.gov website.
In the same way, it is vital that you keep in mind that several addiction treatment centers receive grants that they are supposed to use to help patients cover all out-of-pocket expenses that might remain after the medical detox exhausts the health insurance coverage. These grants might also be used to take care of the total costs associated with treating those who are not able to receive insurance.
That said, there are many other ways that you can fall back on as you try to pay for your drug or alcohol detox, as well as a variety of addiction treatments. This means that you should not refuse to go for medical detox and rehabilitation just because you think that you won't be able to afford the processes involved.
As mentioned above, cost is the typical concern for most of the people in serious need of addiction help and rehabilitation. While health insurance may take care of the costs involved with most of the treatments, you might have to cover some small cost out of pocket.
However, it is difficult to estimate how much your medical detox will cost because there are many different alcohol and drug treatment facilities, centers, and programs. Similarly, each patient will be different in terms of the type of help they need.
Whereas some addicts only require mild medical detoxification, others may need to undergo detox for a longer period before they move up to a full-time alcohol and drug rehabilitation program. That said, the typical costs vary from $1,500 to $5,000.
If you have health insurance, the out of pocket payments you may have to make will vary depending on your insurance deductibles as well as on the requirements for co-payment amounts. However, you should generally expect to pay a couple of hundred dollars - at the most - out of pocket.
There are some standalone facilities that only offer medical detox services but thereafter fail to refer the patients to additional rehabilitation afterwards. This is a serious problem for the patients because the lack of proper follow-up care might cause them to relapse.
The National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that facilities should not treat the chronic illness that is addict for a couple of weeks before sending the addict to a support group. Instead, those with chronic addiction require multimodal treatment that should be individualized, specialized, and provided intermittently or continuously for as long as is required.
That said, although medical detox is a crucial component in the complete recovery process for people who use drugs and alcohol, it should not be treated as an end in itself. Doing so will only put the patient at risk of relapsing back to use.
Instead, you should keep in mind that addiction recovery is an all-encompassing and ongoing process that generally tends to last for the entire duration of the rest of your life. In the same way, addiction is a serious condition and - similar to other medical conditions - will require continued care and treatment to successfully ensure that you do not relapse.
At the end of the medical detox, therefore, the right step forward would be to check into a rehabilitation facility. This way, you will receive ongoing care to reduce the risk of a relapse back to alcohol and drug use.
At the end of the day, after the medical detox, the recommendation from your doctor will most likely point you towards an inpatient or an outpatient treatment setting or program. With so many options available, you should not have a hard time choosing the right method of ongoing treatment to take up.
Overall, you should make every effort to undergo full rehabilitation and treatment as a continuance of the healing and recovery process. Although the process might take long, the rewards that will come with sobriety and full-time recovery will be worth everything you had to undergo both during the medical detox and the subsequent treatment at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.