The road to addiction treatment and recovery has many steps. One of the first is to stop substance abuse and to begin the drug and alcohol detox to get them out of your system once and for all.

Detoxification (Detox)

The process of eliminating drugs or alcohol from the body is called detoxification. Once you have successfully detoxed your body, you can then begin to deal with the psychological consequences of addiction. The second part of recovery includes therapy, developing a support network, and creating new habits. However, you cannot begin to move forward with your life and recovery until your body is clear of the substances causing it harm.

Below, we’ve described the alcohol detox process, drug detox process, options for detoxing, and what to expect while you detox. If you have specific questions about detoxing or addiction recovery in general, contact our treatment specialists.

What is Detoxing?

As mentioned, a detox, short for detoxification, is the process of eradicating drugs or alcohol from the body. An intentional, monitored detox process involves managing the symptoms at a treatment center to keep the patient safe and comfortable.

As dangerous as drugs can be to one’s body, going through the detox process incorrectly can be even more harmful; it can be painful at best and potentially fatal at worst. People who quit using a substance without medical support or guidance (sometimes called “quitting cold turkey”) can find themselves at risk of seizures and dehydration. Choosing from established addiction treatment programs for the detox process prevents these dangerous complications from occurring.

What Affects the Detox Process?

The detoxification process looks different for everyone. The type of drug abused and the amount of time it was used significantly affect the detoxing plan and withdrawal symptoms. The kind of substance abuse can change whether the withdrawal will be more physical or mental. For example, cocaine detoxification is more physiological and often involves extreme anxiety, while alcohol abuse and withdrawal are more physical and can result in seizures or even death.

Withdrawal symptoms vary between substances. The most dangerous substances to detox are alcohol and benzodiazepines, while the most uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms come from opioids, most notably heroin.

Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild symptoms to severe. Other factors that can alter withdrawal symptoms or recovery speed include:

The severity of the addiction: Symptoms will vary between more casual and chronic users.

The method of use: If the substance was smoked, snorted, injected, or swallowed.

The amount of substance taken at one time: If the substance was used in small amounts every so often or a large amount regularly.

Family history and genetic makeup: A family history of addiction, sensitivities to specific medications, or proclivities to certain physiological responses can all alter one’s detox experience.

Present mental health conditions: If an individual has depression, anxiety, or another mental or behavioral disorder, their detox, and recovery treatment require different processes and may include unique symptoms or side effects.

Doctors and other medical professionals involved in the detox process will use medications and monitor their effects to treat withdrawal symptoms and minimize the patient’s discomfort.

What Are The Side Effects of Detox?

Depending on the many factors described above, detoxing can be potentially intense or dangerous. Because of the risks, medical supervision is imperative to keep patients safe while they rid their bodies of these harmful substances. Common side effects of withdrawal from drugs or alcohol include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia or problems sleeping
  • Nausea
  • Physical discomfort
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to focus

Medications are often used to mitigate and prevent these side effects from becoming too intense or unbearable. Specifically, doctors might use prescriptions during detox to:

  • Reduce anxiety or irritability
  • Create more happiness-inducing chemicals in the brain to prevent depression symptoms
  • Stop tremors, shakes, or seizures
  • Take away feelings of nausea, sweating, or muscle aches

Some prescriptions help with withdrawals from specific substances. For example, Methadone treatment for opioid addictions and Naltrexone treatment for alcoholism are available by prescription only and should only be taken with medical supervision.

What Are The Steps of Detoxification?

The detoxing process includes three main steps. The length and intensity of each stage will vary between individuals based on their circumstances and addiction levels.

First, the medical team evaluates new patients to understand their existing physical and mental health issues. Then they check the levels of drugs or alcohol in the bloodstream. This evaluation and analysis, combined with a review of one’s history of drug use, medical issues, and mental health tendencies, help dictate the long-term recovery plan.

Then the medical team works to stabilize the individual. The goal here is to prevent any further harm. Sometimes medication is used to reduce the negative withdrawal symptoms or prevent complications.

Finally, once the body is free from drugs or alcohol and the symptoms of withdrawal have subsided, it’s time for a substance abuse treatment program. After a physical detox, specialists often recommend inpatient programs because of their more intense care options and 24/7 monitoring and supervision.

However, outpatient programs, like Harmony Outpatient Center, can also provide recovery support after the detoxification process is complete.

Is There Any Way to Speed Up The Detox Process?

Rapid and ultra-rapid detox methods do exist. For these procedures, a person is put to sleep through anesthesia and medicated with prescription drugs that replace the harmful drugs in the body. Supporters of these methods claim that it is a way to avoid the miserable, painful withdrawal symptoms by getting the toxic substances out of the body faster.

However, these options come with significant risks.

1 in 500 individuals who go through ultra-rapid detox programs die. Most medical professionals believe the side effects outweigh the potential benefits. Individuals who go through rapid or ultra-rapid detox programs can experience:

  • Heart attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Increased body temperatures
  • Infections
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Aspiration
  • Choking
  • Death

Additionally, many rapid and ultra-rapid detox programs are costly and are not covered by most medical insurance programs. Furthermore, individuals who choose this route are less likely to continue with their addiction treatment and are at a higher risk of relapsing.

The Detox and Recovery Process Will Change Your Life

And they are not as scary as they seem! (Especially when you’ve got the help of the experienced, caring professionals at Harmony Healing Center.) We are here to support you through every challenging step on the road to living an entirely sober, recovered life.

It is not easy to recover from addiction. Even after the physical symptoms subside, the mental and emotional struggles remain. However, our addiction specialists will guide you along the path and provide all the necessary tools and resources to make healing possible. Reach out today to discover how we can support your healing journey.