The detoxification process in early drug rehabilitation can be a difficult time for many addicts. Depending upon the drugs used, an addict may experience many severe symptoms that can bring great risk to the individual sufferer. Because of these factors and the overall painful side effects of withdrawal, many facilities use medication-assisted detoxification as the first step in the recovery process.
Not all addicts wish to introduce more medications into their systems. There are ways to cope with the serious symptoms of withdrawal without using prescribed or over-the-counter medications. However, choosing to undergo detoxification without the help of medical professionals and medication can be unnecessarily harmful in some cases.
One of the most basic truths about the human condition is that the human mind is a powerful instrument. Focusing attention and creating an atmosphere of quiet can bring an attitude of calm to an individual through the use of meditation techniques. It is important to remember, however, that someone not experienced with meditation might have more difficulty implementing it during the difficult detoxification process. Many facilities that offer alternative therapies will have meditation guides and experts on hand to help the addict through the difficult moments.
There are many forms of relaxation techniques that have been shown to help individuals suffering withdrawal. Reiki, therapeutic massage and other techniques can help soothe the person going through withdrawal, combating the sleeplessness and restlessness that are common during the first few days of detoxification.
The individual addict should make the decision of whether to use medication or relaxation techniques based upon how well they know themselves. However, the individual should listen to the advice of others based upon the addict’s history of drug use and the memory lapses that may have occurred. Many addicts do not know themselves as well as they might like to simply because they have been operating under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Education and Understanding
It has been said that knowledge is power. Learning as much as possible about their addiction can help an addict fight through those first, intense days of life without drugs. Understanding that the withdrawal phase is temporary and that once the drugs have metabolized out of the body, the immediate and acute illness will pass, can give can them strength to make it through.
The choice of whether to use medication during the detox period is a very personal one. The important aspect is that the addict receives the treatment that is right for them. If they are more likely to successfully complete detox through the use of medication, it is important that the option is available. If they are adamant that they will defeat their personal demons without that help, it is still important that the properly trained experts are available for assistance and guidance.
None of these alternatives to medication will completely alleviate the symptoms associated with withdrawal. Like medication, unfortunately, they can only help the individual sufferer make it through those harrowing hours. Rather than eliminating medications altogether, an option may be to prepare a contingency plan for specific withdrawal symptoms and how each should be addressed-either with or without medication.
When an individual becomes dependent upon or addicted to the use of drugs, their physical body becomes so accustomed to the presence of the drug that they feel they cannot function without it. The need to obtain the drug becomes so strong in some cases that the individual is unable to begin a treatment program without the help of a medical detoxification facility.
The First Step
When the addict first arrives at the medical detox facility, he or she will be searched for any items that may harm them or any member of the staff. This may include:
- Clothing with drawstrings
- Nail clippers or tweezers
- Medications or drugs
- Other personal belongings
It is important to remember that this not a judgment against the individual being admitted but a practice based upon the experiences of others.
The detoxification process lasts approximately three to five days. During this time frame, the addict will suffer many serious side effects caused by the withdrawal of the drugs from their body. As the body purifies, the individual may suffer from a variety of symptoms, including:
- Shaking, trembling and seizure-like spasms
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sweating and fever
- Irritability that can lead to violence
- Severe bone, joint and muscle pain
A medical detoxification facility is staffed by medical doctors, nurses and others who are trained in how to help an addict through this painful and frightening process.
As with prescription medications, it can be dangerous for an addict to stop using illegally obtained or non-prescription drugs “cold turkey.” A medical detoxification facility has the ability to help the addict by weaning them off some substances through the use of synthetic medications designed for this purpose.
Supervision, Safety and Security
Addicts who are discontinuing certain drugs, like stimulants, can often become violent and angry. Their bodies want the drugs they have become used to and the individual will go to great lengths to get them. A medical detoxification facility has the security and supervision to prevent the addict from harming themselves or others during the withdrawal process.
Some medical detoxification facilities offer the option to use general anesthesia for the first few hours of detox as a means to alleviate some of the pain of the withdrawal process. An article published by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, however, references a study that shows those who underwent this option had very similar complaints during the remaining detox period as those who were treated with more traditional methods.
When an individual admits himself into a medical detoxification facility, he can expect that the next few days will be difficult. There is no easy road to recovery. However, with the right facility and an experienced staff, he can also expect to come out on the other side of the detox period physically ready to enter the rehab phase of the process. Drug detox is not rehab; this is the process that an addict must go through in order to be sober when they enter rehab. The rehabilitation portion of the process begins when the detox period ends. They are both important steps towards recovery. An individual who goes through the detox process and does not follow up with the drug treatment program will, most likely, relapse.