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How Does Detox Work

Feb 15, 2022

Detoxification is a crucial first step for anyone with a substance use disorder to begin long-term recovery work. Still, you may need detox and not know exactly how it works. Without knowledge of its process, you may be unaware of the risks of attempting to detox in certain settings.

Here’s what you need to know about getting sober by removing toxic substances from the body first.

Detox is the process of the body removing toxic substances from heavy alcohol or drug use. The process can take several days or more. The duration and severity of withdrawal depends on the type of drug used, the way it was consumed, any family history of substance use disorders, and more.

The safest way to experience withdrawal from drugs or alcohol is at a detox facility with medical supervision. 24/7 monitoring and treatment reduces complications connected to the detox process, including dangerous and life-threatening issues. Medical detox can be a first step in a long-term recovery process that includes residential treatment and continuing care.

What is detox?

Detox is a term that comes up frequently and not just in addiction treatment conversations. Detox can be any process that rids the body of toxins. People who do juice cleanses are using a “detox diet” as an attempt to get healthier.

Detox for substance use is the process of ending the intake of drugs or alcohol and allowing the body to naturally remove the chemicals they contain. As the amount of these substances get lower and eventually leave the body, physical symptoms begin to appear. They can be irritating, highly uncomfortable, or even dangerous.

Quitting alcohol or drug use can trigger withdrawal symptoms beginning within hours. It can take days or months to finish experiencing these symptoms. The intensity and duration of symptoms can be influenced by many factors, including how long the addiction has lasted, the severity of the addiction, the type of substance being used, and the method of abuse (swallowing, snorting, injecting, or smoking).

Other factors can include genetic makeup, medical conditions, and mental health.

For alcohol use, withdrawal can show up in milder forms, including headaches, insomnia, anxiety, hand tremors, gastrointestinal issues, and heart palpitations. Moderate forms of symptoms can include everything mentioned above as well as increased blood pressure or heart rate, confusion, mild hyperthermia, and rapid abnormal breathing.

The most severe stage of withdrawal symptoms also includes the possibility of hallucinations and seizures.

Medically-Assisted Detox

The one choice you have with detox is where it takes place. You may suddenly quit drinking and begin to experience withdrawal at home or at the home of a family member or a friend.

Making a plan to safely detox involves looking for a facility where you can stop using drugs or alcohol and experience withdrawal under the care of medical professionals. Unlike detox at home, you will be screened for physical and mental health conditions. A blood test to check the amount of substances in your system will be conducted, too.

Medical-assisted detox provides round-the-clock care for a patient. This type of care can include treatment for existing medical conditions as well as mental health disorders. All aspects of a patient’s health and wellness are monitored during their stay in detox.

Managing Withdrawal

Managing withdrawal allows the patient to avoid discomfort, or experience a lesser version of it. It’s essential for a detox patient to be stable throughout the process so symptoms can be reduced and no harm is done. Addiction treatment medications may be prescribed at this time, too.

Responding to psychological symptoms is another critical part of managing a patient’s withdrawal. Cravings and anxiety may make a person preoccupied with using drugs again as their body is detoxing. Medications with similar effects as the drug used may be prescribed to reduce these types of symptoms.

How long can detox take?

Detox can take as little as a few days to a week to complete. The duration spent in a detox facility can be a factor in a patient’s ability to sustain sobriety. Rapid detox (which lasts a few days) patients may continue to experience withdrawal symptoms. Ultra-rapid detox (lasting several hours) programs tend to be higher risk to the patient’s wellness and lowers their chances of moving into treatment beyond the detox process.

Alcohol Detox Process

The process of detoxing from alcohol can produce complications and even become life-threatening. That’s why addiction specialists recommend a medically-supervised detox for anyone quitting drinking.

One notable condition that can appear during the   alcohol detox process is delirium tremens. The symptoms of DTs include hallucinations, fever, fatigue, and seizures. These symptoms can begin within a few days of a last drink.

This is a period of greater intensity for withdrawal symptoms, although their onset comes within six hours after someone quits drinking.

After five days in detox for alcohol use, a patient’s physical symptoms tend to become reduced. Their psychological concerns may continue on for weeks or months though.

Drug Detox Process

Drug detox can differ from alcohol, especially for users of opioids. They will experience the onset of withdrawal symptoms within 24 hours of their last use of the drug. Factors influencing the severity and duration of their withdrawal include how long they used the drug, any family history of substance use disorders, and co-occurring mental health disorders.

Opioid patients move through several stages of withdrawal, starting with cravings and increased anxiety in only a few hours. The second stage is marked by flu-like symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and sweating, and continued anxiety and starts 8-10 hours after a last dose. The third stage starts 1-3 days after a last dose and symptoms reach their peak. They include strong cravings, body tremors, muscle spasms, and insomnia.

Why Finding a Detox Program Is a Must

The physical threat to a person’s health and wellness may be the single biggest reason to find a detox program. Under the supervision of medical staff, a person can safely experience withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. Other important needs, including treatment for medical conditions and changes to nutritional intake, can be addressed as well.

At the same time, entering a detox program attached to a treatment facility allows a patient to start recovery seamlessly. The goal of the detox program is to prepare them for the work involved to sustain sobriety. It will come in the form of individual therapy, group counseling, family therapy, and recreational therapies. Patients will be set up for future success with help in planning and coordinating continuing care following the completion of a program, too.

Origins Recovery Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration.

We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety.

For information on our programs, call us today: 866-875-1558.


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