Drug Detox 2018-08-08T14:27:10+00:00

Drug Detox

Each year, substance abuse costs the US more than $740 billion, with roughly $300 billion attributed to illicit and prescription drug misuse. With a nationwide opioid epidemic growing faster than corresponding data can be collected and analyzed, it is believed these numbers are grossly underestimated. While this information provides a picture of the larger drug crisis in this country, it also helps families understand that they are not facing addiction alone. Finding help can seem impossible, but there are a number of resources available for those willing to seek treatment.

Intervention Services

A tidal wave of addiction has swept the country and touched nearly every family, and in response, the number of treatment options has grown exponentially. For many, drug addiction has proven too powerful a foe to combat on their own, making professionally-led treatment an essential part of recovery. For the families who care about them, using intervention services can help identify the right treatment program, and increase their chances of success.

Understanding what an intervention is and how one can help is the first step to determining the right route for your family. An intervention occurs when someone is either coaxed or forced into entering a treatment program. The goal is to have this type of event supersede an involuntary intervention. An involuntary intervention may include:

  • Arrest/incarceration
  • Chronic health issues
  • Job loss
  • Divorce
  • Overdose
  • Death

The purpose of an intervention is to educate both the individual with the substance abuse problem and those who love them. A professionally-guided intervention will help remove the stigma from addiction, identify the right treatment program, and resolve the emotional conflicts and behavioral issues that lead to enabling and relapse. As much as recovery is the goal, it is important to also have discussions about relapse, and educate family members about the consequences of one. The risk of overdose is highest after a period of sobriety, because tolerance has diminished significantly. The aftercare plan that follows entry into treatment is just as important as getting into treatment in the first place.

What is Drug Detox?

Drug detoxification occurs when the body begins to withdraw from the substance being abused. The effects can vary greatly based on the drug of choice, as well as the frequency and volume of use. Illicit drugs, as well as illegally-purchased pharmaceuticals, also increase the risks involved with both using and quitting, since the exact composition of the drug is often unknown. When someone abusing drugs begins using one type of drug to either offset the effects of another or increase the magnitude of the high, both the effects of the drugs and the symptoms of withdrawal can be altered, substantially increasing the risk of overdose and death.

Detoxification from the drug of choice is a relatively quick process. It typically begins when the amount of the substance in the body begins to decline, and only lasts until the drug has completely cleared the body. However, because drugs can alter brain function and impact the body in other ways, symptoms of withdrawal and cravings for the drug can be long-lasting. For those with short-term substance abuse problems with lower dependency, the symptoms are likely to subside much more quickly than for those whose bodies have become accustomed to large quantities and frequent use over long periods of time.

Those with low dependence may experience symptoms for weeks or months, but chronic users may suffer the effects for years to come. Ultimately, it is best to seek the guidance of a medical professional before attempting to detox from any substance, even if you feel the level of dependence is low. Individual health conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular diseases can amplify symptoms, and personal denial can cause misjudgments as to the severity of the addiction.

Symptoms of Detox

The symptoms caused by different types of drugs can vary greatly. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Commonly Abused Drugs Charts provide a good place to start in order to learn about the specific impacts a particular drug might have on you or your loved one. There are no universal withdrawal symptoms. Each drug produces different effects on the body, and individual health further impacts how symptoms might be experienced.

There are some withdrawal symptoms that are common among many types of drugs, both illegal and prescription. The most common symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Appetite changes
  • Irritability
  • Moodiness

These represent just a few of the more common symptoms that can occur when going through drug detoxification. Because many drugs can result in life-threatening withdrawals, especially in those with a long history of abuse, it is important to consult a physician to determine what specific symptoms an individual might experience. A physician who is specially trained to treat those dealing with addiction can also help determine the level of risk that life-threatening symptoms will occur.

When is Medical Detox Necessary?

It may be necessary for individuals with a long history of drug abuse or with specific health problems to undergo a supervised medical detoxification. While many people are aware of the risks related to alcohol detoxification, particularly in regards to delirium tremens, not everyone is aware that certain types of other drugs can also produce severe, potentially deadly withdrawal symptoms.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome is a well-known condition that affects the unborn children of addicted mothers. What many do not realize is that abstinence syndrome can also affect adults who quit cold turkey in a very similar way. Drugs most likely to cause abstinence syndrome include:

  • Opioids (prescription and illicit)
  • Antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines

In addition to combating life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, there are a number of drug addictions for which those in recovery can benefit from pharmaceutical support. Whether the support is through tapering off of the drug, as is the case with antidepressants, benzodiazepines, adderall, and some other drugs, or as a drug replacement therapy such as methadone in the case of opioid addiction, these can only be administered by a medical professional.

Staying Sober After Detox

In order to maintain sobriety after completing a detox process, most individuals must make significant lifestyle changes. For many, participating in a treatment program designed to teach coping skills along with behavioral therapies that address why they started using drugs in the first place provides the best outcomes. These can be inpatient or outpatient programs, but are most effective when led by a professional in a structured environment.

Contingency Management (CM) interventions along with Community Reinforcement Approaches (CRAs), both of which use a voucher or incentive program, cover the largest breadth of substances. The former focuses on individual responsibility, while the latter focuses on community support to help ensure sobriety. Both utilize a tangible reward structure to encourage the participant to stick with the program, make positive lifestyle choices, and follow through with commitments. All treatment programs generally have a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) component that focuses on the psychological aspect of addiction and drug abuse.

The choice of program will depend upon the needs of the individual, including geographic location, financial resources, and the specific type of addiction. Ultimately, the best outcomes will result from commitment to and completion of a program that best meets the individualized needs of the person undergoing treatment.