The human body is a machine worthy of our wonder. We often take for granted the complex systems that allow us to function day to day, but they are nothing short of a marvel and a miracle. Our bodies are highly sophisticated, and we will be striving to understand how and why they function as they do until the end of time. But, as well-designed as we are, the human body is not foolproof. We are still wholly vulnerable to disease, to climate, and to addiction, and at no time is our vulnerability more evident than during the painful, scary, and dangerous process of detoxing from drugs and/or alcohol.
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The definition of detoxing is to "abstain from or rid the body of toxic or unhealthy substances." But detoxing is actually far much more complicated than that. Detox is a dangerous, scary, medically tenuous time when your body responds in ways you are unable to control, because it's craving the drugs it's come to depend on. Detox is the process of your body learning to function normally without any influencing substances on board, and it turns out that for our fragile human bodies, this is very, very difficult.
During the process of detoxification, as the drugs leave our systems and aren't replaced by new ones, the human body experiences withdrawal, which refers to the physical and emotional symptoms one experiences as the body craves the drug it isn't going to get again. Over a prolonged time of drug or alcohol abuse, the human body becomes accustomed to functioning with the foreign substances put into it; suddenly removing those substances causes big, big problems. Detox alone isn't treatment, but it's the first step to getting better.
If you need to use a substance at regular intervals to feel "normal" or to function, you are quite possibly physically addicted, and if you stop using that substance you will be put into the throes of withdrawal. If you've already reached this point, you're probably not going to be able to wean yourself off of the substance, as your addiction is too far along for that. You're going to need to detox.
Medical authorities acknowledge two distinct types of withdrawal: acute withdrawal and protracted withdrawal. Acute withdrawal is the onset of symptoms after suddenly discontinuing the use of a substance. (These symptoms tend to be opposite of the effects of the original substance.) The length of acute withdrawal varies depending on which substance you're addicted to. Protracted withdrawal (commonly known as post-acute withdrawal, chronic withdrawal, or extended withdrawal) occurs when symptoms last beyond the acute withdrawal period or reappear after this period. Protracted withdrawal is not as studied as the acute variety, but it can often be a major factor in the incidence of relapse.
Varying Length Of Acute Withdrawal Symptoms:
Symptoms of withdrawal differ between substances and listed here below are some known and studied ones. But, by no means are these the only symptoms you may encounter. It's important to remember that withdrawal effects can be unique for each person, and if you are experiencing anything out of the ordinary you may need to seek medical assistance.
Withdrawal symptoms for alcohol users include: hyperactivity, anxiety and tremors, sweating, nausea, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, fever, hallucinations, and delirium tremens.
Withdrawal symptoms for benzos users include: double or blurry vision, headache, body pains, restlessness, sweating, nausea and diarrhea, disorientation and dizziness, dry mouth, fever or chills, decreased muscular control, shortness of breath, and hallucinations.
Withdrawal symptoms from cannabis include: insomnia, loss of appetite, anxiety and tension, depression, nausea, fatigue, night sweats, nightmares or strange dreams, and headaches.
Withdrawal symptoms from nicotine include: cravings, irritability and irrational rage, anxiety, depression, weight gain, dizziness, headaches.
Withdrawal symptoms from opioids include: irritability, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, fever or chills, sweating, runny nose, and teary eyes.
Withdrawal symptoms from stimulants include: depression, hypersomnia, increased appetite, anxiety, slow thoughts, slow, or lack of, movement.
After acute withdrawal ceases, you must be aware of and be ready for protracted withdrawal symptoms. According to SAMSHA, protracted withdrawal symptoms can include: anxiety and irritability, difficulty focusing on tasks, concentrating, and making decisions, reduced enjoyment of previously pleasurable activities (anhedonia), depression, problems with sleep and increased fatigue, reduced libido, substance cravings, impaired executive control, physical symptoms that are otherwise unexplainable.
There are basically two ways to detox-.at home, or in a facility with the benefit of professional help. Detoxing at home is possible, but definitely not recommended. Many of the acute withdrawal symptoms can be so severe that the sufferer might not be able to call for help if it was needed. People enduring the physical process of detoxing require care, supervision, emotional support, and even physical support as their body is learning to adjust to functioning normally without the drugs on board. The best bet is a professional, medically supervised detox. Detoxing in a professional facility ensures that if something does go wrong during the detox process, help is at the ready both for medical issues and psychological issues.
The experience of going through detox is incredibly hard and may just be one of the most trying times in your life. But we must be mindful of the fact that detox has an effect on everyone around you. If affects the family that loves you, as watching someone they love go through pain is excruciating in and of itself. It's incredibly difficult to watch someone you love go through symptoms that make them look, act, and speak like someone you've never even met before. It also affects your work colleagues who may need to pick up the slack while you recover, and it affects your friends, who want to help but may not know exactly how. Be mindful of the fact that while you may be the one climbing the mountain, there are others suffering along with your every labored step.
What can you do to make it easier for the ones you love? Communicate, communicate, communicate. Friends and family want to know that you're ok, and the more that you reach out, the better off they will be. Communication has benefits for you as well. Having strong ties to your normal life will make you feel grounded while you go through detox, and you'll be that much more likely to succeed.
Before you begin your detox, you need to make sure that certain aspects of your life are taken care of so that you can concentrate fully on your recovery. Detox is going to be hard enough without having to deal with the stress of everyday life.
Be sure to take care of family and work obligations. You should disclose your upcoming rehab stay to your employer, and the sooner you can let them know, the better. Through the Family and Medical Leave Act, you are entitled to up to 12 weeks of medical leave, and your job will be protected during your stay in rehab. But it's imperative that you properly disclose and document what is happening.
If you have children, pets, or care for older loved ones, you need to make arrangements for them to be cared for completely while you're away. You will not be able to help them once you enter treatment. Make arrangements with family or friends; make sure it's someone you trust so that your mind can be totally at ease while you're away and recovering.
Remember to take care of any financial loose ends. If bills need to be paid while you're in treatment, make sure you sign up for automatic payments or arrange for someone that you trust to make the payments, so that the bills get taken care of. Detox will be hard enough, and you do not need to come back after going through that journey and have to tackle a mountain of financial mess.
Write letters or keep a journal. It's extremely helpful throughout your recovery journey to be able to check in with yourself and express your feelings. Bring a journal or diary with you and be ready to commit to writing in it every day. You may want to reflect on your feelings after its all over, and this way you'll have a record. It's also a way to keep your mind active and focused on the positive aspects of your recovery. This journal will also come in handy down the road, long after you've finished recovery. You'll be able to read back through it, remember how everything felt, and this will help to keep you from relapsing.
Medical detox usually involves three different stages: evaluation, stabilization and preparation for future treatment. Over the course of your program you'll also learn about addiction, and most likely attend therapy or support group meetings.
Evaluation usually encompasses a written questionnaire, a physical exam, drug tests and an evaluation to determine any mental health disorders or other medical conditions you may have. Therapists will determine your psychological state and the strength of your support system. Then, a doctor will then develop a plan for treatment using that information.
Stabilization is when you actually discontinue your drug use and medical professionals help you achieve sobriety and a medically stable physical condition. Medication may be used to ease withdrawal symptoms, and the length of your withdrawal and severity of your symptoms will depend on the type of addiction you have and how severe it is. The stabilization period usually lasts 1-3 weeks.
In terms of the preparation phase, it's important that you be prepared for additional treatment following detox. During detox you'll experience the most physically uncomfortable side effects, but detox does not prepare you for the psychological challenges that you will face afterward. Medical professionals will educate you about the importance of beginning therapy, entering a 12-step program or finding some form of long-term treatment to increase your chances of a permanent recovery.
Detox centers specialize in different things. Some only offer alcohol detox, while others provide a wider range of addiction services. They may treat different genders or age groups, and they may also have different religious affiliations or funding.
The choice between an inpatient or outpatient facility is a really personal one, and everyone is different. An outpatient detox facility will include regular appointments to check in with nurses or staff members and to receive medication. These kinds of facilities offer more freedom for patients to attend work or school, but it is also riskier for individuals who might face relapses.
Inpatient detox facilities provide safe spaces with around-the-clock supervision and medical attention if needed, offering more structure and stability. A physician, therapist or counselor can help you decide which kind of facility might be the right fit for you.
Good facilities will have high rates of success, and success is measured in how well a center prepares patients for future treatment and how often patients continue treatment.
It's a good idea to look up the reputation of each facility you may be considering. Check out the online reviews and ask for opinions from people who have attended. You can even ask your family physician or current therapist for a recommendation.
Staff members of any facility you are considering should possess certifications from universities or organizations such as the American Board of Addiction Medicine. They should also have a physician and licensed nurses on staff at all times.
Make sure the detox center you choose is in a location far from any areas that may be high risk to you, such as bars or drug trafficking neighborhoods. It's also helpful if the center is close to supportive family members or friends.