Last Updated: October 25, 2022
Medical drug detox is a crucial first step in recovery. However, beginning drug detox can be understandingly daunting, especially when you consider the prospect of coping with uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms or finding a reputable drug detox program. By learning more about detox, identifying the ways it promotes long-term recovery and understanding the factors that make a high-quality program, you can begin the process with confidence.
What Is Medical Drug Detox?
Most rehab programs begin with medical detox. During medical detox, clients receive supervision and care from medical professionals to help manage the symptoms of withdrawal. Depending on the specific drug used and the length of time it was used, withdrawal symptoms can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening. Medical supervision ensures that people receive the care and accountability they need to stay safe and committed to recovery during this potentially delicate period.
How Does Drug Detox Work?
Substance abuse detox programs promote long-term recovery by helping clients work through the physical aspects of addiction that can be particularly challenging in the early stages of recovery. The physical and biological components of addiction involve tolerance and dependence.
Habitually using drugs can change the brain and body on a chemical level. Many of these changes involve altering the levels of specific neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly dopamine and serotonin. While drug use causes spikes in euphoria when a person first starts taking a substance, the drug’s influence on these chemicals decreases as the body becomes accustomed to the presence of the drug. At this point, people tend to experience tolerance, which means that more of the drug must be taken to experience the same initial pleasurable effects. Over time, the body becomes so used to the drug that its presence is needed to maintain a stable state. This phenomenon is called dependence.
When a person develops tolerance and dependence on a drug, the body has trouble functioning without it. Discontinuing use can trigger withdrawal symptoms.
While specific symptoms vary depending on many factors, some of the most common signs of drug withdrawal include:
- Changes in appetite
- Sleeping difficulties
- Digestive problems, such as nausea, cramping or vomiting
That’s where medical drug detox can be especially helpful. During medical detox, clients can undergo withdrawal symptoms as safely and comfortably as possible while under around-the-clock supervision of medical professionals. In some cases, detox medications may be administered to help curb withdrawal symptoms, especially when those symptoms are severe or life-threatening. However, this is done on a case-by-case basis when deemed safe by a clinician. Most detox occurs in inpatient drug detox programs, where clients stay at a detox facility for the entire duration of treatment.
Who Needs Drug Detox?
Anyone who uses substances for an extended time and has developed a tolerance to or dependence on them can benefit from drug detox. However, some drugs are more likely to be physically and psychologically addictive than others.
Some of the most common drugs that require medical detox include:
- Prescription opioids, such as fentanyl, hydrocodone and morphine
- Illicit drugs, including heroin, cocaine and meth
- Prescription stimulants
- Sleeping medications
What to Expect During Your Medical Drug Detox
Medical drug detox typically consists of three stages: evaluation, stabilization and transition to further treatment.
Once the evaluation process is complete, clients can begin medical drug detox. The length of drug detox varies depending on the drug used, the length of time it was used, dosage and individual body chemistry. In most cases, medical detox lasts for five to seven days.
Transition to Additional Treatment
There are two primary components to drug addiction: the physical and the psychological. For rehab to be effective, it must address both of these aspects of substance use disorder. Because detox only addresses the physical component of addiction, it’s most beneficial when undergone as part of a larger treatment program that also takes the psychological, emotional and behavioral roots of addiction into account. That’s why The Recovery Village Columbus recommends that clients transition to residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and outpatient programs after completing detox.
Following detox, our medical professionals can help clients step down to additional levels of care at The Recovery Village Columbus, or make arrangements to complete these programs at another center.
If you or a loved one is living with drug addiction, know that recovery is closer than you think. A better life starts with a call. Reach out to The Recovery Village Columbus today for more information about medical drug detox or to get started.