Medical detoxification (detox) is a crucial first step in recovering from alcohol and drug addiction. Because alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening when severe, medical alcohol detox is necessary. After a person treats his or her alcohol withdrawal symptoms, he or she should then attend alcohol addiction treatment. Medical drug detox is built for individuals who show signs of physical and psychological dependence on drugs. After completing medical drug detox, individuals receive drug addiction treatment.
If you believe that you or a loved one has a drug or alcohol use issue, a medical drug detox program can help you secure a healthy lifestyle once again. Here at Harmony Ridge Recovery Center, we provide individuals with detox programs that lay a foundation upon which to build better and healthier habits. Learning about the characteristics of medical drug detox programs will allow you to find a plan that best fits your needs.
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What is Medical Drug Detox?
Medical detoxification refers to the cleansing of the body of toxic, addictive substances under the supervision of medical professionals. The medical team will usually be conducted by a physician, which consists of clinical staff, therapists, and nurses. Some detox centers will utilize advanced practice staff like physician assistants or nurse practitioners to deliver medical care during the detoxification process.
Most people know the word detox to mean a way of cleansing the body of unhealthy food. But do you know what medical detox is and how it differs from our common understanding of the term detox?
Similar to asthma, diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis, addiction is a common condition that pops up occasionally but can be controlled. Medical drug detox helps individuals that suffer from addiction. It does so in a similar way to a hospital emergency department in that it helps people manage their long-term conditions.
Medical drug detox for substance abuse will provide stabilization for an acute flare-up of the chronic disease. By itself though, drug detox will not change the long-term course of an addiction.
Detox is the first step to treating substance addiction. Thus, detox will occur at the very beginning of treatment. Drug detox alone is not considered addiction treatment though. Individuals who complete drug detox have a higher chance of staying in treatment afterward longer. They also have a higher chance of having more prolonged stretches of sobriety.
When is Medical Detox Necessary?
Individuals that commit substance abuse and are at risk of becoming physically dependent on substances are top candidates for medically assisted detox.
Individuals that struggle with drug abuse will most likely suffer from physical dependence to substances if they have done the following things:
- Used substances over an extended period
- Used substances regularly in large amounts
- Required increasing amounts of substances to feel the usual effects
- Tried quitting substances but were unable to without help
- Had substance cravings frequently when not having access to it
- Experienced diminished effect over time using the same amount of substance
Individuals with substance addictions will usually receive drug detox treatment. Individuals attend detox when they’re at risk of experiencing the effects of withdrawal from their substances of choice. The presence of withdrawal happens when a person has become physically dependent on a substance.
Each substance has a characteristic pattern of drug or alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These drug or alcohol withdrawal symptoms are caused by chemical effects within the body and mind that come about when consumption of a substance is reduced or stopped altogether.
Substances that Require Medical Detox
Evaluation and treatment for potential withdrawal symptoms will be required here at Harmony Ridge during treatment of an addiction to any of the substances listed below.
- Alcohol: When consumed, alcohol inhibits the activity of the central nervous system, which has control over automated body functions like heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, stress responses, and motor movements. Withdrawing from alcohol causes a rise in body temperature, blood pressure, anxiety, tremors, and heart rate along with other symptoms of withdrawal.
- Benzodiazepines: Also known as benzos, these drugs are sedative medications used to treat anxiety and, in some cases, seizures. Benzos have a similar chemical effect on the body and the brain as alcohol does. Furthermore, both benzos and alcohol cause similar withdrawal symptoms.
- Opioids: Opioids are prescription medications that come from the poppy plant and are primarily prescribed to treat pain. Since opioids create the same effect on the body’s natural endorphins, taking them regularly will lead to a shut down of endorphins, which will make the body reliant on the effects of opioid use. Although opioid withdrawal is not fatal on its own, withdrawal from opioid symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable.
- Prescription Drugs: Many prescription medications are misused purposely to feel relief from stress or the effects of a high. In addition to opioids and benzos, prescription drugs like sleeping medications, gabapentin, and muscle relaxers can also be abused. Each different prescription drug will have a relatively unique withdrawal effect.
- Stimulants: Some more popular street drug stimulates are methamphetamine, MDMA, and cocaine. Although stimulants won’t produce life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, most stimulant users will become severely depressed once usage has stopped.
- Synthetic Drugs: The most popular and fatal synthetic drug is the prescription opioid fentanyl, which also creates significant withdrawal symptoms that medical drug detox can successfully handle.
Expectations of Medical Drug Detox
During medical drug detox, the medical staff will help customize each patient’s treatment plan to meet his or her individual needs.
Prior to drug detox, patients will undergo comprehensive evaluations to ensure that their needs are met. While this is occurring, clinicians will screen for the following things:
- Co-occurring disorders
- Medical conditions
- Drug and alcohol use disorders
- Risk for withdrawal
- Contributing psychological factors
Once such evaluations are complete, the detox process begins.
Medications Used During Detox
During medically supervised detox, patients will receive medications to lessen their withdrawal symptoms from drugs or alcohol and decrease their cravings. These medications are administered on a patient-by-patient basis under the supervision of clinicians and medical staff.
Some of the withdrawal medications that medical detox patients most often use within a medical detox center include:
- Methadone: This drug is a fully active opioid that carries all the risks of an opioid; however, when monitored, methadone can be used as a highly effective way to prevent opioid withdrawal symptoms.
- Naltrexone: Used for the withdrawals caused by both alcohol and opioid use disorders, naltrexone will act as a long-acting opioid blocking agent. To receive naltrexone during detox, the patient must have not used opioids for at least seven days.
- Vivitrol: This is a form of injectable withdrawal medication that is often utilized during treatment for alcohol and opioid use disorders. A patient can only receive Vivitrol once he or she has been absent from alcohol or opioid use for at least 7 to 10 days.
- Suboxone: This prescription drug is equally effective as methadone and treats withdrawal symptoms. Its active ingredient buprenorphine is an activator of the opioid receptors but carries less addiction and overdose risk than methadone.
- Sublocade: This prescription drug is a long-acting injectable form of buprenorphine. Sublocade’s form of administration will help limit the risk of abuse. It is vital to understand that Sublocade can only be administered to patients who have already received several doses of Suboxone for at least seven days.
Length of Medical Detox Process
The length of time that a substance user will need to medically detox from drugs along with the intensity of detox that a substance user will need to receive will depend on the following factors:
- Type of substance used: The type of substance that a person with addiction used will determine how severe his or her withdrawal symptoms will be. For instance, alcohol withdrawal can be induced in just a few hours after the last drink, sometimes requiring the patient to take a dose of substitute medication for a few days.
- Duration and frequency of use: The longer a substance user has taken the substance, the more likely that he or she will develop a physical dependence to his or her substance of choice. Similarly, the more substances a person uses and the longer the period of time that he or she uses those substances, the more likely that person will become physically dependent on the substances.
Additional Factors The Impact Medical Detox Length
- Amount of substance used: A larger amount of substance abuse will usually promote a faster tolerance. Also, the more substances a person uses, the more that person’s body will likely need to take drastic measures to acclimate itself to the substance intake. As a result, individuals that consume more substances will develop a higher tolerance to those substances. Such development of a higher tolerance will then require such individuals to consume even more substances to feel their effects.
- Individual factors: A substance user’s personal weight, body chemistry, metabolic rate, and genetics will all impact the length of time that he or she will need to medically detox from drugs. All of these individual factors will also impact how intense a substance user’s withdrawal symptoms will likely be and thus the level of intensity of drug detox that a person will need to receive.
Although each detox patient’s timetable to fully cleanse will vary, primarily, detox will last 5 to 7 days.
Safety of a Medical Detox vs. Detox at Home
Detoxing alone at home could be fatal. This is due to the possibility of needing medical attention during detox because of matters such as losing one’s consciousness or experiencing seizures. Thus, detox should always be overseen by medical professionals at detox centers or rehab centers that offer detox services.
Once an individual experiences withdrawal from substance abuse, detox will be a priority to eliminate substances from the body effectively. Each level of medical detox will be supervised by a physician lead medical team of nurses and clinical staff. All of the members within such a medical team/clinical staff are usually trained in addiction treatment.
For most substances, the withdrawal process will cause fluctuation in a person’s blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature. Thus, physicians and medical staff will closely monitor the vital signs of individuals during supervised detox.
Experienced physicians and addiction treatment specialists must oversee medical detox. The location of medically supervised detox must be in detox centers or addiction treatment centers with a medical detox area.
Physicians and medical staff will provide medical drug detox patients with round-the-clock medical supervision at detox centers. Physicians and medical staff will also administer prescription withdrawal medications. They will do so to the medical detox patients that need them at detox centers.
The purpose of prescription withdrawal medications is to ease the pain that comes from substance withdrawal during detox. The purpose of medical supervision is to make sure that every detox patient is taken care of if something goes medically wrong during detox.
Next Steps After Detox
After completing supervised detox and residential treatment, most patients continue on to receive partial hospitalization program (PHP) treatment.
Efficient alcohol and drug rehab programs will address both the physical and psychological nature of addiction. Detox will address the physical consequences of substance use. Detox alone can’t alter the natural course of a person’s substance addiction though. This is because medical detox works as an introduction to addiction treatment.
Detox patients will usually transition immediately upon release right into an inpatient treatment center. This is especially true if they’ve already received inpatient detox.
Inpatient detox is detox that requires patients to stay at a detox facility or rehab center that provides detox services 24/7 while detoxing. Most forms of medical detox are inpatient detox.
The ideal addiction treatment program that occurs after detox will address the underlying spiritual, emotional, mental, and behavioral causes of addiction. The mental health of addiction treatment patients is particularly addressed in individuals that suffer from co-occurring disorders.
Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment Post-Detox
A co-occurring disorder is when an individual suffers from two types of disorders simultaneously. Another name for co-occurring disorder is dual diagnosis disorder.
Individuals with co-occurring disorders often struggle with substance abuse and mental health disorders simultaneously. We here at Harmony Ridge make a conscious effort to offer a wide variety of specialized co-occurring disorders treatment programs. This is because substance abuse and mental health issues co-occur so frequently,
Inpatient vs. Outpatient Treatment Post-Detox
Factors such as the substance that a person is addicted to and the severity of a person’s addiction will affect whether that person will attend an inpatient or outpatient form of addiction treatment after detox. The type and severity of the mental health issue that a person with a co-occurring substance use and mental health disorder suffers from may also even affect whether a person will attend an inpatient or outpatient form of treatment.
There are benefits to attending inpatient and outpatient forms of addiction treatment. Ultimately though, both inpatient and outpatient forms of addiction treatment keep the focus on the goal of getting individuals to achieve and maintain sobriety.
Medical Detox Programs at Harmony Ridge
Harmony Ridge Recovery Center is a nationally recognized drug and alcohol detox center and treatment facility. It is also one of the top detox centers in WV. Here at Harmony Ridge, we provide a comfortable transition from addiction to sobriety in a caring and nurturing environment.
Our team of dedicated medical professionals has helped countless individuals that struggle with drug abuse along with any co-occurring mental illnesses achieve and maintain recovery. Thus, our detox center is helping people live lives free of substance abuse.
Contact us today to learn more about our detox center and addiction treatment programs. We are awaiting your call!