Detoxification and Acute Withdrawal Explained

Detox is one of the most feared parts of recovery from addiction or alcoholism without real justification. Movies, books and television shows have dramatized the process of detoxification to the point that people who really need help have hesitated or remained quiet due to their fears concerning detox. However, detox is different for everyone and in some cases may only last for a few days. Some people have mild symptoms and some have more severe symptoms, but the acute stage of detox rarely lasts longer than 2 weeks. During this time the entire process can be medically and psychiatrically managed, and in fact many recovering addicts or alcoholics can be made quite comfortable.

You should never attempt to detox from any drug or alcohol on your own. While detoxing from opiates such as heroin or Oxycontin a person can experience extremely uncomfortable and even painful symptoms, but if detoxing from alcohol, these symptoms can be much more dangerous. For this reason, detox should always occur in a professional medical setting. Medications can be administered to mitigate these risks and make the process far more comfortable and safe.

Detox is unavoidable when a person who is physically dependent on a substance suddenly stops using it. This is because the body has made changes in the central nervous system in order to cope with the constant presence of drugs or alcohol. These changes were so severe and persisted for so long that they become semi-permanent. The body literally becomes dependent on the substance in order to function normally. When the drug or alcohol is suddenly withheld from the system, the body essentially goes into shock as it works frantically to restore equilibrium. This can cause misfiring in the brain and other CNS components that can lead to an entire host of symptoms. Physical symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating/ night sweats and fever
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss due to loss of appetite

In severe cases of alcoholism or barbiturate addiction, seizures, heart attack and hallucinations can occur. Some people will experience delirium tremens, which can be very dangerous in a non-medical environment.

Emotional and mental symptoms include:

  • Depression, often combined with suicidal thoughts or ideations that require monitoring
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Social isolation or impairment
  • Anxiety – just the thought of not using the drug or alcohol anymore can make a person exceedingly anxious

By seeking treatment for drug addiction or alcoholism at a professional medical facility these symptoms can be readily managed in a clean and safe environment. Medications are administered to counter unpleasant side effects and reduce the anxiety and stress associated with detox. Supervision is provided to ensure safety and addiction specialists can help to talk through difficult feelings or emotions experienced during the detox process.

Detox almost always lasts less than two weeks, but that’s just the beginning of the recovery process. Detox allows a person to be free from the effects of drugs and alcohol so that real treatment can begin- usually in the form of a residential inpatient substance abuse program, a partial hospitalization program or an intensive outpatient program.

If you or someone you care about needs help with detox or any step of the addiction process, then please do not hesitate- call or email our Florida drug rehab center now.

If you’ve already detoxed and are ready to take action, then click here for our true residential inpatient treatment program.

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