By Sandy Baker
Most people know what detox is – a process in which the body removes the chemical toxins from drugs or alcohol to begin the recovery process. Knowing when you need detox is a bit more complex. In every situation, a person using drugs or alcohol will benefit from a comprehensive physical and mental evaluation to determine if detoxification is necessary. Your doctor and therapist will determine your level of dependence and your risk of withdrawal complications.
What Happens During Detox?
To know if you need it, it’s important to consider what actually happens during the drug addiction detox process. After a physical, you will enter a residential treatment center, where you will spend a few days to a few weeks depending on your condition. During this time, you will have no access to drugs or alcohol. That means your body will be forced to deal with the lack of those substances. For those who have an addiction, the body has to relearn how to function normally.
During detox, the body will naturally work to eliminate the waste products from those drugs through the liver. If you have liver damage, the detox process can take longer. Your detox treatment team will use a variety of physical treatments to ensure you remain healthy and safe. A medically monitored detox program tends to be the best option.
The biggest and most difficult step in the drug detox process is overcoming withdrawal. As your body starts to push those drugs out, your brain fights to function normally. Its instinct is to crave those drugs at a higher level. You feel pain, agitation, and nausea. Depending on the drug type and severity of your addiction, you may also face some types of health complications, such as a higher heart rate, irregular heartbeats, breathing problems, and even seizures in some of the most severe situations. By remaining in a medically monitored detox program, you’ll minimize these risks.
Medication Assistance May Be Available
There is no doubt that detox is difficult. It is physically and emotionally demanding. Sometimes, your brain simply may not function at the level it needs to during this process. Other times, the symptoms are too strong. This is when many people benefit from medication assistance.
Your detox treatment team will use these medications to help minimize your risk of complications. They can also help to reduce the pain you feel and any cravings you have. These drugs can mimic the function of the illicit substances you’ve used, but they do not have the same toxicities and addictive qualities.
Do You Need to Detox?
Considering all of this, you may be unsure if you want to go through drug detox. However, the benefits of detox far outweigh its discomforts, and those who are in active use will find detox to be the best way to stop using. It is also beneficial for those who:
- Are currently struggling with drug or alcohol addiction with an inability to stop
- Are trying to stop using but feeling intense withdrawal symptoms
- Have cognitive impairment, such as significant anxiety, when not using
- Have a co-occurring disorder and need more support during withdrawal
- Have overdosed or relapsed in the past
Detox can help stabilize a crisis situation and stop the intense physical and emotional cravings.
Detoxing at Home Is Never Recommended
Physical dependence and addiction are intense situations that involve not just emotional changes and cravings, but physically demanding changes within the body. Detoxing at home puts you at risk for complications, including instances of immediate pain and emotional instability.
Even if you have not been using alcohol or drugs for a long period of time, serious medical complications can occur when you stop using a substance cold turkey. You may even find that detoxing at home is impossible. Even if you feel mentally strong and dedicated to quitting, it’s nearly impossible for most people to do so successfully. Avoid trying to detox at home.
Getting Help Is the First Step
Still not sure if you need detox? Though most people will benefit from detox and residential drug treatment in a controlled environment, your first step is just to get in the door. A full assessment will determine your unique needs. The team at The Ranch at Dove Tree will discuss with you the potential benefits of detoxification and inpatient drug treatment.
Don’t overlook how important this process is. Through detox, you can recover and gain control over your life again.