What is the Detoxification Process in the Treatment of Substance Abuse

What is the detoxification process in the treatment of substance abuse? Here are some answers.

If you’re thinking about getting help for a substance use disorder, you may be wondering, what is the detoxification process in the treatment of substance abuse? Detoxification, also known as detox, is the process of allowing all traces of drugs to leave your system so that your brain function can begin to return to normal. If you’ve developed a dependence on drugs or alcohol, detox will be the first step of treatment.

What is Dependence?

Dependence is different from addiction. While addiction is characterized by compulsive substance abuse despite negative consequences, dependence is characterized by withdrawal symptoms that occur when you stop using a substance.

When you heavily abuse drugs or alcohol, your brain’s chemical function changes to compensate. This leads to tolerance, which means you need larger and larger doses to get the desired effects. But the more you use, the more your brain function changes, and this remains a vicious cycle until at some point, your brain begins to operate more comfortably when the substance is present than when it’s not. Then, when you stop using, normal chemical function in the brain takes over again, and this causes the onset of some very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

What Happens in Detox?

What happens in detox through a treatment program is that medical and mental health professional give you medications as needed to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and prevent dangerous symptoms from occurring.

Different substances produce different withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can range in severity from mild to excruciating, and not everyone will necessarily experience all of the withdrawal symptoms associated with a particular drug.

  • Alcohol withdrawal can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, headache, tremors, insomnia, and seizures.
  • Opioid withdrawal can cause symptoms including body aches, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.
  • Stimulants, which includes cocaine, meth, and prescription stimulants like Adderall, can cause withdrawal symptoms like deep depression, insomnia, agitation, and paranoia.
  • Depressants, which include benzodiazepines like Klonopin or Xanax, can produce withdrawal symptoms that include dangerous shifts in body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. Since there are no medications to reduce these risks, detox is a matter of tapering off the doses.

How Long Does Drug Detox Take?

The answer to the question, how long does drug detox take? is, “it depends.” In general, detox can last from a couple of days to more than a week. How long it takes for you depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The drug of dependence.
  • How much of the drug is in your body at the time of detox.
  • Your age.
  • Your general state of physical and mental health.
  • How long you’ve been dependent.

The medications used during medical detox can shorten the time it takes for withdrawal symptoms to subside.

What is the Detoxification Process in the Treatment of Substance Abuse?

During detox at a high quality treatment center, you’ll engage in therapies that help you begin to identify some of the issues behind your addiction. Group sessions and individual counseling help you and your treatment team determine what types of therapies will work best for you once detox is complete and your attention turns to treating the addiction.

Some high quality detox programs offer complementary therapies that improve your mood and sense of wellbeing during detox. Acupuncture, massage, restorative yoga, and meditation are some commonly used complementary therapies during detox.

The answer to the question, what is the detoxification process in the treatment of substance abuse? depends on the type of program you choose. Ideally, detox will be part of a holistic treatment program that will treat the addiction once detox is complete.

What is the Detoxification Process in the Treatment for Substance Abuse: Opioids

Because of powerful opioid cravings that can last for months after detox, many experts recommend medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, for opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers. Rather than detoxing from opioids, less-psychoactive opioid medications are given to prevent withdrawal altogether. Research shows that MAT has a number of benefits over detox, including:

  • Increasing retention in treatment.
  • Decreasing opioid abuse.
  • Decreasing crime associated with opioid abuse.
  • Improving the chances of successful recovery from the addiction.

MAT gives individuals time to develop the essential skills they need to cope with triggers like cravings and stress as well as address the underlying issues that led to the addiction. MAT is quickly becoming the recognized standard of care for opioid addiction and dependence.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional addiction treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.

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