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How To Detox Your Body From Drugs

Addiction is a complex condition with both physical and psychological aspects. Regardless of the substance abused, drug addiction is broadly defined as the uncontrollable or difficult-to-control use of a mind-altering substance that continues compulsively despite experiencing negative consequences.

If you or a loved one are struggling to overcome drug or alcohol use, you will have likely seen some manifestation of the physiological and mental consequences of acute withdrawal.

The First Step

Modern drug addiction treatment often breaks down the recovery process into distinct – although highly interrelated – steps.

Drug detoxification, commonly known as detox, is the first step you or a loved one will need to take in the addiction recovery journey. Detox can be understood as the physiological cleansing of the body from drugs.

This describes one of two things:

  • The natural and often difficult processes that our bodies, livers, and kidneys go through in ridding themselves of psychoactive compounds.
  • A medical intervention completed as part of a professional detox program.

Going through the detoxification process does not mean that the addiction is resolved. Still, it is a physiological turning point that enables you or a loved one to start to deal with the psychological side of addiction without the shackle of dependence.

Different Addictions, Different Detoxes

The question of how you can detox from drugs is, of course, extremely individual. This is why consulting with an addiction specialist, licensed treatment facility, or other qualified healthcare provider is the best thing you can do for yourself or your loved one before embarking on withdrawal and detox.

To demonstrate the wide range of withdrawal symptoms out there, we have shared a few below:

  • Nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Fever
  • Hypothermia
  • High blood pressure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Coma
  • Agitation
  • Jitters
  • Exhaustion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia

Unfortunately, this is only a short list. Not only does each form of alcohol and drug abuse interact differently with our brain chemistry, but we also each metabolize substances differently and have different health backgrounds that need to be considered to plan the safest detox possible.

It may be frustrating to hear, but in the name of client safety, no one can define a one-size-fits-all approach in a blog post. That said, let’s get into some of the general trends in medical detox.

Natural or Medical Detox?

The first categories you’ll probably come across when deciding how to detox are the descriptors natural and medical. Both options have advantages and disadvantages; however, safety concerns depend on the substance and your health background.

Natural Detox

Natural detox refers to undergoing the body’s process of eliminating harmful toxins without assistance from any kind of prescribed medication. This means weathering the physical and emotional side effects of withdrawal without any kind of chemical help to delay, alleviate, or taper off withdrawal symptoms or cravings.

The natural route is commonly associated with home detoxes, but some addiction clinics offer unmedicated treatment options for individuals who can safely go through them.

Natural drug detox in or in association with a clinic is likely to include alternative or ancient therapies to alleviate pain and relieve stress. These modalities include acupuncture, movement therapies, herbal remedies, and counseling.

If you choose an inpatient option (more on this later), you’ll also be in a supervised and substance-free environment with access to lots of social, medical, and emotional support.

Unsupported Drug Withdrawal: The Risks

Natural detox is not often recommended due to the potentially dangerous side-effects of acute withdrawal syndrome for many substances of abuse. Detoxing at home or quitting cold turkey can be particularly risky for cases of heavy addiction to alcohol or benzodiazepines.

Unfortunately, abruptly quitting these types of sedatives can lead to many health complications, such as seizures. Tapering off an addiction to certain drugs with the help of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications and professional supervision is safer, more successful, and easier.

Withdrawal symptoms, even in reasonably severe cases of addiction to cocaine and heroin, do not directly result in lethal or long-term complications. However, even so, choosing a natural detox over a medical one could put you or a loved one at greater risk of relapse during the withdrawal period. Because tolerance to both of these substances falls swiftly after cold turkey cessation, relapse is far more likely to result in a dangerous or deadly overdose.

Natural detox is theoretically possible, but it is less safe. It is strongly advised that you or your loved one book a consultation with an addiction specialist to assess the safety of detox and create a plan to keep your physical and mental health protected during this vulnerable time.

Medical Detox

Withdrawal is safest and most successful when accompanied by a medical detox program. This form of addiction treatment can take place either in a medical setting or at home. Either way, it involves the short-term prescription of FDA-approved medications that taper chemical dependence back to the healthy baseline and alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

What you can expect from medically-assisted detox depends on your addiction and personal health circumstances.

Severe withdrawal from benzodiazepines and alcohol are both frequently treated by prescribing very long-acting sedatives and incrementally lowering the dose over the treatment period. Research into heroin withdrawal, on the other hand, has shown great success when clients are treated with buprenorphine or methadone taper methods.

Should I Choose an Inpatient or Outpatient Detox Program?

The next defining factor in drug detox programs to understand is whether you want to go for an inpatient (also known as residential) program or choose an at-home detox.

Put simply, detox programs vary between ones where you can stay at home and commute to your clinic for appointments and therapy or reside on-campus as part of a fully supervised inclusive program.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient detox is most helpful for people with severe substance addiction. If withdrawal will put your health at serious risk, or if you have a history of relapse in intensive outpatient programs, this may be the best option.

If you choose inpatient treatment, you can expect:

  • a substance-free environment
  • medically supervised detox and care for withdrawal symptoms
  • twenty-four-hour health support from licensed medical professionals
  • mental health support
  • ongoing evaluation of the detox process from start to finish
  • on-call therapeutic and mental health support
  • community support for and from other inpatient residents seeking recovery from drug use

Medically supervised detox ensures that you have the support you need at all times as you progress through a residential program. Many inpatient programs also offer natural drug detox options with holistic schedules of alternative, experiential, group, and individual therapies to ease withdrawal symptoms and the recovery process.

However, staying at a detox facility is often more expensive and may require you to take long periods of time away from your daily life to detox your body.

Outpatient Treatment

Detox and substance abuse treatment can be offered via an outpatient program. This means that you undergo the program from the comfort of your own home, commuting into your chosen treatment center for evaluations, drug tests, therapeutic appointments, and support sessions according to your personalized schedule.

This allows you to keep your commitments during detox and integrate recovery from the get-go into your personal life. However, if you experience severe withdrawal symptoms or cannot ensure that your home environment is safe and substance-free, you may benefit from greater access to a treatment team and doctor supervision.

To Conclude

On a large scale, efficacy rates are similar for inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment options. Seeking out professional medical advice is the best way to choose between these two types of detox options.

Many people will find that the choice is made by medical or financial necessity, but others may be able to choose according to preference and lifestyle.

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