At Chapel Hill, we feel a medically supervised detox is an essential first step in the recovery process. A medically assisted detox can be helpful to those that experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms from alcohol or drugs.
Medical detox is not classified as addiction recovery. However, it’s a process most centers use when they want to make a comprehensive evaluation of a patient.
Recovery Plan and Process
To determine a solid recovery plan, medical professionals will have the patient undergo a round of comprehensive evaluations. These evaluations help professionals establish a recovery method tailored to each individual’s needs.
In an evaluation medical professionals will screen for:
- Co-occurring disorders are when an individual suffers from substance abuse and mental health disorders simultaneously
- Drug and alcohol use/abuse
- Recurring medical conditions
- Any contributing psychological factors such as attitudes, beliefs, or motivations
- Their risk for withdrawal
When an individual reaches the decision to accept treatment and evaluation, they are making a productive step toward sobriety.
After the patient accepts evaluation, an assisted medical detox can begin.
Medical Detox and Process
Medical detox is the process a patient undergoes when they want to rid the body of toxic substances. This type of detox is supervised by a team of medical professionals who are trained in drug and alcohol treatment.
To rid the body of a toxic substance, a medical detox can take up to one or two weeks. As one undergoes this process, medical professionals should warn them that withdrawal symptoms can affect the individual for many weeks afterward. While it’s described as a painful and mildly uncomfortable process, the worst symptoms will cease after a few days of the medical detoxification process.
Patients who complete an evaluation and medically assisted detox are more likely to stay in treatment longer. They are also more likely to seek the right course of action that will help them achieve sobriety.
Once the body is rid of all toxic and addictive substances, the patient may begin the next phase of alcohol or drug rehab and recovery.
Who Needs Medical Detox?
Medical drug detox is recommended for all individuals who have shown signs of physical and psychological dependence on a substance.
Individuals with addictions who believe they are at risk of being physically dependent on a substance are candidates for an assisted medical detox.
Physical dependencies can look like any of the following:
- Large amounts of substance use regularly
- Extended use of substances
- Daily cravings for certain substances
- Increase in daily dosages to achieve a high
- Diminished attitude
- Inability to quit without trained medical help
A medical detox can provide a fast fix for a chronic condition but can’t alter the outcome of it. Chronic conditions, just like asthma or diabetes, can flare up at any time but stay managed with different care principles.
Individuals with substance use disorders most commonly seek out medical help when they are at risk. Most seek it especially when experiencing the effects of withdrawal related to certain drugs like opioids or alcohol.
Substances That Require Medical Detox
There are many schedule I and II drugs that an individual should avoid, but there are also many that don’t require a medically assisted detox. Some substances that will most likely require a medically assisted detox can include alcohol, benzodiazepines, opiates and opioids, prescription drugs, stimulants, and synthetic drugs.
Alcohol can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Since alcohol has the ability to affect body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety, there are many factors that can be influenced by the excessive intake of it.
The most fatal effect alcohol can have on the body is when an individual digresses into delirium tremens. Symptoms of excessive alcohol intake can include seizures and hallucinations.
Benzodiazepines, called “benzos” for short, have a similar reaction in the body as alcohol does and therefore create similar withdrawal symptoms. This type of substance is often used as a sedative to treat anxiety or seizures. Some popular forms of benzos include Xanax, Valium, and Ativan.
Opiates and opioids can be a confusing subject when one doesn’t understand the differences between the two. To put it simply, opiates originate from the poppy plant while opioids are partly synthetic substances derived from poppy plants.
Opiates and opioids are very similar but take different forms of narcotics. Common opiates include opium, morphine, and codeine while some common opioids are oxycodone, hydromorphone, and fentanyl.
Opioids and opiates work in the brain to produce a variety of effects, but many use the drug to treat pain. Opioids are also known to mimic the body’s natural endorphins; the regular usage of this drug can make one dependent on opioids for producing endorphins in the body. That means one can become physically dependent on the substance very easily in order to produce them.
When attempting to quit opioids or opiates, withdrawal symptoms can mimic that of the flu. Many will experience body aches, cold and clammy skin, nausea, and even anxiety. Although withdrawal from opioids is not life-threatening, it can be challenging and uncomfortable.
Popular prescription medications include muscle relaxants, sleeping medications, and gabapentin. Most individuals use these medications to achieve a high or find relief from everyday stress.
Prescription drugs like the ones listed above can create relatively unique withdrawal symptoms. Gabapentin, muscle relaxants and sleeping medications all act as central nervous depressants just like alcohol and benzodiazepines.
Stimulants are non-prescription drugs that include cocaine, methamphetamine, or MDMA. These drugs do not usually create life-threatening withdrawal symptoms like alcohol or opioids do. Nonetheless, these stimulants can create severe forms of depression, which a medical detox can help address.
Synthetic drugs can be harmful to the individual in ways other drugs do not affect people. Synthetic drugs include anything from opioid fentanyl to bath salts or kratom. These drugs can create significant withdrawal symptoms that a medical detox can address.
Natural vs. Medically Supervised Detox
Undergoing the withdrawal process in a medical center can be safer than if one attempts to complete a detox naturally at home.
An at-home detox can save money but is also the least effective way to accomplish a detox. For those that have decided to undergo the process, many suggest going to a medical center to have a supervised medical detox.
Those that attempt to complete the process at home could face dangerous consequences; there are many substances that can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms like alcohol or benzodiazepines. The attempt at quitting “cold turkey” could be too much of a shock for one’s body to handle. However, when placed in a medical facility, professionals can keep an eye on the individual undergoing this process and watch for serious withdrawal symptoms.
For some, it can be hard to do the process alone. Withdrawal symptoms cause many people to feel as if they will do anything to have more of the addictive substance. Many individuals start with a desire to change the course of their life but find it hard when not surrounded by the right people.
Even in the most extreme cases, death can occur from withdrawal in substances like opiates as individuals suffer from dehydration and malnourishment.
Medically Supervised Detox
On the other hand, a medically supervised detox can be completed all naturally or with the help of medication, administered by professionals. Many who undergo a medically supervised detox reveal that the medication helps them manage their cravings so they can focus on recovery.
The main difference between a medically assisted detox and a natural one includes the use of medication to relieve symptoms of withdrawal.
The idea of a medical detox is to rid the body of dangerous toxins. After achieving this process, there are many options one can follow up with to ensure sobriety, some of those include:
- Partial hospitalization treatment is designed as structured day programs where individuals attend hours of therapy and skill-building sessions.
- Intensive outpatient therapy programs allow an individual to continue their daily life while working towards sobriety. For this therapy, an individual does not have to complete a medically supervised detox but it is recommended.
- Inpatient therapy is 24-hour supervision in a treatment facility or hospital. This therapy is beneficial to those who are looking to become sober but need constant monitoring to ensure their safety.
- Residential treatment programs are offered for those who need supervision but not as close as in inpatient therapy. These types of programs are held in home-like settings where their focus is still around maintaining sobriety.
Tolerance to alcohol or a certain drug can affect the need for a higher amount of the substance to achieve the effect wanted. When an individual experiences withdrawal, they are showing signs of becoming physically dependent on a substance.
Since many substances have different effects and withdrawal symptoms, it can be a different process for families and individuals throughout the medically assisted detox and afterward.
To better understand the full effects of medical detox and the anticipation that surrounds it, contact us for more information today.