Drug Detox

Drug detox is the most important part of becoming free from addiction, and because of this drug detox should be handled with great care. Drug detox is a medical procedure. Drug detox should be handled in a medical facility under great supervision.

The reason for this is because drug detox can be fatal. What happens to the body when one becomes addicted is a chemical change, and to take this chemical away from the body all at once without proper care from the drug detox can turn from a positive process to a fatal one.

If you elect to enter a rehab facility, you will have the guidance and help you need to get through the detox procedure.  However, if you decide outpatient rehab is more your speed, you must contact a doctor and be under his or her supervision while you are ridding your body of drugs.

The physical symptoms of detoxification vary according to what type of drugs you are coming off of.  Because there are thousands of chemical reactions that occur in our body as a result of the drugs, taking the drug away will affect those chemical reactions. 

Symptoms range from cold sweats to shaking to things as serious as convulsions and heart palpitations.  Here is what you can expect from specific drugs:

  • Stimulants – Cocaine, amphetamines – These drugs enhance nerve cell signaling. As a result, the nerve’s native signaling chemicals are depleted.  This and sleep disturbance are the neuro-biochemical reasons for the "come down" from cocaine and speed.
  • Benzodiazapenes – Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Ambien – Drugs in this category turn down the signal of nerve cells. They make you sleepy and relaxed.  When these drugs are stopped, the nerves are sensitive to the smallest stimulation.  Taking these drugs out of your system will make you very jittery and shaky.  You may have trouble sleeping, and in severe cases, you could have convulsions.
  • Alcohol – Alcohol is a very subtle foe and a sneaky drug. Initially, consuming alcohol can make you energized and focused, but after a few drinks, the sedative effects kick in making you relaxed and clumsy.  In your brain, millions of chemical reactions are taking place.  The brain becomes more sensitivity to cope with those sedative effects.  An abrupt cessation of alcohol can cause seizures or even heart attack.  Hallucinations, sleep disturbance, and anxiety can occur as well.
  • Opiates – Heroin, Vicodin – These drugs are used as pain killers and are meant to soothe and calm the body. Withdrawal from opiates can be particularly painful and severe.  Expect sweating, severe muscle aches, nausea, and intense cravings.  Because these symptoms are so painful, detoxing from opiates often lead addicts to begin using again. 

Medical technology has provided specific drugs that can help with detoxification symptoms.  I know it sounds odd – take a drug to get off a drug – but because some of the symptoms are so severe, having these drugs available can be very important.  Plus, they are not addictive, and when you are under the care of a doctor, they will monitor your usage very carefully until you won’t have to take those drugs anymore.

One very effective treatment of opiate withdrawal symptoms is methadone maintenance therapy.  It is safe when administered under the care of a doctor.  Taken orally once a day, methadone suppresses narcotic withdrawal for between 24 and 36 hours. Because methadone is effective in eliminating withdrawal symptoms, it is used in detoxifying opiate addicts. It is, however, only effective in cases of addiction to heroin, morphine, and other opioid drugs, and it is not an effective treatment for other drugs of abuse.

Methadone reduces the cravings associated with heroin use and blocks the high from heroin, but it does not provide the euphoric rush. Consequently, methadone patients do not experience the extreme highs and lows that result from the waxing and waning of heroin in blood levels. Ultimately, the patient remains physically dependent on the opioid, but is freed from the uncontrolled, compulsive, and disruptive behavior seen in heroin addicts.

Withdrawal from methadone is much slower than that from heroin. As a result, it is possible to maintain an addict on methadone without harsh side effects. Many MMT patients require continuous treatment, sometimes over a period of years.

Physicians and individualized health care give medically prescribed methadone to relieve withdrawal symptoms, reduce the opiate craving, and bring about a biochemical balance in the body. Important elements in heroin treatment include comprehensive social and rehabilitation services.

When methadone is taken under medical supervision, long-term maintenance causes no adverse effects to the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, bones, blood, brain, or other vital body organs. Methadone produces no serious side effects, although some patients experience minor symptoms such as constipation, water retention, drowsiness, skin rash, excessive sweating, and changes in libido. Once methadone dosage is adjusted and stabilized or tolerance increases, these symptoms usually subside.

Methadone does not impair cognitive functions. It has no adverse effects on mental capability, intelligence, or employability. It is not sedating or intoxicating, nor does it interfere with ordinary activities such as driving a car or operating machinery. Patients are able to feel pain and experience emotional reactions. Most importantly, methadone relieves the craving associated with opiate addiction. For methadone patients, typical street doses of heroin are ineffective at producing euphoria, making the use of heroin less desirable.

Another huge part of safe detoxification has to do with nutrition.  Because the body will be going through some harsh abuse, it’s important that your body is at its strongest.  That means eating healthy and getting some form of exercise.  You may want to consult with a nutritionist to be sure that you are getting the proper nutrition, but you CAN simply make your own changes in what you eat so your body is at its peak level of performance.

You will also want to get some psychological help with a counselor or therapist.  You must treat your mental state along with your body.  The therapist can help you remain focused on your recovery and take away some of the mindsets that can hinder your recovery.

As we said previously, twelve step programs have proven to be very effective in overcoming problems with addiction.  These can be great self-help options.

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We at Addiction Recovery Referrals know that it is very difficult to help a loved one with an addiction when he or she does not want help. Our staff is here to guide you through the difficult maze of recovery choices. These initial decisions are critical to your loved ones recovery as well as your family’s.

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