What Happens to the Body When You Detox?
Detox is the first step of a comprehensive alcohol or drug rehabilitation program. When your mind and body become addicted to drugs or alcohol, it forces your body’s (and especially your brain’s) chemistry to function differently. Chemical changes occur in your brain, digestive system, skin, blood stream and internal organs throughout an addiction to one or multiple substances. Regardless of whether it’s alcohol, prescription drugs, heroin or methamphetamine, quitting cold turkey, with no assistance can obviously be very difficult. Once a chemical dependency is created psychologically and physically, your body will need to adjust to the absence of those substances, which is best completed in a medically-supervised setting. Recent years has seen a great week in medication assisted treatment, which is the evidence-based practice of administering medications like Suboxone, Sublocade, and Vivitrol to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms can be persistent and excruciatingly painful.
A full-medical detox should be designed with your safety in mind. Not only is it uncomfortable and painful to stop the use of drugs or alcohol, with some substances, it can also be deadly. The primary aim of detox is to get you through the early withdrawal stages, quickly and safely. Making this experience a comfortable one can make a huge difference on the final outcome of your addiction treatment program.
Many think of detox as a quick, relatively inexpensive fix to the greater problem of addiction and substance use disorders. Unfortunately, there is no definitive “cure” for addiction. Addiction, as a disease affects more than just your physical body. Personal and family relationships are destroyed, financial and legal consequences also go along with this very destructive disease. While there certainly are a very small number of people that are able to completely quit using after just the detox, it can still be a very difficult, lifelong process. So regardless of what you do after your detox, just realize that recovery is going to be something you work towards for a very long time.
What happens to my body when I go through detox from drugs and alcohol?
Detox is vital for someone struggling with a substance use disorder. The early part of detox can be very difficult, as the temptation to use again is the strongest during this early phase. This initial phase of detox from drugs or alcohol can be incredibly intense for some patients. For example, someone who developed an addiction to prescription opioids, or heroin can experience many, or all of the following withdrawal symptoms within hours of taking their last dose:
- Extreme anxiety
- Muscle cramps
- Excessive sweating
- Digestive issues
- Intense diarrhea
- Severe depression
- Psychosis, due to an underlying, often undiagnosed mental health issue
These early withdrawal symptoms, while non life-threatening, can be very uncomfortable. The ultimate goal of a medically-assisted detox program is to stabilize the patient, while controlling and eliminating painful withdrawal symptoms altogether.
Can you die from a drug detox?
Certain drugs like alcohol, opiates, or benzodiazepines can create potentially life-threatening circumstances, especially in an unassisted detox. A professional detox center, like the one at Get Real Recovery can greatly reduce those risks. Doing it alone, or at home with a drug detox kit can be incredibly dangerous and we highly recommend that you find a place that offers medical-supervision.
Withdrawal from alcohol can be especially troubling, depending on the length of excessive use and the individual’s past and present medical history. Delirium tremens and intense seizures can occur. The symptoms of these can sometimes cause death in individuals who have developed a dependency on alcohol. A study published in 2010, from the Oxford University Journal: Alcohol and Alcoholism found that in cases of of alcohol withdrawal syndrome who were admitted to hospitals, 6.6% died as a result of complications from their alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including seizures and delirium tremens.
Withdrawal from benzodiazepines like Xanax, Klonopin, valium or Ativan can also produce deadly seizures. Coming off of benzos can also produce life-threatening psychological issues as well, including thoughts of self-harm and even suicide attempts. The experience of this deep-rooted depression can last for a long period, in some extreme cases it can last up to two years or longer. Medications and long-term psychological support can help ease the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal.
Opiates, including heroin and prescription painkillers like Oxycontin, hydrocodone, morphine or fentanyl can also create some life-threatening complications during withdrawal. According to the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre in Australia, persistent vomiting and diarrhea can cause some patients to become severely dehydrated, which in some rare cases can cause a death during the initial detox. While some people do exhibit the risk of potentially deadly withdrawal symptoms, these deaths are entirely preventable, with the appropriate medical management and supervision.
Every type of drug has a different set of painful, discomforting withdrawal symptoms. These can become excessively complicated when a person has developed a dependency to multiple substances. A person may also exhibit the symptoms of an underlying mental illness during the detox phase of addiction treatment. Many people who develop a substance use disorder do so because they have been self-medicating for an undiagnosed mental health issue. This happens quite often and it could create the need for a dual diagnosis, where a substance use disorder is present along with another co-occurring mental health disorder.
How long does a detox from drugs or alcohol take to complete?
As with most situations during the treatment of an addiction, the length of time it takes for a person to completely stabilize depends entirely on the individual. Detox may take longer depending on the different types of drugs that were abused and the length of time that the addiction has gone on for. A variety of other unique, individual circumstances are also going to affect the length of time that is necessary for a successful detox from drugs and alcohol. Typically, a detox can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to complete for most patients.
Detox is only the first step of a comprehensive addiction treatment program.
In order to break the devastating cycle of addiction, a full drug rehabilitation program is strongly recommended. While relapse is a normal part of recovery, it should be avoided by any means necessary. People who only complete the detox portion of a rehabilitation are much more likely to experience a relapse than someone who completes a thorough drug rehabilitation program. Detox is the process of treating early withdrawal symptoms, which helps to stabilize the body to function without drugs or alcohol in the system. Treating the withdrawal is not the same as treating the addiction by any standards.
To learn more about your options for detox and a subsequent addiction treatment program, please give Get Real Recovery a call. We are located in Huntington Beach and we are available to answer your phone call 24/7.