Detoxification is the process through which an addicted individual removes drugs and alcohol from his or her body, usually in preparation for sustained sobriety and recovery from addiction treatment.
Detoxification can come in several different forms, and take varying amounts of time, depending on the individual’s preferences and the drug and/or other substances involved in the addiction.
Detoxification from Depressant Drugs
All three of these classes of drugs are depressant, meaning they slow the functions of the brain in such a way that results in effects such as slurred speech, slowed reaction times and impaired judgment, among other effects.
Detoxification from these drugs produces the most severe symptoms of all drugs of addiction, and in some cases, these symptoms can be deadly if detoxification is not performed under medical supervision. Among these three classes of drugs, only detox from painkillers and heroin is not dangerous. However, withdrawal symptoms are so grueling that medical detox is commonly justified.
Heroin and Painkiller Detoxification
Heroin and painkillers are opiates and opioids, and create a psychological and physical dependence in those who abuse them. When an individual is ready to get sober from heroin and/or painkillers, he or she will experience withdrawal symptoms, however the way in which these symptoms are experienced can vary more widely than in detox from any other drug. Some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with opiate withdrawal are:
- High Fever
- Muscle pain and spasms
- Abdominal pain
- Intense cravings
- Extreme anxiety
Heroin and painkiller detox can be accomplished in a number of ways:
- Traditional Opiate Detox: This detox is not cold turkey, but does not involve any medical procedure or process. When an addict begins detox, he or she will go through it unless or until the symptoms become severe, in which case medical staff can administer medication to lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety, and promote sleep. Beyond these parameters, traditional detox does not incorporate much else other than ensuring each individual is safe and that their vital signs are stable. Traditional opiate detox typically takes 5-14 days, depending on the individual, and the severity of the addiction.
- Rapid Opiate Detox
Rapid opiate detox is done on an inpatient basis, and is typically completed in 48 hours. During this process, an opiate addict goes under general anesthesia, during which time he or she will be administered a intravenous dose of an opiate antagonist that will induce immediate full withdrawal.
Since it usually takes approximately 72 hours for opiate withdrawal symptoms to peak, an immediate onset would be jarring for an individual who is awake. Therefore, the anesthesia is a necessary measure. Individuals are constantly monitored throughout the rapid opiate detox process. During the process, while unconscious, most patients can be observed having muscle spasms (one of the most common opiate withdrawal symptoms), and “kicking” their legs.
- Buprenorphine or Methadone Assisted Detox
This is by far the longest way in which to detox from opiates, as it involves the addition of another opiate, then a tapering of the dose until such time opiates can be discontinued altogether. Preferable for opiate addicts who have an extreme fear of withdrawal symptoms, this method can drastically reduce the severity of symptoms, although it can take as long as 21 days, depending on the individual.
Unlike heroin and painkillers, benzodiazepines can produce dangerous and even deadly withdrawal symptoms during detox. There is also only one mainstream manner in which to provide benzodiazepine detox in a medical setting, and that is through a gradual tapering down of the dosage of benzodiazepines. Often, medications like long-acting bezodiazepines may be used during the deotx period to ease some of the more severe symptoms of withdrawal. Some symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal are dependent on the individual and severity of the addiction, but can include such things as:
- Severe anxiety
- Extreme agitation
- Suicidal ideations
- Seizures and/or convulsions
Typically benzodiazepine detox can be completed in one week, but the length of time for completion also depends on the individual and the nature of the addiction.
Alcohol is another drug that produces severe and possibly fatal withdrawal symptoms when an addict attempts to stop drinking without medical consultation and supervision. Arguably the most dangerous of all drugs, alcohol withdrawal can be very dangerous for chronic and heavy drinkers. Some of the effects of alcohol withdrawal can include:
- Mild to moderate fever
- Delirium Tremons (DTs) – tremors and hallucinations
- Auditory and visual hallucinations
- Seizures and/or convulsions
- Severe anxiety
Also, like benzodiazepine detox, alcohol detox has one safe and accepted method in the medical environment. Typically, alcohol detox should always be done under the supervision and care of medical professionals to monitor vital signs and prevent the occurrence of complications coming from severe symptoms of withdrawal.
Detoxification From Stimulant Drugs
Stimulant drugs are those that do the exact opposite as depressant drugs, and tend to produce a “speedy” and hyperactive high. The drugs with this classification are :
While these drugs are no less addictive, and addiction to them is no less dangerous than depressant drugs, the withdrawal symptoms they produce are nowhere near as complex as those produced by depressant drugs because stimulant drugs lack a physical withdrawal. Unless an individual is abusing stimulant drugs with depressant drugs, the detox process for these substances typically takes about a week and requires no more than sleep.
Individuals who go through detox from these drugs may be given medication to facilitate sleep or ease severe cases anxiety, depression, and/or agitation that often occurs, however there is generally no danger in detoxification from stimulant drugs. It is important to note that detox from stimulant drugs should be conducted in a supervised environment. One thing inherent to detox from all drugs of addiction is an intense craving to use again, and without a safe, supervised, and drug-free environment, when left to their own devices, addicts almost always return to using drugs when withdrawal symptoms begin to peak.
Find a Drug Detox Center
If you, or a loved one is addicted and in need of detox and/or addiction treatment, please call us now to speak with a counselor about your concerns, needs, preferences, and the severity of the addiction affecting you, or your loved one.
We understand the trepidations associated with detoxification from drugs, and that it is this process that is often the deterrent for many addicts who want to get sober. We will work with you to determine the best course of action to complete a safe and comfortable detox, and help you to find the most effective addiction rehabilitation program to ensure sustained sobriety and avoid a relapse after detox. Please don’t wait for addiction to claim another life. Call us now.