patient preparing to enter a drug detox center

What is Drug and Alcohol Detox?

Drug and alcohol detox is the elimination of the drug or alcohol entirely out of your body. The reality of detox is different for everyone. The withdrawal symptoms can take a few days, or it can be a lengthy process. The detox process is the beginning of the journey towards sobriety. If you or a loved one needs a caring place for drug abuse rehab, come to North Jersey Recovery

Detoxification success is dependent on when the individual begins the program, if they stay on the program, and if they are obedient to the protocol. Individuals who do this are the most successful in the detox journey.  

Detoxing from substances is very complex. The actual detox process depends on several circumstances, such as:

  • The detoxing process depends on if the person is using drugs or alcohol. 
  •  How long the person has been addicted to that substance.
  • The process will also depend on how complex and severe addiction is.
  • Additionally, if the person is abusing more than one substance at the same time.
  • Does the individual have a mental health issue that needs to be taken into consideration?
  • If there is a history of family members using drugs is another factor.
  • Another major determinant is if any medical issues need to be addressed.

There are a couple of different detox options.  

  • There are medical enhanced detox programs. This program is under medical and mental health care. This is the safest way to detox. 
  • Social detox. This is not done under medical care. This is for people who wish to get off the substance. This program is usually for less severe withdrawal symptoms.

Another option people use is anesthesia. In some severe instances with severe withdrawals, individuals may decide to go under general anesthesia. The thought process on this is the individual will go through the withdrawal symptoms while they are under anesthesia. This can cause a whole set of different problems.  

What Medications are Used During Detox?

There are times when medications are needed during detox. The use of medication is used to ease the complications of withdrawals. Not everyone is addicted to the same substance, so not everyone gets the same kind of medication. 

The medication required is dependant on the substance that was abused and the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. 

Some medication used to ease the painful withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Benzodiazepines are helpful with withdrawals. It has a mild sedative quality.
  • Antidepressants are used to help with depression that is usually caused because the brain is used to the substance giving joy to the person.
  • Clonidine is used with people who have seizures. It is also used to help with muscle aches.

Detox and Withdrawal

Detoxing is not a necessary treatment for substance abuse, but it is an essential part of the care program. The first step in the journey to recovery is to detox. This is the body getting rid of the harmful substance. Your nervous system and brain are altered on drugs and alcohol. This alteration affects withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can start to appear within several hours after the last drink or use of the drug. 

The withdrawal symptoms can be mild to severe. The more severe withdrawal symptoms may start within 48 hours of the last drink or drug use. Symptoms can last up to several weeks, and in severe cases, it can last months. 

Some of these symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • High Fever
  • Confusion
  • Abdominal issues
  • Aching body
  • Sweating – more than usual 
  • Chills
  • Anxiousness
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Shakiness
  • Being disorientated
  • Feeling depressed
  • Seizures

With some of these symptoms, physician care might be necessary. If severe symptoms arise, call a medical professional immediately. 

Examination for Detox 

Prior to a detox program, an examination might be necessary. This process will also determine if you can detox out home, or need a detox center or hospital. A physician or mental health professional may ask a series of questions. Some of these would include:

  • How long have you been drinking or using drugs? This will help determine whether you will need extensive treatment or treatment in a supportive home environment.
  • Is there a family history of alcohol or drugs is another initial exam question. This will also determine if you would have a supportive outside peer group to help you through this time. 
  • When was your last drink or substance? This will help the professional know if you are going through the withdrawal symptoms yet or how close the symptoms will start.
  • Have you gone through withdrawal symptoms before? If so, how severe were the symptoms?
  • What is the substance being abused? This will help determine the withdrawal symptoms.
  • What is your health condition? This will help determine if a person needs to have medical care?
  • What is your mental health status? This, also, will help determine if a person needs to have medical care or care with a psychiatric professional.
  • It is important for the physician and the psychiatric professional to know if there is a co-occuring diagnosis.

Detoxing at Home

While detoxing at home is more comfortable, it is very important to have the right atmosphere. While detoxing you or a loved one may want to have limits on personal interaction. You may also want to choose only people who are going to be supportive of you or your loved one during this time. It is important to find a serene and quiet place that is very comfortable. The lights you want to be soft and soothing. Eating healthy and drinking lots of fluids will also help during your detox. If your symptoms get worse, seek medical help right away.

Good Reasons to Detox From Drugs and Alcohol

The effects of drugs and alcohol abuse on the body and brain are detrimental. Abuse from drugs and alcohol can have negative effects on the heart, liver, and brain. Detoxing and getting on a program to help stop the abuse is essential. Long term abuse can cause brain damage, as well as damage to many of your vital organs. 

Some of the reasons that drugs and alcohol cause brain damage are:

  • The brain tissue is unable to absorb nutrients.
  • Necrosis of the brain cells can happen.
  • Alterations of brain chemicals and hormones can occur.
  • Oxygen is unable to get to the brain tissue.

In addition to medical complications, both drugs and alcohol have psychological effects. In addition, the effects of drugs and alcohol can be fatal.

Detoxification Process

A detoxification process is usually a three-prong approach. The initial approach is the examination. This is where blood tests are taken, and medical history is taken. This will help determine what drugs and alcohol are in the blood. This will also help determine how much of the drug or alcohol is in the blood, and if there is more than one substance.

The next process is to balance or have the patient become stabilized. The success of detoxification is not only dependent on the stabilization of the patient, but it is also dependant on the withdrawal process being safe and effective for the patient. Sometimes it is necessary for the patient to be prescribed certain medications to help the patient through the withdrawal process. The medicines help with the withdrawal symptoms as well as avoiding complications. Psychiatric care is also introduced to help the patient during the detoxification process.

The last phase of the process is to prepare the patient for therapy. The physician or psychiatric professional will help decide what the best program for that individual is. They will also go over the details of the program and let them know what to expect. North Jersey Recovery is a great place to start for a recovery program.  

What’s Next After Detox?

Once detox is complete, it’s time to determine the best treatment option for you. Detox alone does not cure your addiction; it only breaks you free from physical dependency. There is much more to the addiction treatment process. 

To determine your best treatment option, you will speak with our team so we can assess your psychiatric and medical conditions. Ultimately, it is your decision what type of treatment you prefer. You will have a few options that can find your personal goals and schedule. 

Partial Care Program

This type of treatment is more for individuals that are also dealing with a co-occurring condition. It is less intense than inpatient treatment but does offer a more structured environment than outpatient treatment. With partial care, you will receive additional support that is not available in other programs. 

Outpatient Treatment Program

An outpatient program allows much more freedom in your recovery. You attend therapy around your work or school schedule. This means you can recover while in the comfort of your own home. Generally, this treatment option is more for milder cases of addiction. 

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

IOP is a great middle option for those who have serious obligations but still need treatment. Generally, patients have the option to live at the facility or stay at home. Most programs are between 9-20 a week, however, IOP programs are very tailored to meet an individual’s needs.

For More Information About Treatment Options

Detoxing is your first step towards sobriety. After detoxing, a great program is essential for success. To find out more information on the programs we offer here at North Jersey Recovery feel free to contact us at 1-800-741-3300 and start your journey to success.   

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brian Ostertag

brian-ostertag-150x150Brian Ostertag, BA, MA, LCADC, CCS, is the Clinical Director for North Jersey Recovery Center. Brian is a compassionate leader with a desire to see others exceed, and who believes that people want to work hard at something they find meaningful and believe in. He is a strong addiction services professional with degrees in Psychology Addiction Studies, and Pastoral Counseling.