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Many addicts avoid starting recovery because of the detox process. However, medically supervised treatment centers can help their patients take this critical step toward long-term sobriety. Detoxification, or detox treatment, rids the body of residual toxins from drug abuse, but it is only the beginning of the rehabilitation process. 

Requirements for detox differ from client to client, and anyone with an addiction should avoid the “cold turkey” approach. It is neither safe nor particularly effective. Instead, treatment experts use medically proven methods to provide a customized detox procedure for each patient.  

Two Ways to Detox  

There are two main types of detox methods: social or medically supervised. Health-care experts decide which approach is best depending on: 

  • Type of substance being abused 
  • Length of abuse 
  • Age 
  • Mental state 
  • Physical health 
  • The type of atmosphere that is best for the patient 

Medically supervised detox is generally recommended for people addicted to: 

  • Alcohol 
  • Pain medications (prescription or pharmaceutical) 
  • Barbiturates or sedatives (benzodiazepines, Xanax, valium) 
  • Opioids (heroin, Oxycodone, morphine, hydrocodone, methadone) 

Attempting to quit any of these drugs “cold turkey” can lead to highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as hallucinations and seizures. Medical doctors manage the symptoms using specific detox medications. They also recommend this method for anyone who has a life-threatening illness, a seizure disorder, or other psychiatric problems. Medically supervised detox is thus the safest and best option for many patients.

Social detoxification is best for people likely to experience only mild withdrawal symptoms, from substances such as: 

  • Marijuana 
  • Methamphetamine 
  • Cocaine 
  • Opioids (infrequent use) 
  • Alcohol (infrequent use) 

Patients undergoing detox under the social model are supervised by nurses, counselors and therapists, who try to help patients through the withdrawal and cravings without medication. Patients are not isolated in private rooms, but instead live alongside others who are also in treatment. This helps prepare them for a rehab program where they will offer each other mutual support toward long-term recovery. 

Detox Treatments Differ Based on Drugs Used  

Whatever the chosen method, detox is vital before rehabilitation can begin. Detoxing from depressants (like barbiturates, opioids, and alcohol) requires particular care and a slow weaning process. Moving too fast poses not only a risk of seizures and hallucinations, but also anxiety, tremors and increases in heart rate and blood pressure.

Stimulant withdrawal (from drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine and Ritalin) is mainly psychological and does not normally require more than emotional support from family, friends, and counselors. However some patients develop a condition called stimulant psychosis, characterized by paranoia, suicidal impulses, and other serious mental health issues. Such cases often require a prescription from a medical doctor. 

Withdrawal from opioids such as heroin and morphine is the most severe of all. Its symptoms range from merely uncomfortable to genuinely life-threatening, and include:

  • Sweating 
  • Runny nose 
  • Anxiety 
  • Sleeplessness 
  • Depression 
  • Rapid breathing 
  • Quickening pulse 
  • Muscle pain 
  • Bone sensitivity 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting 

Detox Treatment is Not Recovery 

Detoxification is an important step toward recovering from substance dependency, but it is only the first step and is not a substitute for a rehabilitation program. Many detox centers do not provide guidance or follow up after the process is over, and without an immediate transfer to rehab, relapse is all too likely.  

In short, patients can only achieve recovery by using detox in combination with drug or alcohol rehab. If you need detox and are ready to enter rehabilitation, please call 405-583-4309 for more information about drug and alcohol treatment services.