The Process of Detox and How It Works

detox

The Process of Detox and How It Works

Detoxing is the first stage of any addiction treatment process. It is required before treatment can become more intense and specific. The time that detox might take will depend on the dose, the substance, and the level of the addiction. In some cases, the worst parts take only a few days, but for others, it can be even two to eight weeks. No matter how much time it takes, it needs to be done in order for the substances to be flushed out of the body.

People can usually choose between two options: detoxing on their own or medically-assisted detox. The latter is the safest way choice for many reasons. For one, it can be more effective against relapse. Secondly, by having practitioners at their disposal, they will know how to treat symptoms while keeping the patient safe from serious side effects. 

Quitting “cold turkey” (abrupt detox with no medical help) can put a person at risk for many complications – some of which can even be deadly. There’s a risk their body might go into shock from cutting the supply of substances. On the other hand, they are at risk of overdosing or also going into shock if they relapse quickly.

The symptoms experienced during detox vary from person to person. It depends on each scenario and the gravity of the addiction. However, the most common ones tend to be:

  • Restlessness, anxiety, nervousness
  • Problems related to the digestive system such as nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
  • High fever
  • Sweating more often than usual 
  • Jitteriness, shaking, and/or chills
  • Cardiac problems, like hypertension and/or erratic heartbeat
  • Changes in the sleep cycle, either insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Changes in eating habits, either too much or too little
  • Moodiness and extreme moods
  • Craving the substance

Most people might not experience all of these symptoms, but they can be expected throughout the detox process. Other symptoms can be specific to certain substances. For instance, with opioids, people report muscle pains and spasms. Mental confusion and disorientation are also common during withdrawal. When it comes to detox, each person will have their process. Still, they might start noticing symptoms as early as 6 hours after the last dose.  

Why Is Detox Important?

Detox is not just about getting rid of toxins. While it is the final goal of the process, doing so is needed for a number of reasons. After using a specific substance for a long time, the short and long term effects can cause severe initial symptoms.

For people suffering from alcoholism, for instance, these symptoms vary from headaches and anxiety to seizures and hallucinations. They can be uncomfortable and incredibly disruptive, making it impossible to sit through a full session of anything. Detox before treatment is necessary so that patients can start their group activities, therapy sessions, and anything that requires their attention.

But the effects of addiction go beyond that, and they also take time. Hormonal and neural imbalances come from continuous drug or alcohol use. The body gets used to that external supply of dopamine, serotonin, and any other neurotransmitter and hormone production caused by these substances. By cutting consumption, the body goes into disarray at first, and find that balance again is not something instantaneous.

Once the body has dealt with the acute symptoms from the abstinence, other symptoms can be addressed more easily. Detox is needed because the body and the brain are rewired by addiction, and become dependent on these substances to function. So it is only possible to treat the effects by having a clean system, free of influence from external substances, finding itself by itself again.

What Comes After Detox?

After the detox stage is done, the patient can start the next phase of treatment. Although it is a big, important step towards recovery, detox alone will not treat addiction or avoid relapse. There is more to the treatment process than getting rid of toxins, and it is an in-depth experience. 

After detox, the team will have to address the patient’s psychiatric and medical conditions, taking care of the aftermath of long-term exposure to substances. This can be done through therapy, counseling, group sessions, and other therapeutic activities. Some people might need prescription medication as well, so there is still much to cover.

For this part of the treatment, there are different service settings for programs available. Only a licensed professional will be able to tell a patient how to proceed. For instance, residential or inpatient treatment requires the patient to stay in the clinic until the end of the program. It is a recommended option for those who need medical attention 24/7. And it is especially beneficial to those who have higher chances of relapse. Nonetheless, in most cases, the patient must meet the diagnostic criteria for it, so it’s not for everyone.

Another treatment program option is outpatient treatment, and there are different “intensities” for it. For this program, the patient gets to stay home for it, and they only need to go to the facility for sessions of treatment that they partake in. One of the choices is partial hospitalization program (PHP), which requires almost daily visits, and it might take many hours. The intensive outpatient program (IOP), another alternative, is less demanding, and sessions might be shorter for it. 

Factors To Consider During Detox

While addiction alone can be quite a complicated disorder to treat, some issues may require specific attention or extra help. These problems won’t stop someone from recovering in any way. But discussing them with the team is important, as they need to factor it into their plans and during treatment. Some issues might require separate treatment. Others can actually be the root of the addiction.

In the case of a previous mental disorder diagnosed, a patient with addiction is automatically a dual diagnosis patient. This means they suffer from a substance and a psychiatric disorder, like depression or PTSD. Both disorders would have to be treated separately. That, however, could be done simultaneously (at the same time) or sequentially (one after the other). 

Another factor that should be brought up during the assessment is family history with addiction and/or mental disorders. This history doesn’t mean anyone in the family is bound to suffer from them. But knowing about it can help the psychiatric team understand the patient better. It might say a lot about tendencies, predispositions, triggers, etc. 

But addiction doesn’t just affect a person psychologically – it affects the body, too. The assessment will also look into physical issues and other diseases. But if the patient is already aware of any, they should mention it. For example, liver and/or kidney diseases might affect how medication is processed in the system. Other diseases that affect the immune system, like HIV and hepatitis C, should be mentioned. The team needs to know about them so they can avoid further medical complications for the patient.

None of these should be a reason for shame or worry. They are just conditions that affect the scenario, so they need to be taken into consideration by the health care provider. Discussing them will prevent any serious problems or permanent damage in the long run.

Detox Safely At Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare

Detox is just the start of the recovery journey, but completing that part is not the end of the battle. Knowing what to expect should not scare anyone from going there. It should only help them prepare for that initial stage. Once that is over, healing can begin, and it can be safer and better with the right team. Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare hopes to be just that as you transition into a healthier you after detox.

Along with medical help, we offer therapy and counseling according to the patient’s needs. We also provide activities that can help patients rebuild their lives in a great way. Group sessions and volunteering, for example, can help a patient understand their process of recovery. But it is a way to help others, learn from others, and to find a new purpose after going through addiction into sobriety. 

Besides the psychiatric and medical aspects of the patient, we believe in healing physically, too. That is why we have our very exclusive Recover Strong program. It was designed to help healing happen through physical activities, too! The neurological and chemical effects of personalized exercise can help fight mental disorders and addiction. Additionally, it is another way to meet with others going through the same journey and to better understand what it is all about.

Our team will answer any questions you might have and tell you everything you might want to know so you can make an informed decision. Whether you have never asked for help before or are relapsing, anyone deserves trustworthy help. You can that and much more and Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare.

If you want more information so that you or a loved one can get the help needed, you can visit our website and contact us today at (877) 389-0412. 

Article Reviewed by Gregory Struve

Gregory StruveGreg received a Master’s in Counseling from the Adler Graduate School in 2006. He trained at one of the top trauma and anxiety treatment centers in the world until 2008 when he became a faculty member at Grand Canyon University. From 2011 to 2016 he directed a program that leads the field in terms of innovative treatment of anxiety and trauma. During that time he even made several appearances on A&E’s intervention.