Medical drug detoxification is a vital first step in recovering from drug abuse. Medical detox is usually conducted in a facility under the supervision and guidance of medical professionals, and is the process by which the substance is eliminated from the body. Here’s how medical detox works:
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) identifies three broad steps of detox care, the first being “evaluation.”
Before medical detox commences, care providers must understand which drugs and substances the patient has in their system and are seeking to stop abusing. They should also be made aware of any co-occurring mental disorders and any other relevant patient history. This gives the staff an idea of what treatments may be appropriate, as well as which withdrawal effects to expect. The patient is familiarized with the detox process, its general timeline, and the side effects to expect throughout. These can vary significantly with the individual’s history and the severity of drug abuse.
The next phase of medical drug detox, identified by SAMHSA as “stabilization,” consists of managing patient symptoms and keeping them comfortable once they stop drug use.
When drug or alcohol abusers discontinue use, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms usually arise which can vary in intensity and duration with the drug being discontinued. Withdrawal can provoke extreme emotional reactions in patients, including anxiety, depression, and sometimes even suicidal ideation.
The job of medical staff is to monitor the patient’s physical, emotional and mental well-being, and to ensure that difficult emotional states do not turn into self- harm. This is accomplished through an environment that is built to prevent relapse, keep patients from acting out towards themselves or others, and give them viable tools with which to deal with the discomfort of withdrawal.
Medical drug detoxification takes the guesswork out of stopping drug use, since patients are provided with nutritious food, hydration, a bed, counseling, and relevant medication to ease their symptoms. Visitation by family and friends may be appropriate during this stage in order to help support the patient. The stabilization phase of detox typically lasts anywhere from 3 to 7 days.
The final stage of drug detox involves direction towards further treatment, since detox is only the first step in substance abuse recovery care. SAMHSA notes that a written commitment to enter treatment post-detox may help in encouraging reluctant patients to follow through with rehab care.
It is important to help patients understand that detox alone is almost never enough to ensure lasting recovery. Instead, they need to confront the reasons behind their substance abuse and develop healthy emotional tools to deal with them. This is best accomplished with the guidance of a treatment professional, often via dedicated rehab in moderate to severe cases of substance abuse.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, please call 855.712.7784. We can help.