What is Drug Detoxification?
Detox is the first step of the rehabilitation process. During detox, the body rids itself of all of the toxins that are introduced into the body when a person uses drugs. It is a physically and emotionally difficult process, because detox typically results in withdrawal symptoms that affect the body and the mind. Cravings for drugs or alcohol become very intense, and many people who are trying to quit using on their own are driven back to using because of the symptoms.
Many people who have drug and alcohol problems are aware of the potential side effects of detoxification. The physical and mental effects that occur during detox can be frightening. Many people attempt to quit using drugs and alcohol only to use again because of these symptoms. Some people never try to get clean because they are so afraid of the effects.
Withdrawal symptoms vary in severity and type depending on several factors, including:
- Which drug or drugs the person is trying to quit using
- How long they have been using or addicted
- Whether they have attempted to quit using the drug before
Some people experience mild withdrawal symptoms while others need hospitalization to get through detox safely. People who need medical supervision tend to have addictions that have lasted for years. They may have made several attempts at quitting.
Most people with drug and alcohol addictions first try to quit using and get clean on their own. This is very difficult to do and may be dangerous, depending on what drugs the person uses. About 61 percent of people who try to get sober this way are unable to successfully detox. Unfortunately, people who make several successive attempts to quit using drugs and alcohol usually just make it more difficult to finally get clean.
Should I Consider Inpatient Detox?
Many people with addictions would prefer to undergo outpatient detox. There are a few common reasons for this. Most people feel most comfortable in their homes and want the support of friends and family members while they are detoxing and experiencing withdrawal symptoms. However, there are a few distinct disadvantages that give outpatient detox a low success rate:
- Access to enablers such as codependent family members and friends or people who sell the person drugs
- No safe space to get away from triggers like family problems and other issues
- No access to medical care in case of a medical emergency from withdrawal symptoms
Having 24-hour access to doctors, nurses, and other medical staff is particularly important for people who are long-term users of drugs. These people may have crippling physical and mental symptoms such as tremors, seizures, hallucinations, and heart palpitations or irregularities that can cause a serious risk of harm, or even death.
The Safest Detoxification Program
Inpatient detox is much safer for people with severe addictions. Doctors and medical staff supervise patients’ conditions and ensure that any emergencies such as seizures or cardiac issues can be addressed immediately. People who detox at home do not have access to this kind of care. Many people with addictions have to detox alone because their families are estranged or absent for other reasons. Withdrawal symptoms can make the person unable to move or speak clearly. They may become unconscious or be otherwise unaware that they need help. In these cases, they are unable to get to the phone to call for emergency services, which can lead to drastic health consequences.
Inpatient detox programs also tend to have higher short-term and long-term success rates, with some centers having completion rates of 70 percent or more. This is because most detox programs require patients to commit to undergoing rehab after successful detox. Patients learn coping methods and get to the psychological roots of their addictions, which enables them to make better choices after they are released from the program. Patients are also able to connect with other people in recovery in the group therapy, and they have access to one-on-one counseling with qualified addiction therapists.
Taking the First Step
The first step of any journey is the most difficult. The road to recovery is long and often difficult, but a successful detox is the first step on that journey. Detox is rarely easy, especially for people who have been addicted to drugs or alcohol for years or who have made several attempts at living clean and sober lives only to experience relapses. Without the supervision of medical doctors and the help of qualified addiction professionals, a person’s chances of getting clean and quitting drugs and alcohol for good drop by a significant percentage. Inpatient detox makes the process much safer and more bearable. Inpatient detox provides a safe space to cope with withdrawal symptoms and gives patients access to around-the-clock medical care, making them healthier and more likely to successfully complete a rehab program.