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What You Should Know About Drug Detox

risks of rapid detox

Drug addiction is a pervading and persistent disorder that causes lasting changes in the brain. While it is a treatable condition, it is not always easy to break free of the addiction cycle. This is because, when drugs are used over a period of time, the brain and body become dependent on them to function. In order to begin the recovery process, then, users must clear their body of drugs.

When most people enter addiction recovery, they start with a detoxification or medically-managed withdrawal program to rid their body of drugs. Detoxification, commonly called “detox,” programs are designed to help individuals safely manage the period of withdrawal that comes after stopping drug use. Withdrawal can bring about difficult, distressing, and potentially dangerous symptoms, which is why drug detox programs are recommended at the start of the recovery process.

If you are struggling with a drug problem and ready to get sober, you may be seeking facts about drug detoxification. If your loved one is battling addiction, you may be seeking potential detox programs to help him or her into a safe space for recovery. No matter your situation, it is important to do your research. While drug detox is a necessary part of the treatment process, not all detox centers are created equal. Not all processes are effective and safe. By getting the facts about detoxification, you can set yourself up for a safe and sustained recovery journey. 

We can help you get started. Below, Turnbridge answers common questions about drug detox, and what you should know before starting the recovery process.

What is Drug Detox?

Drug detoxification is the process in which the body clears itself of drugs and toxins. It provides a reset, so that the brain and body can begin to experience true recovery. Professional drug detox – also referred to as medically-managed withdrawal – refers to this process being done in a specialized and supervised setting. Drug detox can cause dangerous side effects, so having professional support is critical to get through the process safely. 

Ultimately, the purpose of drug detox is to alleviate and/or eliminate the potential risks of withdrawal, and minimize the physical side effects that can come when quitting drugs after a period of time.

Professional detox is the first stage of the recovery process, and should be followed by drug rehab. You can learn about the differences between detox and rehab here. 

What are the Potential Side Effects of Detox?

When you stop using drugs after a prolonged period of time, your body will enter a state of withdrawal. The side effects of withdrawal are uncomfortable, and may include flu-like symptoms, mood swings, trouble sleeping, heart palpitations, and intense drug cravings. Of course, everyone will experience withdrawal, and the detoxification process, differently. Different drugs can also cause varying symptoms that range in severity. For example, benzodiazepine withdrawal can be more dangerous than withdrawal from opioid drugs. Due to the potential side effects of stopping drug use, it is important to have professional intervention and support throughout the process.

But Can I Detox at Home?

Detoxing at home is not recommended for those struggling with drug dependence or a substance use disorder. As noted above, some withdrawal symptoms can be severe and dangerous if unaddressed. If you attempt to quit drugs on your own, there is no way to predict how your body will respond. Additionally, detoxing at home increases the risk of relapse. A detoxification center can provide you a safe space to heal, away from outside pressures, while you begin the recovery process.

What are the Different Types of Detox Programs?

When choosing a professional detoxification center, it is important to come equipped with knowledge about the different programs and processes out there. It is recommended to find a program that is staffed with trained clinicians (such as nurses and physicians) who can handle any potential side effects or emergencies. Medically-assisted detox programs can also provide medications to help alleviate any difficult symptoms and ensure the detox process is carried out as safely and comfortably as possible.

Medically-managed detoxification is a common type of detox program you will find today. Typically, these are inpatient or residential programs that provide 24/7 care and monitoring as your body resets. These centers are well-prepared to handle any complications that arise. In some programs, medication assistance is offered for those working through withdrawal symptoms. While outpatient detox programs do exist, they are only recommended for those who have a very sufficient support system at home, as they begin the recovery process.

When researching detoxification options, the main programs to avoid are rapid detox and ultra-rapid detox programs. As much as you may want to begin the recovery process, it is important not to rush this first step. Rapid detoxification can be extremely dangerous.

What is Rapid Detox?

Rapid detox is a method of removing drugs from a person’s system, but is faster than traditional detoxification methods. Rapid detox takes a few days to complete, while ultra-rapid detox can take a matter of hours. These programs are typically very expensive, not covered by insurance, and also carry many risks.

In a rapid detox program, individuals are sedated with anesthesia and administered medications that “replace” the other drugs in their system. While this may ease some of the more severe withdrawal symptoms, the risk far outweighs the reward. According to a report from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been adverse reactions, including death, from this type of detox. Adverse reactions can include seizures, delirium tremens, and strokes.

On top of the risks, evidence shows that rapid detox is also not effective in combatting substance addiction. One study, cited by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), shows that ultra-rapid detox did not reduce the severe side effects or discomfort of withdrawal at all. The report highlights, “We now have several rigorous studies indicating that anesthesia-assisted detox— a costly and risky approach—offers no advantage over other methods.” To support this, another nationally-cited study proved that rapid detox is not effective in long-term recovery, and it is more likely to result in relapse.

How Long is Detox?

While rapid detoxification offers a fast-track to the process, it is not safe. So, how long can you expect to stay in a traditional detox program? Generally speaking, professional detox programs are up to a week-long. Of course, this depends on the severity of your dependence and your drug of choice. Typically, the detoxification process follows several steps over the course of 5-7 days, including:

  1. Evaluation, in which your physical and psychological condition, and the severity of your substance use disorder, is assessed. You will then receive an individualized care plan.
  2. Stabilization, in which you undergo the prescribed therapies and any necessary medications needed to detox safely and to reduce withdrawal symptoms.
  3. Preparing for Treatment. This is the final step of detox, in which you will speak with your doctors about next steps and prepare for what to expect during a treatment program. This is essential for preventing relapse and sustaining a long-term recovery.

It’s important to know that detox is not the end of treatment, and you should seek extended care and rehabilitation after detox is complete. Detoxification is just step one. According to the NIDA, “Detoxification alone does not address the psychological, social, and behavioral problems associated with addiction and therefore does not typically produce lasting behavioral changes necessary for recovery. Detoxification should thus be followed by a formal assessment and referral to drug addiction treatment.”

While detox can take a matter of days, an addiction treatment program can take several months to complete. And, longer bouts of treatment are associated with better treatment outcomes. At minimum, at least 90 days in a professional treatment setting is recommended. At Turnbridge, a drug treatment center for young adults, the greatest success is seen after 270 of treatment. More than 95 percent of Turnbridge alumni who completed 270 days of drug treatment remained sober for one year after graduation. 

In a drug treatment program, you will learn how to manage drug cravings effectively, build healthy habits, establish a positive way of living, form meaningful friendships, and cope with any relapse triggers or mental health issues that arise. Drug detox will prepare you for drug treatment. Drug treatment will prepare you with the tools and skillsets needed for a lasting recovery and drug-free life. 

Take the First Step in Your Recovery

Drug detox is a fundamental step in the recovery process. If you are considering quitting drugs and are unsure how to start the process, contact a clinician or professional detox center for help. This can make the entire process more safe, and more comfortable, for you.

After completing detox, you can then truly begin the recovery process long-term. You can step into a treatment program that will prepare you for a sober, successful, healthy road ahead. If you are interested in learning more about your options, you can always contact Turnbridge for help. We are a residential drug treatment program for teens and young adults. Call 877-581-1793 to learn more.