Drug detox is the first step in any comprehensive addiction treatment program, whether the drug of choice is alcohol, prescription painkillers, heroin, cocaine or a combination of substances. Depending upon the drug of addiction, the type of detox that will be most effective may vary, but the goal for each style of care is the same – physical and mental stabilization. Entering into treatment can be traumatic, and for many patients, the first few days of rehab are a rollercoaster. When withdrawal symptoms are an issue, it can mean serious physical illness and when there is a co-occurring mental health disorder as well, detox can become even more complicated. In some cases, medication may be necessary in order to help the patient stabilize.
Drug detox is the process of letting the body flush all illicit substances and toxins out of the system while offering care for the resulting withdrawal symptoms. Medically supervised detox is a highly effective treatment that is proven to help boost recovery and help prevent future relapse.1
According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the substances most often responsible for detox admissions include:
- Alcohol – 39 percent
- Heroin – 16 percent
- Other opiates (e.g., morphine or opioid painkillers) – 10 percent
- Cocaine – 11.7 percent
- Marijuana – 17 percent
- Stimulants (e.g., methamphetamines, amphetamines, cocaine) – 7 percent
- Other (e.g., tranquilizers, hallucinogens, sedatives and hypnotics, PCP, over-the-counter medications, and inhalants – 1 percent or less2
It is noteworthy that 45 percent of patients who entered treatment for alcohol use disorder also reported secondary substance use as well.
Drug detoxification is a difficult time for anyone in recovery. This time period is vital because the temptation to use again is at peak strength. For this reason, a medically-supervised detox is a good idea. Any person who struggles with substance use can benefit greatly from a supportive medical team, a safe and comfortable environment, and some dedicated time away from the people, places, and things that were once associated with substance use or process addictions.
Once detoxification is complete, dedicated residential or outpatient treatment can help the wellness process and insure against relapse. Rehab treatment offers the benefit of a number of therapies that address the mind, body, and spirit. By taking a look at the causes behind substance use, people in recovery can build effective coping skills for handling similar emotional struggles in the future while they move past physical dependence – without turning to alcohol or drugs of any kind.
Drug detox is necessary because substance use alters brain function over time. Regular misuse of substances will change the way the brain processes important chemicals and may even impact your ability to process emotions, thoughts, or sensations, even when the substance is no longer being actively consumed.
Drugs and alcohol interfere with the brain’s communication system, disrupting the way nerve cells use neurotransmitters to control brain function. Some drugs do this by mimicking natural neurotransmitters while other drugs disrupt function by blocking the normal flow of these chemicals in the brain.
Most addictive behaviors or substances trigger the release of a large amount of brain chemicals associated with pleasure, like dopamine. They also block the natural recycling mechanism in the brain that reabsorbs those chemicals. As a result, those who are under the influence of drugs often experience a brief flood of “happy” emotions during the high associated with drug use. Addiction develops once a person seeks repeat experiences of that high, even as a tolerance to substance builds with each use.
Over time, the changes caused by acute drug abuse can become long-lasting. The ability to self-regulate mood and fight pain naturally can be diminished, leaving addicted individuals unable to find happiness or pain relief without substances. Additionally, the person using the substance may also be unable to control certain impulsive behaviors associated with drug use, such as angry outbursts, emotional reactions, or paranoia.
The very best way to address these changes is through addiction treatment that starts with a solid detox program. Quality treatment and dedicated effort make it possible for individuals to return to more positive mental and emotional states.
How a Dual Diagnosis or Co-Occurring Disorder Affects Detox
Co-occurring disorders (sometimes known as a dual diagnosis) are diagnosed when a person has both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, or other diagnoses.
It’s a common issue. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that nearly 8 million American adults have co-occurring disorders.4 While it is difficult to fully diagnose a person who is in the throes of addiction, an understanding of a possible dual diagnosis can greatly help in recovery. Treatment of both addiction and mental illness are absolutely essential for anyone who desires long-term wellness.
When a co-occurring problem is an issue, it is incredibly important to ensure that patients receive treatment for both the addiction and the mental health disorder at the same time.5Only rehab programs that offer treatment for co-occurring disorders can provide this level of comprehensive care. Psychiatric treatment in addition to medical support and ongoing therapy can treat multiple concerns at once, in one safe and comprehensive program.
Detoxification Is Not Enough
Drug detox is a crucial first step in addiction treatment. People who experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using a substance cannot skip this step. However, detox alone is not a total treatment.
Instead, the following should be a part of a comprehensive drug rehab program6:
- Individualized Treatment: Attention to personal needs. Drug addiction is the primary focus of detox and addiction treatment, but people in recovery should also get the help they need for other issues as well. Problems at home, obstacles to employment or education, legal problems, health problems – all these should be addressed if they in any way exacerbate issues with addiction and trigger patients to relapse.
- Therapy: Therapies address daily needs in recovery. Nutritional counseling, exercise and workout training, yoga classes, meditation, massage therapy, and even resume assistance or help getting copies of important documents that will aid in gaining employment or signing a lease – all these things can help individuals take care of the details that will set them up for success.
- Inclusive Treatment Plans: Treatment requires ongoing check-ins and updates to the treatment plan. Some people will progress rapidly, while others may get hung up on a specific issue and take a bit longer to achieve a treatment goal.
- Family Therapy: Addiction is a family disease. Family therapy, educational workshops, and family support groups lay the groundwork for the healing that will create more positive relationships going forward.
- Aftercare: Ongoing support begins with a solid aftercare plan and continues through sober living homes, group counseling, outpatient therapy, alumni groups and more.
Learn More About the Detox Process at Michael’s House
Michael’s House in Palm Springs, California offers a wide range of detoxification options for patients, provided by experienced clinicians who specialize in substance abuse treatment. We collaborate with consulting physicians and follow up with comprehensive addiction treatment and a range of aftercare services as part of a unique treatment program to meet the needs of each individual patient.
Contact us today at 760-548-4032 for more information on how we can help you or your loved one begin the healing process after drug and alcohol addiction.
1 National Institute on Drug Abuse. Frequently Asked Questions. March 2017. Web. Retrieved 11 Nov 2017.
2 SAMHSA. Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) 2002 – 2012 National Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services. 2012. Web. Retrieved 11 Nov 2017.
3 National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. 1 Jul. 2014.
4 SAMHSA. Co-Occurring Disorders. March 2016. Web. Retrieved 20 Nov 2017.
5 Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. 2006. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series.
6 National Institute on Drug Abuse. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)