How Important Is Drug Detox Before Treatment?

While struggling with a substance use disorder, you should know that help is available in the form of addiction treatment. however, you will first have to go through drug detox before your formal treatment begins.

After choosing to stop abusing alcohol and drugs, it is essential that you receive comprehensive detoxification services. This is the first step that you need to take on the road to full recovery.

This is because the extensive psychological and physical effects of substance abuse and addiction will require some care and time to overcome. Unless you receive detox services, you might not be able to give up your favorite substances of abuse.

Understanding Drug Detox

Also known as detoxification, drug detox refers to the process of reducing before eliminating all the substances that you were abusing as well as removing them - and their resultant toxins - from your body.

This service is available on a medical basis from both outpatient and inpatient addiction treatment programs. However, research studies show that it is typically more effective to go through detox in an inpatient setting.

That said, detox is not the only service that you are going to need to be able to fully overcome your substance abuse and addiction. This is why it is recommended that you seek further addiction recovery services after successfully completing your drug detox.

While detoxing your body, you are going to experience some mental and physical effects. This is because your body will be making adjustments from your substance abuse to a state where these substances are no longer in the system. Further, it will be adjusting to the new lack of alcohol and drugs in the system.

While abusing these substances, your body will slowly but sure get used to the influx of the resultant chemicals. This is why you will eventually develop a substance use disorder or an addiction.

Further, the chemical and physical makeup of your brain will adapt. This is because drugs often interact in different ways with the brain to alter its chemistry as well as to cause it to stop functioning normally.

To be able to stop abusing these substances and get started on the road to full recovery, it is essential that you purge your system of the drugs and alcohol that you used to take. You will also go through some physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal - which often result due to the slow reduction of the presence of the substances and or their sudden absence.

Some of these symptoms of withdrawal that you are likely to experience include but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Stomach cramps
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

Although withdrawal symptoms are sometimes mild, they might also turn out to be painful or severe. In some instances, they could also end up being life-threatening, such as if you suffer delirium tremens while trying to overcome an alcohol use disorder.

It is for this reason that it is recommended that you seek drug detox services from an inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment center that can offer medical supervision, care, and even medications to ease these symptoms.

The Importance of Drug Detox

The makeup of your body is such that it will require a balance of certain essential chemicals to be able to continue functioning normally. If you use drugs and alcohol repeatedly, they will interfere with this balance. Further, they will change the structure and chemistry of the brain, as well as how it regulates hormones.

Most of these substances will also affect the production and release of various neurotransmitters in the brain. As a result, they will send faulty signals that will have a negative and unnatural impact on the pleasure and reward centers of the brain.

When you continue abusing them, you will develop a substance use disorder or an addiction. This means that you will soon get to a point where both your brain and body start craving these substances. At this point, these essential organs will only function normally when you take drugs than when you do not.

To this end, if you try reducing the amount of these substances or suddenly stop taking them, you will most likely feel irritable and sick. This would be messages from your body informing you that it needs you to take drugs or alcohol to be able to function normally.

Through a detox process, you can force your body to relearn how to function without alcohol and drugs. it will also give your brain enough time to return its chemistry and function to normal levels.

While going through drug detox, you will feel panic, anger, sickness, and many other emotions. However, you need to realize that all these emotions are temporary sensations and they are going to pass as soon as the chemical makeup of your body and brain have gone back to normal.

Another reason why it is so important to receive professionally managed detox services is that you will not be able to achieve a state of full recovery without these services. A comprehensive detoxification program would also be the first step that you take on the journey to full sobriety. After completing this process, you may be in a better place to start learning how to live without the alcohol and drugs that you used to abuse.

How Drug Detox Works

The exact details of your detoxification program will largely depend on the substances that you have developed an addiction to. However, the actual detox process may take a few days to a couple of weeks.

There are some drugs that will require to be tapered off over time so that the drug detox program can manage your withdrawal symptoms. In particular, if you were abusing any substance that is short acting, it is highly likely that they will lead to withdrawal symptoms that are more severe but also shorter lasting.

For other drugs, the detox program might administer certain medications. For instance, if you were addicted to heroin, you may receive a prescription for methadone - in a process known as a methadone maintenance program.

Most of these medications will substitute the effects that you used to derive from the drugs of abuse. After you have overcome your addiction, you may be weaned off from the substitute medications.

However, there are some instances where you may not be able to completely wean your body from the substitute medication. This means that you will be required to continue taking the maintenance drug in low doses for a long time.

In the case of alcohol, you will need a different form of drug detox program. For instance, you might go through detox for anywhere between 4 and 7 days, or even longer depending on the severity of your alcohol use disorder. Alcohol could also give rise to various withdrawal symptoms that are unique to this substance, including but not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Delirium tremens
  • Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Sweatiness

Some drug detox programs might prescribe benzodiazepine medications to help you overcome your alcohol withdrawal. However, there is a high risk that you might develop a substance use disorder involving these benzodiazepines in the course of your detox. This is why you may instead be asked to take anticonvulsants, or other drugs that could reduce your risk of a relapse.

Life After Detox

Once you have successfully completed the detox program, you will still be required to receive other additional treatment and rehabilitation services to ensure that you have completed your recovery journey.

In many cases, these services will come in the form of group and individual therapy and support programs. Through counseling, also, you may be able to learn how and why you started abusing drugs and drinking alcohol excessively in the first place.

These services could also prove useful in teaching you new ways to deal with your temptations and problems without turning to substances of abuse as your last course of action.

Depending on the severity and duration of your substance use disorder, as well as on the existence of other co-occurring medical and mental health disorders over and above your addiction, you could profit from an inpatient or an outpatient addiction treatment program, or even a combination of both.

Inpatient drug rehab is offered after you complete drug detox but in a setting that you live in. this will allow you to remove yourself from the environment that you have come to associate with drugs and alcohol - and which might cause you to relapse if you were immersed right back into it after detox.

This form of addiction treatment is recommended for a severe substance use disorder or one that is accompanied by other co-occurring disorders. However, it might also be ideal if you need to be away from home to work on your long term recovery from addiction.

Outpatient drug rehab, on the other hand, could also come right after your drug detox. However, it will not require you to move into the recovery center. Instead, you can go for treatment services a few times every week until you have overcome your substance use disorder.

This type of addiction treatment is recommended if you have a mild addiction and do not present any other co-occurring disorders. It might also work well if you have already gone through inpatient drug rehab but still need other additional recovery services to ensure that you do not relapse.

Getting Help

Overall, drug detox is an important step that you need to take once you decide that the time has come for you to overcome your substance abuse and addiction, but right before you receive other addiction treatment and rehabilitation services.