There’s a lot of apprehension regarding what happens during addiction detox. Many people delay entering a rehabilitation treatment program because of their fear of this initial part of the process. We won’t sugarcoat the answer: depending on the level of addiction and the substances involved, detoxification might be unpleasant for a couple of weeks. However, once this phase is complete, you’ll be in a better state and able to do the more beneficial work of healing.
Evaluating the Need for Addiction Detox
It took decades for substance use disorder (SUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) to be recognized as viable medical conditions that required specialized treatment. In fact, barely 60 years ago, people were still forced to suffer through withdrawal for days on end without intervention. When the United States government passed the Uniform Alcoholism and Intoxication Treatment Act in 1971, it helped change the way addiction was viewed in the medical community and paved the way for more comprehensive—and compassionate—addiction rehabilitation detoxification and treatment.
When someone enters a residential rehabilitation facility, addiction specialists assess the need for detoxification to help physically stabilize them. SUD and AUD affect the mind and body in numerous ways, and it’s difficult for someone to proceed with other aspects of treatment if they’re not healthy. While it’s possible this step isn’t necessary, it may be mandatory if an individual presents one or more of the following factors:
- There’s a long history of extensive alcohol or substance use.
- There’s evidence of multiple forms of substance abuse, such as mixing alcohol and opiates.
- They tried to stop using before or have relapsed from previous rehabilitation.
- There are symptoms of a co-occurring mental condition, such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD.
- They suffer from a chronic physical condition not well-managed, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
- They have an acute illness that poses life-threatening circumstances.
Successful detox prepares a person to safely transition into the next level of care and ultimately supports a journey to long-lasting recovery.
What Happens During Addiction Detox
Since artificial chemicals have saturated a person’s mind and body, releasing them isn’t often easy. What many people fear most—the physical withdrawal process—is another reason why medically supervised detoxification is the best approach. Under no circumstances should someone attempt physical detoxification without medical supervision. Guidance from a professionally trained staff and possibly assistive medications allow for a safe, controlled experience in a non-judgmental, comforting environment.
Discomfort depends on the severity of addiction, the length of time someone has struggled with AUD or SUD, and the type of substances abused. Typical symptoms include, but aren’t limited to:
- Flu-like reactions, such as fever, headache, and severe body aches
- Vomiting and persistent nausea
- Fatigue and/or wakefulness
- Irritability, moodiness, and aggression
- Skin eruptions such as acne, welts, and rashes
- Depression, anxiety, and hopelessness
- Increased appetite
- Problems with motor control, such as shakiness and muscle spasms
- Delirium tremens, also known as DTs, that cause confusion and hallucinations
- Paranoia and hallucinations as a result of more intense substance abuse
The majority of these symptoms usually last 24-72 hours. However, there may be a period of up to three weeks during which a person’s system adjusts to the release of toxins and recalibrates to more normal functioning processes.
Now here’s a critical point: certain substances, such as methamphetamines or opioid drugs like OxyContin and heroin, or excessive alcoholism, may present withdrawal symptoms for up to two years. So, while the initial detoxification may be helpful, adopting other positive wellness habits such as a proper diet and an exercise regimen as soon as possible replenishes essential vitamins and nutrients and stimulates more natural brain chemical responses. Embracing these and other healthy practices reduces the discomfort of extended withdrawal.
Once the physical symptoms subside, the actual journey of addiction recovery begins. Many people believe that once they complete a detox, the hard part is over. While it’s true having less of a physiological compulsion to use alcohol or drugs makes life much easier, there are still other critical parts of authentic, long-lasting recovery:
- Understanding the primary reasons for addiction
- Learning how to live healthfully
- Building strong relationships with others
During an initial consultation, facility personnel also prescribe an individualized continuum of care plan beyond detoxification that includes counseling, mutual aid and other support programs, and techniques for long-term wellness.
Start the Healing Process at Ivory Plains
When you’re committed to stopping drug or alcohol use, it’s only natural to experience a variety of uncomfortable physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms in the beginning. People are frequently afraid to seek help for their substance use due to fear of a painful withdrawal or past experiences with withdrawal. This is why the professional detox services at our addiction rehabilitation program in Adair, Iowa, are doctor-managed and supervised 24/7 by licensed nurses and support staff. Ivory Plains provides a safe and compassionate environment that fosters a more thorough approach withdrawal management and provides the foundation for long-term health. Call us today to learn how we can help you on the road to recovery.