The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that in 2016 275 million people worldwide used an illicit drug. While not everyone who uses a drug will become addicted, some do. This addiction to drugs (and alcohol) impacts millions of people worldwide. From those with the substance abuse issue to family and friends of that person, living with addiction is painful. The chaos that surrounds the person’s life, not knowing what may happen from day to day, and often living with anxiety and feelings of apprehension can take over. A once carefree, happy life seems a very distant memory. Often, it’s hard to imagine life without drugs.
If you or someone you love has an addiction issue, life may seem sad, lonely, and without hope. It’s important to know there is hope and there is help. Today can be the last day you live this way. The choice is yours.
When it comes to a substance abuse issue many times the first thought is rehab, and while rehab is a vital part of the process on the road to recovery, one of the most important steps is drug detox or alcohol detox. Often detoxification is part of a rehab treatment program; however, it’s crucial not to overlook this first step in the recovery process. It’s also important to not undertake detoxing from drugs or alcohol alone.
What is Drug Detox?
Drug detox or alcohol detox is the process by which a person stops using either a drug or alcohol. Often referred to as quitting ‘cold turkey’ stopping taking a drug or drinking alcohol suddenly can prove not only difficult but sometimes fatal. For this reason, medical detox is highly recommended, particularly for certain substances.
Do not try to detox on your own from any drug including the following:
Quitting long term use of alcohol can be deadly if stopped suddenly. Delirium tremors (DTs,) seizures, and extreme nausea and diarrhea can be fatal when withdrawing from alcohol.
Benzos, as they are more commonly referred to, can prove fatal if stopped suddenly too. Whether it’s Xanax or Valium, it’s vital to seek medical supervision to stop using these drugs.
Not only can withdrawing from opiates cause death but, in some cases, withdrawing from replacement substances like methadone can be dangerous.
For all of these substances, and any others that have been used for an extended period of time, a medically supervised detox is highly recommended. Not only is this approach suggested for the safety of the person addicted, it has also been found to promote recovery.
Medical Detox Supports Long Term Recovery
Often when someone attempts to detox on their own, the withdrawal symptoms can be excruciating. Dealing with these symptoms alone and without support of any professionals, including medical professionals is often more than the person can take. Rather than continue through the detox, they relapse and pick up the substance to ease their extreme discomfort. If you or someone you love is considering stopping using drugs or alcohol, give yourself or your loved one the best chance possible. Start with a drug treatment program offering medically assisted detox.
Are You Addicted?
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) in 2014 more than 20 million Americans over the age of 18 had a substance abuse issue. This number continues to grow as the opiod crisis gains ground. What begins as an innocent ‘trying’ a drug or even taking a prescription from your doctor for pain or anxiety can turn into a deadly addiction for many. Often addiction to prescription medications can lead to heroin use and addiction.
Usually a person who is addicted to a drug knows or suspects they may have a problem. However, addiction can be cunning, and sometimes even in the throes of addiction, a person who is suffering may be in denial. It’s important to understand what factors put a person at a greater risk of becoming addicted in the first place.
Addiction is when a person experiences a strong urge to take a drug despite the negative consequences it may bring. Age, race, religion, income, family background, and education do not determine if a person becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol. Addiction can and does impact people from all walks of life. No one is immune.
Factors Contributing to Addiction
According to the NIDA, the following three factors have a significant impact on who has a higher risk for developing an addiction:
Genes are the contributing factor for around 50% of a person’s predisposition to addiction. There are additional biological factors such as gender, ethnicity, and co-occurring mental health issues.
Some of the most influential environmental factors contributing to future drug or alcohol addiction are presence of physical or sexual abuse, peer pressure, early exposure to drugs and stress, and family situation, lack of parental guidance, or having a parent or parents who have an addiction.
Research indicates that the earlier a drug is used, the greater the risk for addiction to develop is. According to the NIDA when drug use starts early, such as in the teenage years, parts of the brain such as decision-making and self-control have not yet developed which make them more at risk to engage in drug use and risk-taking behaviors.
People begin taking drugs or trying them out for many different reasons; most commonly to ‘feel good’ seeking to ‘fit in.’ Those who have a co-occurring mental health disorder first seek out to use drugs to ‘feel better’ or self-medicate. Often, drugs are used to enhance performance such as on tests or in physical competitions. No matter what the reason a person first picks up a drug, for many the result is the same—addiction.
Seven Signs of Addiction
Just as the people addicted to drugs are different so too are the symptoms, both behavioral and physical, for someone in active addiction. There are some signs that some people show, and others may show different signs. In addition to a strong craving or urge to use the drug, Psychology Today says the following are some signs and symptoms of addiction to look for in yourself or loved one:
1. Loss of control over drug use
Taking more than planned on a single occasion, promising not to ‘use’ but being unable to stay true to it, doing the drug longer than planned.
2. Hiding or lying
Going out of your way to hide drugs being used or the amounts used. Lying about where you are or what you’re doing when it involves getting or using drugs.
3. Struggling to maintain healthy relationships
Acting out against or getting angry with those close to you particularly if they bring up your drug use. Stealing from friends and family as well as not staying true to commitments.
Keeping to yourself, avoiding friends and social activities you used to enjoy, spending more time alone, and feeling ‘alone’ even with a group.
5. Decline in physical appearance
Lack of showering or proper hygiene, wearing clothes for several days, or wearing dirty clothes.
6. Taking risks
Putting yourself in dangerous situations or places in order to get drugs.
Experiencing feelings of anxiety, irritability, nausea, sweating, shakiness, loss of appetite, headaches, and fatigue when not using the drug.
If you think you or someone you love is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol it’s vital to get help. Living life enslaved to addiction is painful, but there is hope. It begins with the first step.
Finding the Right Drug Detox Center for You
As mentioned, the first crucial step to recovery is safely navigating the detox process from drugs. Medical detox is an important first step. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines medical detox as safely managing acute physical symptoms associated with withdrawal from drugs or alcohol.
Detoxification from drugs or alcohol (or both) is the first phase of recovery but alone usually doesn’t lead to long term recovery or abstinence from drugs. Any detox process should be medically supervised. This is especially true for alcohol detox, heroin detox, benzos, and opiate detox processes.
For many considering medical detox or drug rehab, the first question they ask is ‘how long will it take?’ There isn’t a single answer to that question as it depends on numerous factors. The length of detox, and the physical symptoms experienced during detox depends on several factors:
• Specific drug that has been used for which detox is needed
• Length of addiction
• Amount of drug used during addiction
• Dose taken prior to entering treatment or detox
• Existence of any co-occurring mental health issues
• Use of other substances (including alcohol) during addiction and immediately before drug detox
• Length the specific drug stays in one’s system (half-life of a drug)
Once you’ve safely completed the detox process, you’ll need to consider the next steps. Getting the right care at this next vulnerable time is essential for long term recovery. There are a number of different drug treatment options with something that works for everyone.
Factors to Consider for Drug Treatment
While there are a number of options for how and where to get treatment, a few factors should be considered before making a final decision.
• Are there licensed professionals on staff?
• Are there medical doctors available?
• Are there treatment options for co-occurring mental health issues?
• Are there a variety of therapy treatments available?
• Are therapy sessions with family an option?
• Are there supports in place for after you leave treatment?
• Are there additional therapies such as art and music available?
• Are there treatment options for abuse of multiple substances including alcohol?
• Are there medications available to help with the detox?
Once you consider your personal needs from the above list, you’ll want to decide specifically what type of treatment center is best for you.
Outpatient Drug Detox Treatment
Outpatient drug detox and drug rehabs allow the person seeking help to live in their current place of residence while detoxing and receiving treatment. Often the person goes to the treatment center for the majority of the daytime hours and basically returns home more or less to sleep. This can be effective if the case of addiction is mild or moderate, but it is not recommended for more severe addictions. It is also not suggested to use outpatient drug detox or drug rehab if the person has tried it before and was unsuccessful.
It’s important to mention again the dangers associated with detoxing from drugs or alcohol without the proper medical supervision. Being under the care of a medical professional who is experienced with medical detox of drugs and the specific drug being used, is vital to ensure the safety of the individual attempting to stop using and is the safest and most effective option.
Inpatient Drug Detox Treatment
Inpatient or residential drug detox is when the person lives at the treatment center while in treatment. This is a good option for someone who has tried outpatient detox or rehab without success or someone who has a lot of stressors and temptations at home. Being away from the daily stressors, triggers, and environment which promotes drug use can be essential to breaking the cycle of addiction. An inpatient drug detox with following drug rehab treatment can be very helpful for this. Inpatient treatment centers and detox centers are highly structured with a closely monitored withdrawal process.
Another benefit of choosing an inpatient drug detox is that during the detox the patient and the staff can form bonds. If the person stays longer than detox for treatment, these bonds can be very important in the next steps of the recovery process.
It’s important to find the right treatment center and drug detox for you or your loved one. Check with your insurance provider to see where you can go for treatment. If you don’t have insurance, contact SAMSHA for help in finding the resources to get the treatment you need.
If you’re still not sure you need help, answer these questions from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Living with addiction, or loving someone who is addicted, can be lonely, painful, and feel hopeless. Don’t despair, taking the first step can mean a future free from addiction and full of joy.