What Does Detox Mean?

Learn what Detox is, how it works, what it involves, and how it can be dangerous if not carried out properly at Caron’s blog.

Detox, short for detoxification, refers to the process of abstaining from and ridding the body of unhealthy substances or toxins. When it comes to alcohol or substance use disorders, many people want to know “what does detox mean exactly?” Detoxing from drugs or alcohol is the process of metabolizing these substances in a person's system to neutralize their toxic effects. The medical term for detox is “withdrawal management”. It is referred to as ‘management’ because when supervised by medical professionals the often hard to manage withdrawal symptoms can be less burdensome for many.

Detoxing from alcohol or other substances—including both illicit and legal drugs such as painkillers and stimulants like methamphetamines—should always be medically supervised at an inpatient addiction treatment center with onsite medical staff available to provide support for navigating the difficult withdrawal symptoms. Depending on what substance an individual is trying to stop using, there can be very uncomfortable and even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. This is why it’s imperative to undergo detox under medical supervision with professionals trained and experienced in addiction treatment.

Often, people wanting to detox from alcohol or drugs will ask, “how do they detox you in rehab?” or “why is it better to detox in rehab?”. These are important questions and understanding both of these is key to safely detoxing and going on to find long-lasting recovery.

What Type of Withdrawal is the Most Dangerous?

While stopping any form of drug addiction cold turkey can result in serious discomforts such as anxiety, sweating, and cravings, some drugs can be deadly if proper medical care is not available during the withdrawal process.

Alcohol withdrawal's most serious symptoms include seizures and delirium tremens (DTs), which can result in death. The detoxification process from benzodiazepines (benzos) can lead to harsh side effects including grand mal seizures, which can result in death. When considering opiates, the detox process itself does not cause death, however, the method of detox can cause adverse effects and can prove deadly. For example, anesthesia-assisted opioid detox has been known to cause death.

The main takeaway is that the detoxification process should be carried out in a treatment facility that specializes in detox treatment and drug abuse. Those overseeing the process should have a treatment plan with appropriate treatment options and qualified personnel to deal with any health issues or side effects that arise due to severe withdrawal.

Why Is Medically Supervised Detox Important?

Medical detox is a vital first step on the road of recovery. Not only do the medical staff help to stabilize and keep the individual who is detoxing safe from dangerous and deadly withdrawal complications (altered blood pressure, heart rate, etc.), through proper supervision and management, there is also a greater chance the person will get through the withdrawal period without relapsing. Relapsing during the withdrawal stage happens frequently. This is especially true when people try to detox on their own or in treatment centers without the expertise to effectively manage this process.

It is not uncommon for someone who is trying to detox on their own to relapse. The withdrawal symptoms—both physical and psychological—can be more than the person can bear alone. Often, this is the reason the person picks up a drink or drug —to end the painful withdrawal symptoms. When a person is unable to get through the withdrawal and detox periods, they won’t be able to get the help they so desperately need and want.

Withdrawal symptoms vary based on the history of the type of substance used and other factors unique to the person but often include anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, fatigue, vomiting and nausea, delusions and hallucinations, irritability, seizures, muscle aches and pains, mental confusion, and more.

That is also why the use of some medications in detox is helpful. Not only do some medications used help to ease the withdrawal symptoms, but they can also help the person to stay the course and prevent relapse over a longer period of time. Some medications are used only during the acute withdrawal and detox stages. Others can be used for longer periods to help the person maintain sobriety while learning about their addiction and gaining new coping skills.

For example, a person who is detoxing from opioid use may be prescribed methadone or suboxone. Either of these medications may be used not only at the beginning of treatment but also for longer management of the addiction. Both methadone and suboxone have been found to help aid individuals with heroin addictions to stay sober.

Safely navigating alcohol detox and drug detox is a crucial first step in recovery. That’s why it’s so important to be in a healthcare environment with professionals and doctors who can assist every step of the way. When there are doctors on site, medications (buprenorphine, naltrexone, etc.) can be quickly and effectively adjusted if a complication arises.

Detoxing and the accompanying withdrawal symptoms are different from one person to the next. The symptoms depend on what substance or substances were used, how often the person used them, the time and amount of last use, and other overall health factors. There are several different medications used in detoxing. It’s important to have an expert onsite to oversee the process. What works for one person may not work for someone else.

In addition to helping to manage the difficult withdrawal symptoms, having onsite medical staff and doctors allows better treatment for an individual with other health concerns. Many times when someone enters detox for drugs or alcohol their bodies are in poor shape. Some may have co-occurring disorders such as diabetes or heart problems. This is another reason why medically supervised detox and onsite doctors are essential.

At Caron, our state-of-the-art Carole and Ray Neag Medical Center is equipped to support the sometimes complex medical and mental health needs of every patient that walks through our doors. Our expert clinicians (most of whom are double board-certified) provide compassionate 24-hour care and supervision to guide patients through the recovery process.

Learn more about Caron’s detox program online or call 844-260-1324.

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