Why does a person go to detox?
Addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. People who suffer from addiction might end up in a detoxification facility to rid their bodies of the drug, or drugs, they're abusing. After detox, a person is usually recommended to seek further treatment to remain sober.
Oklahoma continues to see a high rate of mental illness and substance abuse. In 2012, Oklahoma ranked No. 1 in the nation for the nonmedical use of prescription pain drugs. The United Health Foundation ranked Oklahoma No. 12 in binge drinking in its 2012 report on state health rankings.
What happens in detox?
You might be referred to detox through a family member, parole officer or other state agency. To begin, you will be evaluated by a medical staff member, either via telephone or in person.
The amount of days that a detox facility recommends you stay will vary. However, you generally aren't held against your will and can leave at any time, although that isn't recommended.
Your treatment, including the medication you might receive, will depend on what drug, or drugs, you have been using. For example, people who have been abusing alcohol might be treated with benzodiazepines, or anti-anxiety medications, such as Xanax.
This is, in part, because alcohol is classified as a sedative hypnotic, and once it is removed from a person's system, they can start to become hyper and nervous. Within 24 hours, they might start to feel other withdrawal symptoms, including depression, fatigue, shakiness, rapid heartbeat and loss of appetite.
Treatment for opiate withdrawal includes supportive care and medications. Clonidine is one of the commonly used drugs and can help reduce withdrawal symptoms. Early symptoms of opiate withdrawal can include agitation, muscle aches, insomnia and sweating. Late symptoms can include abdominal cramping, diarrhea and vomiting.
Does it hurt?
People struggling with addiction likely are experiencing emotional pain that they will have to deal with as part of their substance abuse treatment. This type of therapy likely won't happen at detox but rather at substance abuse treatment after a person has completed detox.
There is some physical pain from withdrawal, especially opiate withdrawal, which can cause muscle pain and cramps. However, the medical staff at the detox facility has medications available to help ease those symptoms.
What are the risk factors?
Withdrawal symptoms are usually not life threatening. Some people have heard of delirium tremens, or “the DTs.” Although people experiencing alcohol withdrawal might experience some form of tremors, actual delirium tremens is rare and can involve agitation, severe confusion, hallucinations, fever and seizures.
Complications related to opiate withdrawal includes vomiting and breathing that into your lungs. However, the biggest complication is returning to drug use. Most opiate overdose deaths occur in people who have either just withdrawn or been detoxed. Withdrawal reduces a person's tolerance to the drug, and those who have just undergone detox can overdose on a much smaller dose than they're used to taking.
What's the recovery time?
You can start to feel better within three or four days, but it's a continuum based on your use and the type of drug you used. After five to seven days, you usually have the worst part behind you.
It can take up to 13 months for your brain cells to return to some form of normal. Depending on a person's use, he or she might be at risk of developing chronic health conditions, such as liver disease among people who have abused alcohol.
It's important for people recovering from addiction to have access to treatment after detox. This will better ensure they will be able to remain sober.
What's the follow-up?
Before you leave the detox facility, a medical staff member might talk with you about what your plan is once you leave. Generally, detox facility staff can help you schedule an appointment for treatment once your time in detox is complete.
As with any illness, it's important to be honest with your doctor and ask any questions you might have regarding your treatment.
Dr. Billy Stout, medical director at The Referral Center; James Arledge, director of nursing administrative at The Referral Center; The Mayo Clinic: The National Institutes of Health; National Survey on Drug Use and Health; National Institute on Drug Abuse.