Detoxification, which is widely known as detox, is the process of breaking a physical addiction to drugs or alcohol. Medical detox is the most commonly used and widely successful method of detox and is available through drug and alcohol rehab programs.
During medical detox, physicians administer medications as needed to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and prevent the onset of dangerous conditions associated with detoxing from alcohol and central nervous system sedatives like the prescription drugs Klonopin and Xanax.
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Medical detox is critical for ensuring patients' safety during withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. Five percent of people who experience a condition known as delirium tremens during unsupervised alcohol detox die from this condition. Additionally, withdrawing from sedatives in the benzodiazepine family can cause dangerously high blood pressure and heart rate and may be fatal if not treated promptly.
In addition to the dangers of detoxing from some substances, detoxing alone from any substance is generally ineffective, because the symptoms of withdrawal are often severe and deeply uncomfortable. Many people who detox alone turn back to drugs quickly just to alleviate the symptoms and quiet the cravings.
Medical drug and alcohol detox takes place only through qualified rehab programs and can be part of an inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment program.
Inpatient detox requires a lengthy stay at a residential rehab facility. During inpatient medical detoxification, patients draw support from a warm and collaborative staff and from peers who are in various stages of the recovery process. Inpatient detox is absolutely essential for patients who are ambivalent toward sobriety or who have a long history of intense drug or alcohol abuse or addiction.
Outpatient detox provides a higher level of privacy since patients continue living at home and fulfilling obligations there and at work or school. Outpatient detox is largely successful for those who are personally motivated to recover and who have support at home.
Another type of detox program is medical opiate detox, which involves putting patients under general anesthesia for the duration of withdrawal. Patients wake up clean and with drugs blocking any cravings. This practice is highly controversial and available in a limited number of facilities.
When drug or alcohol use is discontinued, brain function rebounds and causes withdrawal symptoms, which is the body's way of indicating that it can't operate "normally" without the substance of addiction. Not all patients experience all of the possible symptoms of withdrawing from a particular substance, and the intensity of the symptoms can range from very mild to extremely severe.
Alcohol withdrawal causes symptoms like tremors, seizures, hallucinations, and dangerous shifts in body functions associated with delirium tremens. Medications used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms include Paxil to alleviate depression and insomnia, Neurotonin to restore normal brain function and treat or prevent seizures, and Chantix to ease the intense cravings.
Opiate withdrawal from opiate painkillers like OxyContin and Fentanyl and the street drug heroin results in insomnia, body aches, hot and cold sweats, vomiting, and diarrhea. Medications used during medical opiate detox include Methadone to prevent symptoms or reduce their severity, Clonidine to ease anxiety and reduce agitation, Subutex to shorten the time it takes to detox, and Paxil to treat depressive symptoms.
Stimulant withdrawal from street drugs like cocaine and meth and prescription medications like Adderall and Ritalin include deep depression and suicidal thoughts, intense anxiety and agitation, psychosis, and emotional instability. There are no medications approved to treat these symptoms, but most doctors will prescribe Paxil or a similar drug to address the depression and alleviate anxiety.
Sedative withdrawal from benzodiazepines like Xanax and Klonopin causes symptoms like dangerous increases in body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure as well as shaking, sweating, and restlessness or anxiety. Since no medications are available to treat these symptoms, patients will be weaned off these drugs to prevent the onset of symptoms altogether.