Over 30 million Americans suffer from some form of addiction. The most effective treatment for addiction is to undergo a quality substance abuse treatment program, which will involve detoxification.
What is Detoxification?
The process by which a person undergoes a systematic withdrawal from drugs is called detoxification, which is sometimes shortened to “detox.” The detoxification process is an essential first step in drug treatment that defines how the addict will recover from their addiction.
Why Detoxification is Necessary
Long-term substance abuse results in a serious physical dependence on the substance being abused. When people try to stop using the drugs to which they have become addicted, they will have withdrawal symptoms. The process of detoxification treats the physical effects of drug withdrawal. The process also removes the toxins that addictive substances leave in the body. Detoxification addresses rationalization, which is a major psychological component of substance abuse. A period of abstinence from drugs can allow the patient to return to a stable state of mind where they are able to make decisions about their future treatment.
It is important to note that detoxification does not address the psychological and emotional issues that caused a person to start and continue using drugs. Nor does it address any physical health problems they have. It is therefore essential that the patient pursue long-term treatment after undergoing detoxification.
The term withdrawal refers to the symptoms that come with abruptly stopping drug use. These symptoms vary depending on the drug as will the length of the withdrawal stage. Examples of symptoms include insomnia, diarrhea and nausea for those withdrawing from heroin. It is important to note that while medications are sometimes used to manage these symptoms, it is not the same as treating the addiction.
About the Detoxification Process
Detoxification may be provided on an outpatient or inpatient basis. Places that offer outpatient detoxification include mental health facilities, addiction clinics and private clinics. Places that offer inpatient detoxification include hospitals and residential treatment facilities. While outpatient detoxification has the benefit of less interference with the patient’s life, inpatient detox will provide them with closer monitoring and can prevent relapse thus speeding up the detoxification process.
Detoxification involves three steps that can take place simultaneously or a series; those steps are:
This step entails testing for drugs in the patient’s blood. As a part of this step, the patient’s ability to concentrate will also be measured and they will be screened for mental and physical problems. Their psychological state and social needs will also be evaluated as a way to determine the type of treatment they should receive after completing the detoxification process.
The aim of this step is to get the patient to a point where they are free of substances. They should be medically stable and over the intoxication and withdrawal stages. There are different approaches to stabilization, some involve the use of medications, some do not. Patients will be made familiar with what to expect during the rest of the treatment process as well as what will be expected of them during that process.
3. Fostering their Entry into Treatment
This stage entails preparing the patient to enter into treatment by making them aware of the importance of following through with the entire process. If the patient has repeatedly undergone detoxification but has failed to enter into substance abuse treatment, a written treatment contract may encourage them to them to enter into a substance abuse treatment program. Patients are encouraged to sign this contract (which is not legally binding) after being stabilized. In the contract, the patient agrees to participate in a treatment plan.
The three steps of detoxification listed above call for the patient to be treated with compassion and empathy. Patients going through the detoxification process should be made to understand that there are people who care about them, have respect for them and who want a better future for them. How the patient is treated as they are being detoxified will show them that the care provider is trustworthy and that their recommendations should be followed.