When someone has been using drugs or alcohol for a prolonged period of time, they may feel intimidated by the prospect of detox, even if they have made the decision to seek help at a drug detox center. There are numerous myths surrounding the severity of withdrawal that present a frightening picture of the process which can deter those who need a drug detox program from seeking the treatment they need.
Regardless of how long a person has been addicted to drugs or alcohol, abruptly stopping is never a good idea because of the potential effects on the body and mind. It is impossible to know in advance how severe someone’s withdrawal symptoms are likely to be and depending on the substance involved, they can be extremely serious. This is one of the major reasons it is essential to complete medical detox at a specialist drug and alcohol detox center, where 24-hour supervision is available.
The Dangers of Detox
Creating the impression that detoxification from drugs and alcohol is without its challenges, is neither helpful nor true. Nevertheless, when the process is supervised throughout in a specialist detox program, uncomfortable and distressing withdrawal symptoms can be effectively managed for a better experience. In order to get a more accurate picture of detox, it’s important to know the specific dangers attached to alcohol and certain drugs that can present themselves when someone quits using.
An alcohol detox program usually has two phases of withdrawal. The first takes place for the first few days after abstaining and people tend to experience heightened withdrawal symptoms. Some can be so severe as to cause physical and psychological complications that demand immediate medical attention. Withdrawal symptoms generally range from any of the following:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Convulsions and seizures
- Delirium and hallucinations
- Severe agitation and insomnia
- Heart palpitations and cardiac arrest
The second phase of withdrawal during alcohol detox is mainly psychological and is displayed by increased depression and anxiety, aggressive mood swings and isolation. Detox facilities are specialist environments where full spectrum treatment is offered to provide full medical support to combat associated psychological issues and patients have access to therapists throughout the process to help them regulate their negative thought processes and destructive behavior.
Heroin / Morphine / Methadone
Highly addictive drugs like heroin, morphine, and methadone are horses of a very different color to alcohol when it comes to detox. This is mainly because of their psychoactive properties and their effects on the brain which combine with the physical torture sudden abstinence can bring. Although withdrawal from heroin isn’t fatal, the severity of the symptoms requires medical supervision. Frequent users of psychoactive drugs can experience symptoms like severe abdominal cramps, cold sweats or fever, extreme mood swings and psychological issues such as depression and even panic disorder. Although it is possible to undergo medical detox as an outpatient, residential facilities ensure patients are constantly monitored and also provide controlled doses of muscle relaxants and sleep medication to allow their bodies and minds to rest.
Contrary to popular belief, detoxing from cocaine is least likely to require medical supervision because the physical dangers of withdrawal are considerably less severe than for psychoactive drugs and alcohol. Cocaine is a stimulant that creates extreme changes in moods when someone stops using, although they are not generally a priority to treat medically. The main symptoms of withdrawal include insomnia, anxiety, hallucinations and sometimes panic although they are not likely to be life-threatening or even distressing for a prolonged period of time. Some people who have stopped using cocaine may require mood stabilizing medications for the first few months of recovery in order to comfortably function.
Whichever drug someone is addicted to, people who are taking steps to quit are recommended to pursue detox with medical supervision. Alongside medical assistance through the withdrawal phase of detox, patients have access to therapists to help them deal with psychological and emotional symptoms they may experience. It is impossible to determine what an individual’s experience of detox will bring and for that reason, it’s important to have all bases covered with full medical support throughout the process.