Drug & Alcohol Detox

Detox for drug and alcohol abuse is often an essential part of addiction treatment, but it is certainly not the end.

What Is Drug & Alcohol Detox?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Medical detoxification safely manages the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal associated with stopping drug use.” Withdrawal symptoms can often be uncomfortable, painful, and in the most serious situations, life-threatening. People who go through them also often relapse back to substance abuse in order to make these effects stop. Because of these issues, most patients need professional treatment for withdrawal.

How Does Detox Work?

During detox, patients are given medications in order to treat their acute withdrawal symptoms. In the case of opioid withdrawal, drugs like methadone and buprenorphine treat cravings and various withdrawal symptoms by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain. Clonidine can also be used to treat opioid withdrawal.

Patients experiencing psychological issues may also need to be treated with behavioral therapies during detox. For example, opioid abuse can potentially lead to depression and suicidal thoughts, especially during withdrawal, and a combination of medication and therapy can be used to treat this issue.

Each type of substance use disorder requires a different medication during detox. The program may also take various amounts of time, depending on the drug the individual abused and the severity of their dependence on it.

After I Go Through Detox, Am I Cured?

No. Even though your dependence on the drug has ended, you will still need to go through addiction treatment in order to overcome your substance use disorder fully and to safely recover. According to the NIDA, “Detox alone with no follow-up is not treatment.”

This is because people suffering from addiction need more than time away from their drug abuse in order to fully overcome its hold on them. They may often need medication maintenance to continue treating the cravings that last long after detox or behavioral therapies that will teach them better life skills as well as ways to cope with stress, triggers, and other issues. These solutions are long-term and focus on ensuring that the patient will be able to avoid relapse long after treatment has ended.

As stated by the National Library of Medicine, most opioid overdose deaths occur directly after a patient goes through detox. This is because many individuals do not seek addiction treatment as a follow-up to detox and, because they do not understand how to cope with the issues associated with recovery, they relapse. Therefore, detox can be the start of ones’ recovery, but it must always be followed by addiction treatment.