Drug Detox: A Two Part Process
Drug detox is the first step in the process of recovery. When addicted, the addict’s body has been saturated with toxins from prolonged drug use. The body adjusts to functioning with a certain level of drugs in its system, and without those drugs it will become sick. When the addict is thinking about stopping substance abuse, he or she needs to be monitored in a medically supervised drug detox center because of the physiological imbalance that occurs with drug abuse and during the detox process. Stopping drug use abruptly can produce severe health complications and withdrawal symptoms.
Components of Drug Addiction
Drug addiction includes both psychological and physical components. As the addict uses drugs, the brain and body continue to be negatively impacted.
- Physical Dependence – When an addict ingests drugs, his or her body physically responds based upon the particular drug’s effects. Chemicals in the brain and body are accentuated or changed to create a euphoric effect. The addict becomes addicted to the feeling produced by drugs and continues to use the drugs to achieve the desired effect or to prevent withdrawal. After prolonged substance abuse, the addict’s body will adjust to constantly having drugs in his or her system and tolerance builds. The body then requires the drug in order to function.
- Psychological Dependence – The desire to keep using drugs despite negative consequences is part of the psychological dependence. These changes take place in the brain whether the addict is or is not using substances. Drug use negatively influences the addict’s thought processes. The addict’s thoughts change with an emphasis on prioritizing one’s life to obtain and use drugs.
The cycle of addiction combines both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction. Drugs negatively impact the brain and body, therefore drug detox is a two part process which addresses both the physical and psychological addiction.
What is Drug Detox?
When an addict enters a drug detox center, he or she will be immediately assessed for how much and what types of drugs he or she was abusing. This will help the medical staff know what to expect regarding physical withdrawal symptoms. Some addicts have other medical issues which may complicate withdrawal symptoms. Attempting to self administer a drug detox at home is not the best option, especially if the addict has other health complications.
A quality inpatient drug detox center will offer:
- 24 hour medical supervision.
- An appropriate withdrawal process that aims to prevent suffering and medical complications.
- Individualized treatment plan.
- Medical staff experienced with drug detox.
- Psychiatric care.
Physical withdrawal symptoms may vary and depend on the quantity and frequency of drug use. In the absence of drug abuse, the body will have to readjust to find a balance and be able to function without the substance abused. Physical cravings are produced when the drug leaves the body and are exhibited by withdrawal symptoms. Some general symptoms of physical drug withdrawals are:
- Racing heartbeat
- Difficulty focusing
- Psychomotor agitation
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty breathing
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
Psychological withdrawal happens almost immediately, however it is less noticeable because of the discomfort from the physical withdrawal. It becomes more pronounced towards the end of the physical detox process.
Psychological withdrawal stems from the brain and can also impact the body. Cravings are also part of the psychological effects drug detox. For example, the body will send signals to the brain that it is experiencing pain. Many times this type of pain can be related to the addict’s emotional state. The brain produces thoughts and emotions in response to the perceived pain. So, one’s emotional state affects the perception of the severity of pain and vice versa.
Psychological symptoms cause the addict to continue using in an effort to decrease or escape from uncomfortable feelings and thoughts that surface in the absence of drug use. Some psychological symptoms are:
- Poor Concentration
- Social Isolation
What to Expect from Drug Detox
When going to a drug detox the addict should be prepared to have both physical and psychological symptoms. A drug detox program will have a medical doctor on staff that will be able to assess both medical and psychological issues with which the addict presents. The doctor in a quality drug detox center will know what medications will be best to ensure the addict has a comfortable and safe detox. They will also be able to medicate the patient for any underlying psychiatric issues if present. The doctor should not prescribe addictive medication to the addict.
The physical withdrawal process can take up to 14 days depending on the type of drug(s) abused. Psychological withdrawal lasts much longer than the physical withdrawal symptoms. Drug detox is an important step to beginning recovery; however, drug rehab is the suggested continuation for optimal results.