The purpose of detoxification from alcohol and drugs is a safe cleansing of the body and to minimize painful withdrawal symptoms from the substances that an individual is dependent on. A safe stable detox period affords the individual a better chance at recovery so they can live free from the grip of their addiction. The goal is to eliminate the substances which the individual was relying upon. The detox period can be a physically dangerous time for some people. Individuals who may have been severely addicted to alcohol and drank large quantities over a long period of time, and then suddenly stop without medical assistance and monitoring, can face serious side effects and in some cases even death. This life threatening risk is also present with certain sedatives, hypnotics and tranquilizers.
Most residential treatment programs have a medically monitored detox component or they require an individual to have completed one before admittance. Besides medical monitoring and symptom management, counseling is also an important part of detox. Physical dependency requires detox to manage the withdrawal symptoms from the substance usage. And the psychological dependency requires programs teaching new methods of coping for the individual in a substance-free environment. Detox is only the first step in recovery but can be crucial.
Alcohol Detox Centers
Because of the high element of risk that can occur during the process of alcohol detoxification, an alcohol detox center is a recommended option. Since the side effects of an unmonitored alcohol detox can be serious enough to cause death in some cases, alcohol detoxification should never be attempted alone or without the knowledge, monitoring and care of a medical or health care professional that is experienced in the care of patients during withdrawal. The physical dangers that an individual may experience in the process of alcohol detoxification is more likely to occur when the individual is being treated in a non residential detoxification center rather than a center where the individual is treated on an inpatient status.
Another common risk which can also occur when an individual is in the process of detoxing at a non-residential alcohol detoxification is that the individual is not as carefully monitored as they would be in a residential program so they may make the decision to use alcohol or illicit drugs in order to self medicate their withdrawal. Some other common side effects of alcohol detoxification which are not so severe, but significant enough to warrant ongoing monitoring are; lowered blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, headaches, shakes, insomnia and lethargy. More severe side effects requiring medical staffing are DTs (delirium tremors), seizures or convulsions.
Rapid detox is an intensive detoxification for opiates and alcohol. It is typically performed in a hospital’s intensive care unit. Rapid detox is a procedure that cleans the opiate receptors in detoxing an individual’s brain of narcotics or alcohol while the individual is under anesthesia. During the procedure, the person will experience no conscious withdrawal symptoms. Rapid detox typically takes 3 to 5 days. It is not intended as a substitute for ongoing treatment nor is it a cure.
Complete detoxification from alcohol or drugs can take months or even years to complete. After acute detox is completed, post-acute withdrawal symptoms can linger for months or longer. A licensed detox center can provide support and medical supervision during the first few days of abstinence, when withdrawal can be physically difficult or dangerous. Most drug detox centers only provide medical care to avoid and minimize the physical withdrawal symptoms. However a trained residential detox specialist will incorporate counseling, therapy, groups and sometimes 12-step fellowship during detox to help with the psychological distress that the individual may experience as well and lay a foundation for ongoing recovery.
Alcohol detox at home can be done, but never without medical oversight. Alcohol detox should never be attempted at home alone or with untrained caregivers since everyone’s withdrawal symptoms are different and unknown until they are into the process itself. In-home detox is appropriate for individuals who are at risk for seizures or strokes. Most in-home detox programs will only allow low-risk, relatively healthy patients to attempt detox at home.
Medical staff oversees in-home detox patients. The nurse or doctor makes sure that vital signs are monitored and medications administered. Someone must always remain at the patient’s home during the detox process, which can last anywhere from three to seven days. Depending on the home detox program, the person who stays with the recovering alcoholic could be a family member, with medical personnel making daily visits and on call by phone. Some detox programs have the medical personnel staying at the individual’s home round the clock.
Home detox is much less expensive than in-patient detox. Each individual must be evaluated for his or her suitability for in-home detox. There are usually questionnaires, interviews and a medical screening. Some people also choose to begin their detox in-home before they enter their inpatient or outpatient treatment program. When they then arrive at the designated treatment facility, the recovery phase can begin right away.