Detoxification is a necessary process for any drug addict who wants to kick the habit. Drug and alcohol detox involves safely eliminating these substances from the user’s body. At the same time, detoxification aids abusers through the uncomfortable and sometimes painful withdrawal symptoms they experience after discontinuing use of their drug of choice.
Physicians with training in the detoxification process can help patients deal with withdrawal symptoms by prescribing certain medications. The medication prescribed depends on the substance the patient abused, the volume of drugs consumed and the length of time the patient abused that drug. Medical professionals may administer these medications on an inpatient or outpatient basis.
Buprenorphine and methadone are used to treat opioid withdrawal. Patients withdrawing from morphine, heroin or other opioids frequently experience abdominal cramps, nausea, sweating and aching muscles. Benzodiazepines are used to treat patients suffering with the anxiety, tremors, muscle pain and sleepiness associated with stimulant withdrawal. Patients who abused Ativan, Xanax, Valium or other benzodiazepines are weaned off the drug with gradually decreasing doses of benzodiazepines or phenobarbital.
Drug abusers who want to quit using should avoid self-detox, or quitting cold turkey. Detoxification without medical intervention is dangerous and can be fatal depending on the drug abused. Long-time users of methadone, benzodiazepine and alcohol are at high risk of suffering with symptoms that can become fatal. Another serious problem with self-detox is the risk of suffering an overdose if the patient relapses and starts using again. Withdrawal from nicotine, amphetamines or cocaine is less likely to be fatal but the person who attempts to quit cold turkey may still experience medical difficulties and should consider consulting with a physician first.
People who want to kick a drug habit should realize that detoxification is only the first step to recovery. The process addresses the physical consequences of addiction but it can take several months to learn to manage cravings and for the brain to resume normal function. According to a 2012 study conducted at John Hopkins University, as many as 80 percent of recovering addicts relapse after detoxification but patients who participate in a treatment program afterward are 10 times more likely to remain clean. This is why it is so important to participate in a professional treatment program to achieve full recovery.
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