“Addiction isn’t about substance – you aren’t addicted to the substance, you are addicted to the alteration of mood that the substance brings.”
~Susan Cheever, author of My name is_Bill – Bill Wilson: His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous and Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction
The average person probably assumes that drug detox and alcohol detox are virtually identical. In both cases, the purpose of the detox is to remove the toxic substance – the drugs or alcohol – that have poisoned a person’s body because of their chronic misuse.
Similarly, the goal of both drug detox and alcohol detox is to carefully monitor the health of the person and ease their withdrawal symptoms while they are overcoming the physical component of addiction.
When the person’s body is freed from the worst of the physical cravings, they can then proceed with their rehab, because their mind will be clear enough receive the message of recovery and sobriety.
Many individuals seeking treatment for addiction have abused multiple substances –in other words, someone that uses illegal or prescribed drugs probably also abuses alcohol.
Although the detox goals are alike, there are some critical differences that an individual needs to be aware of a when trying to choose between a drug or alcohol detox.
Withdrawal Symptoms –Drug Detox Versus Alcohol Detox
Both alcoholics and drug addicts who are new to recovery will experience many of the same common withdrawal symptoms when going through drug/alcohol detox. Some of those symptoms could include:
- irritability/short temper
- major mood swings
- extreme depression
- heightened nervousness or anxiety
- feeling isolated
- muscle cramps
- bodily aches
- an alternating cycle of sweats and chills
- pronounced headaches
- inability to sleep
- accelerated heartbeat
- sweating profusely
As is evident, withdrawal is very unpleasant, with a severity that will vary from person to person, depending upon their individual drug history, the particular drug abused, personal tolerance, their age, and their health status.
There are, however, two additional factors that must be considered. In either case, failure to do so may be critically dangerous, perhaps even fatal.
Tranquillizer (Benzodiazepine) Detox
If the drug of choice was any kind of benzodiazepine, the prescription drug often written for people with insomnia or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, acute withdrawal symptoms resulting from abrupt cessation can include potentially life-threatening seizures.
Common benzodiazepines include Valium and Xanax. Benzodiazepine withdrawal is ALWAYS properly conducted with relief from prescription medications, most typically chlordiazepoxide, pregabalin, phenobarbital, or diazepam.
Strangely, benzodiazepines – potentially addictive as they are – are widely prescribed as the recommended pharmaceutical treatment during alcohol detox.
Likewise, if the drug of choice was alcohol, there are potential severe symptoms of withdrawal that will only manifest during an alcohol detoxification.
The most dangerous acute withdrawal symptom caused by a “cold turkey” stoppage of alcohol is delirium tremens –the “DTs”. In a significant percentage of chronic alcoholics, delirium tremens will manifest 2-3 days into the detox, and last approximately another 2-3 days.
Delirium tremens presents as rapidly-occurring confusion, progressively-worse hallucinations, uncontrollable tremors, and tachycardia. In the most hazardous cases, the alcoholic’s body temperature will dramatically rise, and they may experience a fatal seizure.
Both alcohol and benzodiazepines are considered the most dangerous substances from which to detox. For that reason, the process should always be medically supervised.
Typical prescriptions for alcohol withdrawal include alprazolam, clonazepam, or lorazepam. The American Academy of Family Physicians has determined that Librium, in particular, is effective for alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Medication-Assisted Detoxification: Alcohol Versus Drugs
In alcohol/drug detox facilities that use a pharmaceutically-assisted program to ease symptoms of withdrawal, there can be profound differences in the approaches and medications employed.
Some drugs have physical withdrawal symptoms that can be tolerated to the point where there is no definitive need for intervention via medication. Cocaine, methamphetamines, and cannabis are examples of drugs with withdrawal symptoms that aren’t particularly dangerous.
Opiate abusers, however, are commonly prescribed medications such as clonidine, methadone, or buprenorphine. Methadone, in particular, is most frequently used to help intravenous drug addicts.
Possible Length of Alcohol Detox Versus Drug Detox
The two most influential factors that dictate the probable/possible length of a drug detox are (1) the person’s drug of choice, and (2) the person’s individual drug tolerance.
Most drug detox programs last less than seven days, and may even be as short as 2-3 days. Benzodiazepines, however, may necessitate a detoxification process lasting up to 10 days.
Alcohol detox can vary considerably. The majority of alcoholics finish the detox process in as few as three days, while the heaviest chronic drinkers may require as long as two weeks.
When you or someone you care about needs alcohol or drugs detox before fully embarking upon the journey of recovery at an accredited addiction treatment center, it is vital that there is absolute honesty with the staff of the detox facility. They must have an accurate idea of the individual’s substance abuse history and patterns, so that they might be able to create effective, yet, detoxification plan.
Effective detoxification is one sure way to get started toward a Lasting Recovery.
If you or someone you care about is misusing prescription or illicit drugs, contact Lasting Recovery outpatient drug rehab in San Diego to get the help and support you need.