Why is Drug and Alcohol Detox Necessary?
When a person has finally picked up the phone to seek help for their alcohol or drug addiction, one of the most surprising realities that they are faced with is the need to undergo a detoxification program before the actual recovery process can begin.
It can be frustrating to desperately want treatment but have to wait to receive it. But, it may help ease that frustration when you understand that alcohol and/or drug detox is absolutely necessary and vital if the recovery process is to begin as safely and smoothly as possible.
An Essential First Pre-Step
Typically, a proper detoxification will take approximately 7-10 days. While that can seem like an eternity for an alcoholic or addict anxious to get to the “meat and potatoes” of treatment, the established medical guidelines dictate the necessity.
The Purpose of a Detox
Contrary to what some people believe, detox does not in and of itself address addiction.
A “detoxification” is exactly that – the process by which the body rids itself of the “toxins” – the alcohol and/or drugs – that have built up over time.
The psychological aspects of drug and alcohol rehabilitation – the education, counseling, and ongoing support – have virtually no effect while a person is still physically in the grips of their addiction. Only when the body has been purged and is no longer acutely physically craving alcohol/drugs can the mind be clear enough to begin to accept the message of recovery.
A professionally-supervised detox provides an atmosphere where a person quitting alcohol or drugs can safely overcome any physical dependency they may have on their intoxicant of choice and have assistance in gaining a measure of relief from unpleasant or dangerous withdrawal symptoms that occur when the drug or alcohol is decreased or discontinued.
Common Symptoms of Withdrawal
The withdrawal symptoms from alcohol and other abused drugs can differ, depending upon the specific substance, the length of time the substance has been used, the individual’s tolerance, and even the method that the substance was taken.
Possible symptoms can include difficulty concentrating, anxiety, irritability, headache, insomnia, fatigue, sweating, shaking, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Because alcohol works by depressing the body’s nervous system, quitting alcohol abruptly can have extremely serious consequences, including hallucinations, delirium tremens, seizures that are so severe as to be life-threatening, and even heart failure.
Complications such as these are why it is so important to make sure the detoxification period the supervised by trained medical professionals.
Although some detox programs eschew using medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, a growing number of programs are subscribing to the many positive benefits that proven medications can offer. These types of medications are primarily used in cases of addictions to alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opiates. The days of going “cold turkey” because it was the only option are long gone.
The bottom-line is this – a proper detox gives the alcoholic/addict an opportunity to distance themselves from the physical effects of drugs and alcohol so they can be receptive enough to begin tackling the psychological effects.
It’s not a step that can or should be skipped. On the contrary, it gives an addicted person a “clean slate” upon which they can write their brighter new future.