Medical Detox

Withdrawal Management And Medical Detox

A common and dangerous misconception about addiction is that people who suffer from it can get better if they simply stop using drugs or alcohol. In an ideal world that would be true, but the reality is not that simple. Addiction arises because the body gets so used to functioning with a particular substance running through it that it “forgets” how to work without that substance.

What this means is that the body can go into a form of shock when it is suddenly deprived of the substance it has become so accustomed to. What results is a series of withdrawal events that can be uncomfortable at best, and dangerous – even fatal – at worst.

Many people try several times to quit using drugs or alcohol on their own. They may have the strongest resolve in the world to stick to their goal, but after hours or days, the withdrawal symptoms become too overwhelming for them to cope with, and they seek out their substance of choice just to get away from the discomfort or pain they are experiencing.

With proper support and a solid withdrawal management plan, you can safely stop using drugs or alcohol and reduce your risk of relapse.

In order to talk about withdrawal management and the role of medical detox, we should first address how addiction arises in the first place.

How Does Addiction Develop?

All of us are motivated by reward, and a lot of times the reward is nothing more than a feeling of happiness or well being. These feelings arise as a result of the brain releasing “feel-good” chemicals like dopamine. Because we like experiencing happiness, confidence, serenity, and other positive emotions, we are driven to repeat the behaviours that produce them. In other words, we act in ways that trigger a boost of dopamine.

When the dopamine is boosted in healthy ways such as exercise, accomplishing a goal, or spending time with loved ones, it gradually returns to its baseline level.

The reason people use drugs and alcohol is that these substances activate the brain’s reward system by artificially prompting a release of dopamine. With many substances, when the dopamine level comes back down, it is not gradual. It drops suddenly, often to a level below the original baseline.

The addicted person wants to feel good again, so they use the substance again. But this time, they have to use more in order to achieve the same effects. And so over time, the dosage increases, and the time between uses decreases.

While all of this is going on, the body is adjusting to the presence of the substance. This impacts your breathing, your heart rate, how the liver functions, what happens in the digestive system, and a host of other things.

What Happens During Withdrawal?

Now that your body’s functions and systems have been compensating for the presence of drugs or alcohol, what happens when that presence is abruptly taken away?  Bear in mind that it took a while for your body to make these adjustments as your substance use increased; when the substance is withdrawn, it won’t suddenly start to act “normally”. Your organs, brain, and central nervous system will continue to behave as if drugs or alcohol are flowing through your body, and this can have dangerous effects.

For example, alcohol is a depressant that slows down your heart rate. Habitual use will make your heart work harder – in other words, beat faster – to compensate. When you suddenly take away the alcohol, your heart continues to beat faster – but now there is nothing to artificially slow it down. It can be the human body’s equivalent of a car accelerating for a period of time and then suddenly losing its braking capacity.

Common Withdrawal Symptoms

The withdrawal symptoms that you may experience depend on a number of factors, including your age and state of health, the substances you were using, how long you have been addicted for, and what your average dosages were.

Some common withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Agitation and irritability that may translate into aggressive or violent behaviour
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Disrupted eating and/or sleeping patterns
  • Hot and cold flushes and/or excessive sweating
  • Impaired memory, concentration, and cognitive function
  • Elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration
  • Shaking or tremors, especially in the hands
  • Restlessness
  • Watery discharge from the nose and eyes

Some substances, such as alcohol and opioids, can produce severe advanced withdrawal symptoms, including delirium tremens, seizures, extreme variations in body temperature and blood pressure, and hallucinations.

What Is Medical Detox?

what is medical detox

In order to get through withdrawal, it is important to have a withdrawal management plan. This plan will vary depending on your own circumstances and what substance you are withdrawing from. Before you stop using a substance, you should consult with your doctor, who will advise you on how to do so safely.

If you are at high risk of developing severe withdrawal complications, this plan may include a period of medical detox. This can take two forms:

  • Inpatient detox: you spend a few days in a detox facility, where medical professionals will monitor you throughout your withdrawal and treat symptoms as they arise
  • Outpatient detox: you continue to live at home, but you go to outpatient appointments at a hospital or clinic, and receive visits from a nurse

Any medical detox plan should be customized for the individual. Even when two people are withdrawing from the same substance, their withdrawal management plan may be different. The levels of intervention will vary from one person to next, ranging from simple wellness checks to the use of medication to manage symptoms or cravings.

Is Unsupervised Detox Ever Safe?

No one should attempt detox from any substance without at least talking to their doctor beforehand. In some cases, your doctor may advise that it is safe for you to go through your detox at home, or in another safe environment. This is more likely if the substance is known to not have dangerous withdrawal symptoms, if you have a strong support network of family and friends, and if you do not have a prior history of substance abuse and withdrawal.

If you go through detox at home, you should avoid being alone. Have someone with you who can get medical attention to you should the need arise.

Getting Help For Drug And Alcohol Detox And Rehab

At Thousand Islands Rehab Centre, we provide medical detox in a safe, compassionate environment. Our team of medical professionals will ensure that you are safe and comfortable throughout your withdrawal process. Once detox is complete, you will be able to enter a rehab program on a fully customized plan, to begin your road to recovery. Contact us today for more information.

Drug Rehab

Drug Detox Process

Millions of people globally suffer from addiction. It ravages its victims and ruins lives. Most individuals know someone with a substance abuse problem.

Addiction is a chronic dependence on a substance or activity that has serious psychological or physical effects. It always begins with one drink or one visit to the Bingo parlour. Slowly individuals become more and more dependent on a substance or behaviour as they build up a tolerance.

Research tells us that individuals with an addiction need treatment that is specifically designed to their own needs, and that professional help vastly increases the chances of success. A rehab centre or hospital will develop a personalized treatment plan, and the first step will be drug detox.

What is Drug Detox?

Detoxing from drugs involves clearing the body of substances and managing any withdrawal symptoms that occur. The entire process may take anywhere from a few days to several months. For example, alcohol leaves the body after a few days but the withdrawal symptoms can last much longer.

There are two ways to stop using drugs or alcohol – gradually or all at once. Stopping suddenly, or “cold turkey”, can be extremely dangerous and should never be done without medical intervention. Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are great, but when you are ready to quit, you need more specialized help.

Medical detox is withdrawal that is done under the supervision of medical professionals, either in a treatment centre or hospital, or at home. This ensures that the possible side effects from detox, such as cardiac arrest or seizures, can be managed. Doctors may also use drugs to manage the withdrawal symptoms so that quitting is less dangerous.

Designing the plan

designing the plan

The first step in the drug detox process is assessment by a doctor or medical professional, who will then create a plan tailored specifically to the individual. This will involve weaning the person with the addiction from the substance in order to safely remove it from the body.

The plan will depend largely on what substance the individual is addicted to.  Most experts agree, for example, that it is dangerous to quit prescription drugs like opioids or valium “cold turkey”, so they substitute other medications to wean the body off slowly.

In some instances, doctors will provide the patient with prescription drugs that mimic the substance in order to ease withdrawal symptoms. The health care providers will then taper the individual off these substances.

How quickly a patient is weaned depends on several factors, including the substance and how long the addiction has been going on. If someone is a heavy user of cocaine or heroin, for instance, they may need a complex detox plan that includes prescription drugs and several weeks of treatment. Those who have been addicted for a shorter time, or who are at lower risk of withdrawal effects, may only need a few days of observation and monitoring.

Types of Drug Detox

Substance abuse disorder is a mental health problem that has physical and psychological effects.  Detoxing without medical intervention, alone and with no guidance, is not advisable. This is because a person who is heavily addicted to drugs or alcohol may develop severe withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit abruptly. These symptoms can be dangerous – they often include rapid heart rate, hallucinations and seizures.

There are two types of detox treatment: inpatient or outpatient. With outpatient treatment, detox takes place under the guidance of staff in a doctor’s office, rehab centre or hospital, but the individual does not stay there. In the case of inpatient treatment, the person temporarily stays at the facility.

In many cases, detox involves a combination of settings. For example, the patient may stay in a hospital for the first few days, and then attend medical appointments on an outpatient basis for several weeks.

The determination of inpatient, outpatient, or combined treatment depends on a variety of factors, including the substance that was abused, the severity of the addiction, whether there is a prior history of substance abuse, and whether there are any other health problems.

Outpatient Detox

People who go through outpatient detox live at home and continue participating in their regular activities, while attending appointments with one or more medical professionals.

The detox program will look different for each individual based on their needs and circumstances. People who don’t need a lot of supervision might just check in with the health care provider at scheduled times. Those who need more supervision will have regularly scheduled visits, and they may also receive home visits from nurses. Some people attend a daytime program at a hospital or substance abuse treatment facility but go home at night.

Outpatient treatment tends to be less expensive than inpatient treatment. In all other respects, the treatment goals are the same: to ensure that the patient is safe and comfortable throughout their withdrawal process.

Inpatient Detox

The primary benefit of inpatient drug detox is the round the clock care that a patient receives. This is crucial if the addiction is very advanced or the withdrawal symptoms are severe. It can be dangerous to quit any drug without medical support, but some substances, like opioids and alcohol, post a higher risk.

Inpatient detox offers everything that outpatient treatment offers. This includes group counselling, withdrawal medications and medical intervention.

Intensive inpatient medical rehabs offer the highest level of care and monitoring. These programs can keep you safe and medically stable while you taper off dangerous drugs.

A typical day involves a visit with a doctor, carefully planned meals, withdrawal symptom management, group counselling and exercise.

Many facilities offer both detox and rehab, meaning that when the patient has completed their detox, they can go straight into a drug rehab program.

inpatient detox

At Home Detox

At home drug detox may seem like a desirable option, but it is generally not recommended. Withdrawal symptoms are often dangerous, and being at home by yourself means you do not have access to medications and treatments designed to make the process safe and comfortable.

Detox at home may be safe for some substances, such as marijuana, but this should only be done after consultation with a doctor who has determined that you are at low risk of severe withdrawal symptoms. In no circumstance should you be alone during your detox period.

Where to Go for Support

At Thousand Islands Rehab Centre, we offer medical detox and addiction rehab. Our team of dedicated medical experts will supervise you and keep you safe through even the toughest of withdrawals. You will be in an environment where you can get the drugs or alcohol out of your system while you start to regain your physical strength. All detox and rehab programs are customized to the needs of each individual. Call us today to find out more. Don’t try to go through detox on your own. We are here to help you get started on your recovery.

Opioid Addiction

At-Home vs. Medical Detox: Which Is Better?

Quitting use of drugs or alcohol is not as simple as – well, quitting. It takes time for any substance to fully work its way out of your system and for your body to start working normally again. During this process, you may experience withdrawal symptoms that range from being mildly uncomfortable to downright dangerous. In some cases, unsupervised withdrawal can be fatal.

There are several factors to think about when deciding how and where to detox, one of the biggest being the substance that you are withdrawing from. In this article, we will discuss withdrawal and why it happens, the key differences between at-home and medical detox, and how to figure out which one is best for you.

What Is Withdrawal?

The primary reason people abuse drugs and alcohol is because it makes them feel good. These substances do this by artificially triggering the brain to release “feel good” chemicals, such as dopamine. This results in feelings of euphoria, tranquility, confidence, and any number of other positive emotions. The more drugs you use, the more you need: as you develop a tolerance for the substance, you need to ingest more in order to achieve the same effects.

While this is happening, your body is getting used to receiving regular doses of the substance. Eventually, you may reach a point where your body is operating more with the drugs than without them, and a dependence develops. This means that the body is so accustomed to the substance that it goes into varying degrees of shock when the substance is withheld. The result is withdrawal symptoms that range from being mildly uncomfortable to potentially fatal.

Common Withdrawal Symptoms

The nature and severity of withdrawal symptoms varies widely depending on a number of factors, the biggest of which is the substance you are withdrawing from. Some substances, such as marijuana, typically produce withdrawal symptoms that are mild and pose no danger. Others, like alcohol, are associated with dire withdrawal effects like delirium tremens, seizures, and cardiac arrest.

Other factors that may impact your withdrawal experience include:

  • Your age, weight, and sex assignment at birth
  • Whether you have any coexisting physical or mental illnesses
  • Whether you are using any other substance, including prescription medications
  • How long you have been using drugs or alcohol for, your frequency of use, and your dosage per use

Different substances produce different withdrawal symptoms, but there are some symptoms that are common across most substances.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

opioid withdrawal symptoms

Early opioid withdrawal symptoms include a runny nose, watery eyes, fever, sweating in the absence of physical exertion or external heat, and dilated pupils.

These symptoms may give way to nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, bone and muscle pain and weakness, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, and agitation/restlessness.

Sedative Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal from sedatives such as benzodiazepines takes place in three stages:

  • Early withdrawal: gastrointestinal pain or discomfort, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, restlessness, and panic/anxiety
  • Mid-stage withdrawal: fever, sweating in the absence of heat or activity, insomnia, shaking, loss of appetite, diarrhea
  • Late withdrawal: hallucinations, agitation, erratic blood pressure and heart rate, seizures

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal can result in headaches, insomnia, anxiety, palpitations, gastrointestinal pain or discomfort, and loss of appetite. Some individuals experience a severe form of withdrawal called delirium tremens, which is characterized by elevated blood pressure and heart rate, hallucinations, disorientation, fever, and sweating in the absence of activity or heat.

Stimulant Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal from stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine can lead to exhaustion, depression, restlessness, irritability, and an increased need to eat and sleep.

Why Does Detox Location Matter?

Like other parts of your recovery process, your detox plan should be customized to your unique needs and circumstances. Some people anticipate mild withdrawal, and may be able to detox safely at home. Others are more likely to experience more intense withdrawal symptoms and would be safer in a detox facility.

Medical Detox

For some people, medical detox is the only safe way to stop using a substance. If you choose this route, you will be admitted to an inpatient detox facility, where you will be supervised by a team of medical professionals throughout your detox process. You will be kept as comfortable as possible, and withdrawal symptoms will be treated as they arise. In some cases, you may be gradually withdrawn from the substance. Medication is often used to treat cravings and/or withdrawal symptoms.

Many addiction rehab facilities have on-site detox clinics, in which case you are generally able to go from detox straight into a rehab program. However, there are some facilities that are dedicated to detox only. If you are not able to get into a rehab facility immediately upon completing detox, or if you choose to not go to rehab, you will need to have a relapse prevention plan in place.

At-Home Detox

at-home detox

Not everyone needs medical detox. If you are planning to go through withdrawal at home, there are some things you should consider:

  • Avoid being alone. If you do not live with anyone, arrange to have a trusted loved one with you, who can help you pass the time when you have cravings, ensure that you are eating and hydrating, and get you medical attention if needed.
  • Stock up on nutritious meals before you start your withdrawal. Prepare meals in advance.
  • Hydration during withdrawal is important. Ensure that you have access to plenty of drinking water.
  • Have a post-withdrawal plan set up. When your withdrawal is complete, your recovery is just beginning. Your plan might simply consist of going to rehab, but it could also include an outpatient program or a schedule of activities to follow at home.
  • If you do relapse, talk to a doctor as soon as you can. Any relapse has the potential to make further detox/withdrawal attempts more complex.

Which One Is Best?

Some factors to consider when choosing between withdrawing at home or going to a medical detox facility include the following:

  • The substance you are withdrawing from: some produce inherently more dangerous withdrawal symptoms than others
  • Prior substance abuse history
  • Whether you have coexisting conditions that need to be managed during withdrawal
  • Whether you have a strong support system in the form of close friends and family members
  • Whether you are pregnant or using any prescription medications

In all cases, it is wise to talk to your doctor before starting your withdrawal. Your doctor will help you determine, based on your individual risk factors, what your best detox/withdrawal option is.

Detox And Rehab In One Location

At Thousand Islands Rehab Centre, we will support you right from the start of your recovery journey, including detox. A team of dedicated, compassionate medical professionals will keep you safe through the rigours of withdrawal. Following that, we will put together an addiction treatment plan that is customized just for you. For more information, call us today.