Detoxing: the First Step in Total Addiction Recovery

Published On: April 16, 2021|Categories: Addiction Treatment|
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Recovery from drug and alcohol addiction begins with detoxing your body. Detox is the vital first step in the recovery process which sets the tone for the rest of the journey to healing and a life free of substance use. Once you’ve successfully gone through the detoxification process, both your body and your mind can begin to heal and return slowly but surely to health and stability without relying on substances. 

  1. The process of detoxing

Detoxing is the process of flushing all the alcohol or drugs out of your body. When you stop using drugs or alcohol, your body begins to adapt to the lack of substances, just as it adapted when these substances were initially introduced. Detoxing is the physical part of the healing journey before the psychological step of healing the mind begins.

  1. How long detoxing lasts

The amount of time it takes the body to detox depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Whether alcohol or drugs (or both) were used, and if drugs which one(s)
  • How long and how frequently the substance was abused
  • Whether or not a co-occurring mental condition like depression, anxiety, BPD, ADHD, etc. was also present
  • The user’s age, gender and medical history

Despite these factors, the removal of the addictive substances from the body can last for the span of a week to that of multiple months. While the body may have rid itself of the substance within a shorter amount of time, it may take months to no longer experience cravings. 

An inpatient drug and alcohol detoxification program may last seven days, but the entire recovery process from substance addiction can take many years for complete healing in the mind, body and spirit. 

  1. What your body does during detox

Not only do you remove the habit of taking drugs and alcohol from your routine during detox, but your body adjusts to the lack of these substances, just as it adjusted initially when being introduced to said substances. The chemicals present in alcohol and drugs significantly impact the brain, decreasing the brain’s need to naturally produce certain chemicals (like dopamine) on its own. However, when it can no longer depend on foreign substances, the brain needs to re-learn the process of producing these chemicals for the body. It is this removal of substances which causes withdrawal symptoms.

  1. Withdrawal symptoms   

Withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person and substance to substance, but they are most likely to include: 

  • Anxiety
  • Body and muscle aches, pains and trembling
  • Agitation or irritability
  • Sweating and shivering
  • Flu-symptoms (runny nose, fever, headaches, vomiting, nausea)
  • Hallucinations
  • Trouble sleeping, insomnia and exhaustion
  • Mood swings
  • Cravings
  1. Types of detox

Detox can be done “cold-turkey,” whereby the user stops all usage immediately and doesn’t rely on any medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Medically assisted detox can be short-term or long-term, depending on the severity of symptoms. Short-term medication might be a good option for someone who hasn’t been using for an extended period of time, while long-term might provide better support for an individual who wants to detox from stronger drugs like opiates. 

  1. Can I detox alone? 

While you technically can detox alone, it is not a recommended method. Detoxing can make a person incredibly sick, especially if the body has been reliant on the drug for an extended length of time. Alcohol and drug detoxing can also pose a number of health threats, best monitored under the close watch of a treatment professional. In addition to 24/7 monitoring of health conditions like blood pressure and heart rate, medical professionals can administer detox medication which alleviates some of the withdrawal symptoms, thereby easing patients through detox.  

  1. Who can help during detox 

Many recovery treatment centers, including Pyramid Healthcare, offer detox programs in addition to their inpatient programs. This gives clients the opportunity to receive support, both medically and mentally, from medical professionals.

Because drug and alcohol detox can be taxing on the body, doing it solo can be not only dangerous, but exhausting, causing many people doing it on their own to quit before the detoxification is complete. When in a facility, however, the withdrawal alleviating medication and the support of the doctors can significantly help clients through the detox process and into the next stage of recovery.

  1. Detoxing psychologically 

A way of life revolves around the usage of drugs and alcohol. One’s entire mental focus becomes fixated on using and consuming the substances. During detox, the body begins and completes the physical detox, but the process of psychologically detoxing can take additional time and treatment methods.  

  1. Am I done with recovery after detox?

Because psychological detoxing just begins during the first week of the detox stage, recovery doesn’t end with detox. The physical detox from drugs and alcohol simply readies the client for the additional recovery stages, as the mind and spirit also need to be looked after. Especially in the case of dual diagnosis, when the substance use is only a small portion of the problem, the co-occurring mental condition needs to be addressed in order to avoid relapse. 

The good news is that none of this needs to be undertaken alone. The journey of recovery can be a lot to handle, both mentally and physically, and requires support from family and friends, as well as medical and mental health professionals. Recovery centers, such as Pyramid Healthcare, provide this structured, supportive environment both through inpatient and outpatient programs, to offer clients the best possible chance at complete and total freedom through recovery.

Call (301) 997-1300, or reach out today for help in managing addiction or mental health challenges.

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