Substance addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and drug use behavior. When a person takes a drug for the first time this action is mostly voluntary.
However, drug use can cause functional and structural changes in the brain. This is the moment when drug use becomes no longer voluntary but compulsive behavior.
Drug use affects person’s reward circuit, similar to food or sex, and causes euphoria by elevating dopamine levels. But, to experience the same high, the person needs higher doses. This is what we call tolerance. Another trait of addiction is relapse. It is a common part of a recovery process, and if it occurs, it does not mean that the treatment has to be terminated.
In most cases, substance addiction recovery starts with detox, followed by inpatient or outpatient rehab.
What is Detox?
Detox is the first step to a drug addiction recovery process. According to Sequoia, the goal is to get rid of the physical aspects of addiction. Depending on the drug used, when a person stops using it, it can trigger withdrawal symptoms which are often sever and even life-threatening in some cases.
These patients need to be constantly monitored in a safe, hospital-like environment. This is the whole point of detox process – to help a person safely go through the withdrawal phase and treat the physical aspect of addiction. The complexity of the entire process also depends on potential co-occurring disorders such as mental health issues or HIV.
Inpatient detox includes the following services depending on a patient’s needs:
- Medical monitoring
- Medicative therapy
- Evaluation and assessment
The usual length of detox is up to 10 days.
Is it Always Necessary?
People who are experiencing withdrawal symptoms from alcohol or drug addiction are all candidates for detox.
Individuals addicted to alcohol, opiates such as heroin or morphine, central nervous system stimulants (methamphetamine), and anxiolytics (benzodiazepines) experience withdrawal symptoms that can even be fatal. In these cases, detox is a must to prevent seizures and other health problems. Also, sometimes going “cold turkey” is strictly forbidden. Patients with co-occurring mental health conditions and polysubstance abuse also require detoxication.
Along with seizures, other withdrawal symptoms include vomiting that can lead to dehydration, fever, pain, delirium, hallucinations, heart palpitations and many more. These symptoms can lead to heart attack, stroke, or choking. These are only some of the reasons why withdrawal management should not be conducted at home. Patient’s vitals have to be constantly monitored.
The Bottom Line
Substance addiction is a chronic disease with a high relapse potential. Detox is the first step towards recovery and should be conducted in a specialized facility by medical personnel.
At-home withdrawal management for alcohol or opiates addiction can lead to seizures, stroke, or death. Medical detox offers around-the-clock care, supervision, and administration of certain medications to ease severe symptoms.
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