Understanding What Is Involved
The treatment for substance use disorders is often described in language many people are familiar with—so familiar, we use nicknames for it. We call detoxification “detox.” We call rehabilitation “rehab.” We talk about “recovery.” But knowing the terms is not the same as understanding exactly what is involved.
Let’s take it a step at a time—starting with detoxification.
What Is Detoxification?
The prefix “de-” means “removal.” It is not too hard to get the sense of “toxic” or “toxin” from the word. And the suffix “-ification” means “the process of.” So taken together, detoxification is all about the process of removing toxins from your body so that you can move to the next stage of treatment, rehabilitation, without drugs or alcohol in your system.
That’s fair enough. But how exactly does one go about detoxification? And what conditions increase the likelihood of success?
Don’t Go Cold Turkey. Do Go to a Treatment Center.
Many people—especially those who believe they can give up drugs or alcohol whenever they choose and think they can deal with their substance use by quitting cold turkey. After all, if they have everything under control, stopping on a dime should be easy-peasy, right?
Well, probably not.
In reality, detoxification is both difficult and complex. As a result, it is an excellent idea to undergo the process under medical supervision in a treatment facility. One reason for this is that the majority of individuals require medication in order to manage the symptoms of withdrawal as their body is cleansed of substances. The use of pharmaceuticals to address a problem with drugs may seem counterintuitive—and that is exactly why it is essential that a medical professional oversees the detox process and manages the medicines that may be involved.
The process itself can be divided into three steps: evaluation, stabilization, and getting ready for treatment. Let’s look at those steps one by one.
The First Step of Detox: Evaluation
In order to provide the best care possible, the doctors at a treatment center will thoroughly assess a person’s physical, psychological, and social conditions. Blood work will help determine the person’s level of toxicity. Screenings for co-occurring mental health disorders like anxiety or depression will help provide context and identify issues that need to be addressed in order to build a foundation for lasting sobriety. Consideration of important issues—for example, unemployment, homelessness, or toxic/abusive relationships—also informs how detoxification (and the treatment that follows it) will proceed.
The Second Step of Detox: Stabilization
The detox process is about more than simply ridding a person’s body of substances. The body must also achieve a stable condition. That stability may be accomplished via psychosocial interventions, medicine, or a combination of the two. As mentioned above, medication can be an important tool for managing withdrawal symptoms. Support and education about what to expect during withdrawal will also be an important aspect of detox.
Going through withdrawal without the aid of medication can be very difficult, and there are significant risks. Because of this, the medical team will monitor individuals going through detox for a variety of symptoms that indicate a need to intervene. Those symptoms include:
- Changes in mental status, including anger, aggression, anxiety, and/or suicidal tendencies
- Hallucinations, heightened reflexes, and/or changes in the responsiveness of a person’s pupils
- Abdominal pain and/or gastrointestinal bleeding
- A temperature higher than 100.4 and/or significant changes in blood pressure or heart rate
The Third Step of Detox: Readiness for Treatment
Detoxification is, of course, the first step of a longer process. The next step is entering treatment—which is intended to provide the therapy, support, information, and resources that will build up a person’s motivation and ability to stay sober. So a key part of the detox process is setting a person up for success in treatment—which in some cases, includes strongly encouraging them to take that next step if they are feeling either reluctant or overconfident.
When You Are Ready, So Are We
If you are struggling with a substance use disorder and it is time to make a change, French Creek Recovery Center is ready to help you—from detox to rehab and on into your recovery journey. With compassionate, evidence-based care at the forefront of our approach, we provide personalized treatment plans that meet you where you are. We can address your substance use disorder and any co-occurring mental health disorders that may be associated with it. When you are ready to take the first step toward a life free from drugs or alcohol, we hope you will reach out to us.