drug detox

Medication-Assisted Detox For Drugs and Alcohol

Drug and alcohol use disorders in the United States can penetrate all levels of social demographics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in 2017, 11.2% of people 12 and older misused illegal drugs in the past month.

In the same year, 22,246 people died from alcohol-related liver disease.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration terms the number of people estimated in a 2015 national survey as receiving treatment and the number who don’t believe they need treatment as a “gap.” The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found 2.3 million people ages 12 and older received treatment, which makes up 11% of the 21.7 million people who needed treatment. This leaves 19.4 million people who remain untreated.

For some people, addiction affects more than their mental health (causing symptoms such as cravings and a compulsion to seek and use the drug). Prolonged substance use can also lead to physical dependence, caused by certain drugs. For people with a physical dependence on substances, medical detoxification is sometimes recommended after a clinical assessment.

how long does detox lastDetoxification is the process of ridding the body from the chemicals and toxins that have attached themselves to the brain, internal organs, and systems due to substance use. In a medical setting, someone undergoing detox will be overseen by medical personnel. Trained medical professionals will closely monitor heart rate patterns, blood pressure, and stress on the client. Medical detox refers to controlled and medically-supervised withdrawal.

Medical detox is often the first step before the recovery process can begin. The result of a successful detox protocol is that a person no longer has any medical risks caused by ending drug and alcohol use. Based on a physical assessment done by a medical professional a person may be referred toa medical detox program before they can enter an addiction treatment facility. This ensures that they will not experience physical withdrawal symptoms that could be uncomfortable or even dangerous when in treatment.

Medically-assisted drug and alcohol detoxification programs are in place to ensure individuals can safely prepare for formal treatment.

Formal treatment uses therapeutic modalities to heal the mind, body, and spirit. Therapies will help a person rethink mental approaches through individual and group support, gain strategic tools to approach future interactions, and relearn social bonds and enjoyment of interests. Family therapy and techniques to combat substance use cravings are also part of formal treatment.

A safe and comfortable medical detox lays the foundation to begin formal treatment. After a medical detox the mind will be more clear and most of the physical symptoms of withdrawal will be over.

The right medical detox strengthens the addiction recovery process and having all tools available for you or your loved one is of the highest importance at Vertava Health.

For clarification as we discuss further, medical detox or drug detox refers to all substances, including alcohol.

What Is Detox For Addiction?

Someone going through detox will be overseen by medical personnel. Trained medical doctors will closely monitor heart rate patterns, blood pressure, and stress on the patient.

Medical detox is the first step in the recovery process. The result of a successful medical detox is that a person no longer has any medical risks caused by the cessation of drugs or alcohol. Many people will need to attend a medical detox program before they can enter an addiction treatment facility. This ensures that they will not experience withdrawal symptoms that could be uncomfortable or even dangerous when in treatment.

Why Medications May Be Necessary During Detox?

Not everyone will require detoxification to enter an addiction treatment program. Certain substances may only cause psychological addiction, and for those addictions, detox may not be necessary.

Other substances, such as alcohol and opioids, can cause severe physical dependence. Once a person is dependent on such substances, he or she cannot function normally without the drug. They may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, some of which can be life-threatening. A medical detox program allows a person to detoxify in a safe environment with a greatly reduced risk of health complications.

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Effects Of Withdrawal

Effects of withdrawal will vary by the substance used, duration of use, and the person, but general withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • headache
  • irritability or sleep issues
  • nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • severe cravings
  • appetite loss
  • disorientation, mental confusion, or hallucinations
  • anxiety or depression
  • night sweats, chills, or clammy skin

Different drugs will cause widely different effects, some of which can have negative consequences. Alcohol withdrawal, at its most severe, can cause a dangerous syndrome known as delirium tremens. For reasons such as these and others, it is important to undergo drug detox in a supervised environment.

How Do Medical Detox Programs Work?

detox facility

The first step on the road to recovery from addiction is detoxification from drugs or alcohol.

Many people with substance use disorders will need to attend a medically-supervised detox program. Medically-assisted detox programs provide ongoing clinical and medical support to individuals undergoing detox from drugs or alcohol. In the most reputable rehab centers, these programs are staffed by clinicians and medical personnel who are devoted to seeing individuals through detoxification and helping them transition into recovery.

During the detox process, individuals will have access to medical support, medication if needed, and nutritional support.

Benefits Of Medication-Assisted Detox

Several benefits come with attending a medically-supervised detox program. To begin, a medical detox program can prevent potentially life-threatening situations that can occur as a result of stopping certain substances. For example, suddenly quitting benzodiazepines after years of abuse can be deadly without medical supervision and assistance. Stopping alcohol suddenly without medical supervision can cause seizure or other medical problems that may be deadly in some people.

Additional benefits of a medical alcohol and drug detox program include:

  • Around-the-clock medical supervision
  • A comfortable and supportive environment
  • Access to medications that can help ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings
  • Support for transitioning into the next phase of treatment

Prescribed Medication Is Taken Properly

The main focus of a detox program is to help a person safely rid their body of harmful toxins acquired during substance use.

Detox programs are not to be confused with treatment, as they are only the beginning of formal addiction treatment. Inpatient or residential treatment level of care is often the next step after a detox protocol. Detox is often not enough to ensure long term recovery. The underlying issues that lead to the problematic substance use must be professionally treated. A clinical biopsychosocial assessment is used to determine the best course of treatment based on a diagnosis and other individual factors.

At Vertava Health, we offer a program that can include medication, doctor support, and therapy. We then ensure a smooth crossover between detox and residential treatment.

Abuse Of Drugs That May Require Detoxification

Not everyone seeking addiction treatment will need to attend a medically-supervised detox program. Essentially, any drug could require detoxification, as detox is simply the process of ridding a person’s body of a substance. However, certain drugs can lead to uncomfortable or even dangerous withdrawal symptoms depending on the level of addiction. Some drugs greatly increase the risk of health problems during detox, and addictions to these drugs necessitate medically-supervised detox.

Drug addictions that may require medical detox include:

  • alcohol
  • barbiturates
  • benzodiazepines
  • opioids
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Alcohol Detox And Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal is most likely to occur in adults but can occur in teens. Alcohol refers to beer, wine, and liquor. Alcohol, a legal substance that is socially acceptable but often misused, may take an extended period to produce physical dependence, unlike other drugs.

However, heavy daily drinking can tend to lead to physical dependence—the more a person drinks, the higher the chance of developing dependence and experiencing withdrawal.

Alcohol withdrawal can cause fatigue, irritability, shakiness or tremors, mood swings, nightmares, insomnia, sweating, loss of appetite, pallor, and mental confusion.

Severe alcohol withdrawal, known as delirium tremens, can lead to fever, agitation, hallucinations, and seizures. Medically-assisted detox programs for alcohol withdrawal can provide monitoring of blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate, as well as administration of IV fluids and medication as needed for optimal comfort.

Barbiturate Detox And Withdrawal

Barbiturates are an older class of drugs most commonly used for their sedative effects. Now largely replaced in medical use by benzodiazepines, barbiturates are mostly used for animal sedation. Still, the drugs are misused recreationally.

Common barbiturates of abuse include amobarbital sodium (Amytal), pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal), phenobarbital (Nembutal), and secobarbital sodium (Seconal).

Due to the sedation effects of the drugs, barbiturates can cause physical dependence very quickly.

When taken exactly as directed, barbiturates cause mild side effects. Misuse of the drugs poses a greater risk to a person’s health. Perhaps the greatest danger associated with barbiturate misuse is the risk of overdose. The difference between a lethal dose and a safe dose is minimal.

Withdrawal symptoms from barbiturates can cause mild effects, like restlessness, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting, but can also be fatal. The majority of people undergoing barbiturate withdrawal experience seizures, thoughts of suicide, extreme confusion, and increased body temperature.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawals And Detox

detox from drugs

Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressant medications prescribed for their sedative-hypnotic effects and used to treat several conditions, including anxiety and insomnia. However, benzodiazepines have become drugs that are commonly misused. Especially when mixed with other central nervous system depressants, these drugs can lead to a fatal overdose.

Common benzodiazepines of misuse include alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), and temazepam (Restoril). People who take benzodiazepines for extended periods may develop tolerance, or need larger and more frequent doses to experience the same effects. This can lead to misuse and increased risk of overdose.

If a person tries to stop the use of benzodiazepines without medical supervision, they may experience uncomfortable or dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, dysphoria, insomnia, tremors, and seizures. People in medically-assisted detox programs for benzodiazepine addiction can receive medication to help ease withdrawal symptoms. They will be medically monitored to avoid seizures and will receive ongoing medical support.

Opioid Detox And Withdrawals

Opioids are one of the most commonly misused substances, with opioid misuse and addiction problems in every state. Opioid medications, also known as painkillers, are prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. The drugs are highly addictive and rarely prescribed for long-term use.

Even a short period of opioid misuse can lead to addiction and dependence. While opioid withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening, withdrawal can lead to symptoms that are so uncomfortable they easily lead a person to intense cravings and physical discomfort.

Commonly misused opioids include codeine, heroin, hydrocodone (Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), methadone, meperidine (Demerol), morphine, and oxycodone (Percocet, OxyContin).

Opioid medications are often misused by crushing and snorting the pills or tablets or by injection. After a few weeks of heavy abuse, a person can develop a physical dependence on opioids and will experience withdrawal symptoms within a few hours of their last dose. While opioid withdrawal is not fatal, symptoms often begin as mild and worsen with time.

Early symptoms of opioid withdrawal can include agitation and anxiety, muscle aches, tremors, sweating, runny nose, insomnia, and tearing of the eyes. Later opioid withdrawal symptoms may include stomach cramping and diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, goosebumps, and dilated pupils.

drug detox centerWithdrawal from opioids is dangerous because the symptoms become so uncomfortable that the person experiences extreme cravings. This leads them to seek out their drug of choice. Since the person has not used their tolerance may be lower and by taking the same dose as usual or more they can create a situation where overdose risk is increased due to the lower tolerance levels.

Medically-assisted detox programs treat opioid withdrawal through careful monitoring of a person’s breathing, heart, and other rates, by tapering and through the use of medications such as buprenorphine (Subutex, Suboxone).

Why Self-Detox Can Be Life-Threatening to Drug Abusers

Attempting self-detoxification instead of entering a medically-assisted detox program is risky for several reasons. Methadone and buprenorphine maintenance programs allow individuals to not only detox from opioids, but to continue the use of medication until their body is ready to stop the use of it. This way, there is less risk of relapse and further substance misuse or risk of overdose.

Self-detoxification can lead to several health complications. Seizures, slowed breathing and heart rates, hallucinations or convulsions can all lead to dangerous consequences when left untreated. Medication-assisted detox programs can keep such symptoms from happening through constant monitoring and clinical support.

medically supervised detoxMany people neglect their physical health during addiction, due to the daily fixation of obtaining their substance. Money, time, and interest for a nutritional meal take a back seat to addiction needs. The person also may not be bathing and maintaining proper hygiene, leading them to fall victim to nutritional and other deficiencies, or internal organ damage. These can become serious conditions when not addressed.

Medical detox programs work to treat all aspects of physical health, allowing for greater recovery success in a comfortable, fully-equipped environment. Following detox, a client can transition to formal substance-use treatment.

What Happens After Detoxification?

Once a person has completed a medically-assisted detox program, he or she is ready for formal treatment. There are several programs to choose from, the most effective of which, for treatment of physical dependence, is inpatient addiction treatment. Others include intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs and outpatient programs and support groups.

Inpatient Addiction Treatment

Participants in inpatient addiction treatment programs, also called residential programs, reside within the facility for an extended period to receive treatment. Inpatient rehab centers may follow a specific approach to treatment, such as gender-specific or 12-step, and programs may be anywhere from 7 days to a year or more, depending on client needs.

Treatment components generally include counseling, some form of behavioral therapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy), and individual/group therapy. Rehab centers will offer additional therapies, such as art, recreational, wilderness, and meditation, and the best programs will be customized according to each individual.

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Intensive Outpatient Or Partial Hospitalization Programs

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) and partial hospitalization programs (PHP) are outpatient programs that aim to provide addiction treatment comparable to that of inpatient programs. IOPs tend to be more intensive than PHPs and occur on a more frequent basis. Both programs work well as a step down from inpatient treatment and for people who are unable to enter inpatient treatment.

Outpatient Programs And Support Groups For Recovery

Outpatient programs provide certain services regularly, such as counseling, group therapy, or support meetings. Support groups bring together individuals in recovery to uplift each other, share experiences, and help maintain sobriety.

A Rapid Detox Program That’s Right For Me

Detoxification from drugs and/or alcohol is often the first step in recovering from a substance use disorder. A medical detox program can help a person withdraw from substances in the most comfortable and safe way possible. These programs can also assist in the transition into a treatment program once a person has successfully withdrawn from substances.

If you are wondering whether a detox program is right for you, contact a Vertava Health treatment specialist today. If we determine medical detox is necessary for you, we can assist in helping you find the program that best meets your needs.

To learn more about medically-assisted drug and alcohol detox programs or inpatient treatment, contact Vertava Health today at (615) 208-2941.


What Medicine Is Used In Detox?

Overall cleansing of the body to restore it to a more natural physical state is the goal for detox. Because of withdrawal discomfort or other medical concerns, supervised use of medications, intravenous fluids, vitamin therapies, and dietary needs are managed during this phase. 

Medications used in detox are different than prescribed medications that may be used for longer-term treatment. Medications, such as Suboxone or naltrexone, may be prescribed by the physician to assist with the detox process and prevent relapse. The goal is to use this only as an interim solution during the weaning process.

Other medications sometimes used to treat opioid detox are methadone, buprenorphine, and lofexidine. For alcohol detox, naltrexone may also be used, along with disulfiram and acamprosate.

Other measures to aid in symptom relief can include massage and acupuncture as a more holistic approach to pain management associated with withdrawal.

How Long Does It Take For Your Body To Detox?

There are factors to consider when asking how long detox takes. What substance was used and for how long? Were other substances mixed in, such as pain medications and alcohol?

Alcohol withdrawal has three phases and lasts about one week overall. If completed in a medical environment, the process may not be as lengthy or elicit as many symptoms as may occur by abruptly quitting.

As your body processes its last drink, several hours will pass and sleeplessness and nausea may set in, with irritability. Depending upon your alcohol intake over time, withdrawal symptoms will last longer and be more varied, possibly life-threatening. About one to three days after your last drink, you may experience an elevated body temperature, confusion, high blood pressure, and an abnormal heart rate. For those with a higher dependency, after four days, they may also experience a fever, hallucinations, and seizures. Symptoms will gradually reduce within a week.

Drug withdrawal has a lot to do with the type of drug misuse and how it affects brain chemistry. For most people using marijuana,, sleeping pills, and hallucinogens, withdrawal symptoms peak and taper within one to two weeks. Sleep issues such as insomnia and inability to concentrate can last longer.

Opioids and heroin can cause those in recovery to have irritability and continued cravings for months. This is a large factor contributing to the percentage of people who return to using to find relief from the seemingly endless symptoms. They may also experience depression as a result.

Stimulants such as cocaine and meth may cause a continued craving for several months as well.

Can You Detox At Home?

Because of the many physical impacts detox can bring upon a person, it is highly recommended to be completed at an inpatient facility with medical supervision of a person’s vitals and safety.

Some programs offer in-home care with medical supervision, which can be expensive and not as effective in helping the person complete the detox process.

Self-detox can be dangerous and your medical provider should be consulted before considering this route.

Once detox is completed, a person may feel better and want to move on with their life. However, it is highly likely they will repeat this cycle of use until the underlying contributors to their addiction are addressed through drug/alcohol treatment and with a strong aftercare plan to maintain recovery.

What Happens During A Medical Detox?

Detoxification is the process of ridding the body of the chemicals and toxins that have attached themselves to the brain, internal organs, and systems due to substance misuse. This supervised withdrawal is achieved in a controlled, safe environment.

Take the example of a person having 1.5 ounces of liquor. In general, the liver can process one standard drink per hour (5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer). Many people with a built-up endurance will overpour at home. Sometimes a bartender will do this as well.

This back-up of alcohol from over saturation will accumulate in body tissues until enough time passes to process a little more, and on and on. It may have been one hour since your last drink, but alcohol remains in your system longer. A blood test can show the presence of alcohol up to 12 hours later. A bout of binge drinking can show alcohol in a urine test up to three days later and if regularly consumed at high levels, up to five days.

After years of misuse, alcohol can wreak havoc on your overall health. The gentle process of flushing out toxins, rebuilding up of vitamins, and a stable level of hydration with fluids will take time but is beneficial in the long run.

As the brain chemistry rebalances, your impaired cognitive abilities will begin to build strength. This strength in body and mind is what will be important during treatment to come.

Someone going through detox should be overseen by medical personnel. Trained medical doctors will closely monitor heart rate patterns, blood pressure, and stress on the patient. We provide round-the-clock medical supervision in a comfortable environment to remove toxins from the body after years of misuse, with a plan to enter treatment afterward.