Detox, like addiction treatment, can vary greatly. In most cases, detox is the first step in addiction recovery, and provides many with a strong foundation upon which to build. The goal of alcohol or drug detox is to allow the body time to cleanse itself from the effects of drugs and alcohol while simultaneously managing withdrawal symptoms. Detox can be a highly individualized and unique process. Factors to consider include:
- Type of substance used: Withdrawal symptoms are largely dependent on the type of drug that is used. Some drugs, such as opiates, amphetamines, and even alcohol, can create such powerful dependencies that the withdrawal symptoms may be dangerous. Detox may require medical supervision to ensure the process is as safe and comfortable as possible.
- Length of use: Over time, a person develops tolerances to drugs and alcohol that require them to use more in order to achieve the same effects. If a person has used copious amounts of drugs or alcohol for an extended period of time, the severity of withdrawal symptoms is often heightened, requiring more care and monitoring during detox.
- Severity of use: In addition to the amount consumed, the way in which a drug is used can present unique complications during detox. The body’s reaction to stopping use can produce adverse effects that require special care.
- Overall health: A person’s overall health can greatly impact the way in which they are affected by withdrawal symptoms. Drug use often has a negative impact on health and can expose people to a variety of diseases that may compromise their immune system. The influence of other diseases can affect the severity of withdrawal symptoms and can create complications that may not be experienced otherwise.
Drug Detox Methods
Fortunately, there are multiple approaches to detox available. Some are more effective than others and are largely dependent on a person’s individual needs as well as their history of substance abuse. Some approaches to detox include:
- Cold turkey: The cold turkey method is a form of drug detox that is often attempted and largely unsuccessful. Going “cold turkey” means abruptly ceasing substance abuse without medical supervision or assistance. For many, this approach is most appealing because there are virtually no financial costs, but it also tends to have the greatest risk of complications. Even if a person does not experience severe health complications as a result of withdrawal, other symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and fatigue can cause a person to relapse, trying to self-medicate for those conditions.
- Outpatient detox: Outpatient detox programs allow clients to visit a doctor or treatment center for therapies while still living at home. This method tends to be less expensive than inpatient detox, but it does not have all the same benefits. This form of detox is often best suited for a person with a high level of self-motivation who will follow a scheduled detox plan and travel for appointments. While this method is better than cold turkey, it is often not the preferred approach for those recovering from especially dangerous drugs with more severe health and relapse risks.
- Inpatient detox: This form of detox is one of the most successful. Clients live at a treatment facility and receive 24-hour care and support. This is especially important for clients with a high risk for side effects and relapse. In this environment, clients are given around-the-clock care to address withdrawal symptoms as they manifest. Since clients are removed from enabling peers and environments, inpatient detox tends to have the highest success rates and provides a more seamless transition to inpatient treatment programs.
- Holistic approaches: For some, the idea of alternative detox is more appealing. These practices can be used in traditional detox settings or separately, and are designed to address varying individual needs in recovery. Holistic approaches can include exercise, yoga, improved nutrition, spiritual support, and psychiatric care. These techniques can improve overall health and complement other methods of addiction treatment.