Drug Detox – How to Find the Right One For You

After committing to rid yourself of illicit drugs, you need to find a drug detox program that matches your needs. Detoxification allows your body time to metabolize the drugs or alcohol that remain in your system. Many people with chemical dependence issues choose to detox in an inpatient or outpatient facility with professional intervention. These are safe programs with the experience to help you experience a successful detoxification process while managing the symptoms of acute withdrawal. Some people can detox at home. Your doctor and treatment team can help you know if you are a good candidate for at-home detoxification.

After capturing a detailed medical and substance use history, detox is often the recommended next step in the treatment process and is an appropriate route for anyone living with a substance abuse disorder of any type. Because with chemical dependence, your body has adapted to needing that drug to function. The mental and physical consequences of suddenly living without the substance can cause seriously uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. You do not need to confront these symptoms on your own; you have several options to help you manage this process. Those who benefit from a drug detox program include:

  • Anyone with a dependence on alcohol
  • Those reliant on sedatives such as benzodiazepines and barbiturates
  • Those overusing or abusing prescription pain medications
  • Anyone using heroin or other opioids
  • Those with a previously negative withdrawal experience
  • Anyone with limited support at home

Withdrawal from these substances can be quite uncomfortable and potentially fatal depending on the type of drug, the level of dependence and other preexisting health conditions.

When you place your care with an experienced medical team, your drug detox process will be carefully monitored. Healthcare professionals are on hand to stay alert to any uncomfortable symptoms or potentially serious medical complications. While working with a medically supervised detoxification program, your doctor may recommend medications to ease the transition and help reduce withdrawal symptoms and substance cravings.

Clinically Managed Drug Detox

In a clinically managed detoxification program, you will typically be provided with a room to stay in during your detoxification. But, the nature of your addiction and the substances you abused does not necessitate medication and constant supervision. However, some programs offer additional support. For some the detox process occurs over several hours. For others it can take days. In the case of benzodiazepines and other select substances, the process is slow by design. Your doctor could set up a schedule that takes weeks to clear your body of unwanted substances.

The Potential Risks of Unassisted Detoxification

While you may have the ability to detox on your own, the situation may not be ideal. Of course, the risks depend on the type of substance you are overcoming. Significant withdrawal symptoms may weaken your resolve. Intense cravings may be difficult to battle alone. Knowing some of the potential manifestations of withdrawal may help you determine your best detoxification option. Some of those symptoms include:

  • Strong drug cravings
  • Disorientation
  • Pain
  • Seizures or coma
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety or depression<
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    The Medications Used to Detox

    The following medications are typically prescribed to ease withdrawal symptoms, making the process much more comfortable, and improving your chances for successful completion of the process.

    Clonidine – often prescribed to reduce blood pressure and alleviate some of the unpleasant withdrawal
    Methadone – although methadone is also an opioid, it is commonly used to ease withdrawal symptoms without providing the highs and lows associated with most other opioids
    Benzodiazepines (Klonopin, Valium, Xanax) – often used to alleviate some of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal to prevent the associated seizures.

    The Medications Prescribed to Help Prevent Relapse

    Once you have completed detoxification, your physician may recommend medication to help maintain your sobriety. These particular pharmaceuticals can help you to remain an active participant in your treatment program. Some of the prescription drugs used to facilitate this result include:

    • Methadone
    • Naltrexone
    • Buprenorphine
    • Disulfiram
    • Acamprosate

    Once you have made your decision to incorporate medically supervised detoxification into your recovery program, there are many criteria to be considered before selecting the facility best suited to your needs. Some of those considerations include:

    Offers Medication – Assisted Detoxification

    Some types of withdrawal can be quite risky in an unsupervised setting. Because of this, many treatment facilities provide medication-assisted treatment to ease your withdrawal symptoms and remain alert to any indication of withdrawal-induced complications. Many find that medically-assisted programs help ease the transition to sobriety.

    The Type of Substance Requiring Drug Detox

    Whether your substance use disorder involves opioids, alcohol, cocaine or other substances, the initial detoxification process may vary. Your doctor and treatment team should tailor your care according to the drugs you abused. You should seek assurance that your treatment center is relying on safe, proven methods that treat your specific disorder.

    Individualized Treatment Plans

    When selecting a detoxification facility, find a program that offers an individualized course of treatment, rather than a one-size-fits-all. It is vital that the facility can address your individual needs. In addition to detoxification, you may also benefit from psychological treatment, housing assistance or legal services.

    The Staff Qualifications

    When a detox facility provides medical supervision, you will want to be sure there is a medical doctor on the premises or on-call at all times. You may also want to be sure that the facility under your consideration also has fully qualified staff members, including nurses, substance abuse counselors, psychologists and social workers. The professionals and the facility should be licensed. Also, ask if your facility is accredited, which means the facility is bound to high standards of patient care and supervision.

    A Realistic Patient-to Staff Ratio

    A lower patient to staff ratio allows more counselors available to work with patients individually. The permitted patient to staff ratio will vary by state. The more support available to each patient, the more favorable the outcome may be.

    On-Site Support Groups

    A peer-centered self-help group can offer emotional support and increase your motivation to continue with your lifestyle changes. Some treatment centers offer in-house support groups while others host meetings with organizations not necessarily affiliated with the treatment facility, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and SMART Recovery.

    The Availability of After Care

    After completing your detoxification program, continued treatment may be crucial to maintaining your sobriety. Your options may include inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment or private therapy. Developing an aftercare plan with a duration of a three-month minimum will help provide your best possible outcome.

    Approval by Your Insurance Company

    The costs or your treatment will vary according to your chosen facility. While most insurance will cover a detoxification program, your insurance company may limit your location options or ask that you pay a portion of the cost. Many drug detoxification providers have staff trained to work with insurance companies on behalf of their patients.

    While some people choose to go through drug detox on their own, substance withdrawal may be safer and more comfortable when you trust your care to an accredited residential or outpatient treatment program. Selecting a facility with individualized treatment plans devised by a qualified medical team can make your recovery process much smoother than you anticipate. A dynamic after-care program will build and strengthen your resolve and help you heal from the physical and emotional effects of a substance abuse disorder.


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