It’s never easy to decide to get clean, so we’d first like to congratulate you on taking the step to get free of your drug addiction. But, if you’re still contemplating your decision to get clean, let’s reassure you that it’s all for the better. You won’t ever regret stepping up against the dark clouds hanging over life. You may even regret not doing it sooner.
That said, stopping an addiction is not easy, and the road to recovery will be full of ups and downs. One of the first things you’ll have to go through is the drug detox process. This process is one of the essential treatment procedures you’ll need to undergo on your way to complete recovery.
So here, we’ll be discussing what happens during the drug detox process and all the things you should expect. We’ll also touch on some general aspects of the overall addiction recovery timeline. So keep reading as we discuss the various things you may experience during the process and how you can handle it.
What’s Drug Detoxification?
Drug detox is a process through which your body eliminates remnants of narcotics from your body. This process can be completely natural, i.e. you’ll not be taking any form of medication to aid the removal of the drugs. In such a case, it’s your body getting rid of all the foreign materials by itself. And most importantly, during this time, you’ll exercise complete abstinence from the substance of your addiction.
However, physicians can prescribe certain medications to help with the detox process in other cases. Doctors call such augmented methods Medically assisted detox. Therapists may or may not recommend this process, depending on the situation. But, in many cases, an addict’s body may not be able to flush out the drug’s remnants without assistance. So, they’ll have to undergo a medically assisted detox.
How Does Detox Work?
The human body has the natural ability to get rid of all foreign elements in its system and effectively heal itself. That is if it has enough time before the said foreign object damages it beyond repair. Interestingly, more often than not, whenever you fall sick, the medications you take aren’t responsible for your recovery. Instead, your body takes care of the sickness while the medication alleviates the symptoms.
Essentially, many medications only treat the symptoms while your body does the actual healing. In the same way, your body flushes out all the foreign elements during the detox process. That primarily includes the remnants of the drugs you’ve stored up over years of consumption.
Of course, the process is not as simple as just passing out the drug’s remnants as faces in a single shot. It occurs in stages and may last for a couple of days, weeks, or even months, depending on your level of dependency. Below is a breakdown of the drug detox process.
The Detoxification Process
There are claims the drug detox process is the very first step in the overall addiction recovery timeline. However, that’s a little bit misguided. The very first stage of addiction treatment is evaluation.
A physician or therapist examines you during the evaluation stage. First, they check the general condition of your psychological and physical health. This examination stage helps them determine if the drug consumption has done any significant damage to your health. They also check the extent of the damage done and what measures they need to reverse it.
With proper examination, they’ll be able to formulate an effective treatment plan for you. The doctors will also determine the degree of medication you require and get an estimate for the recovery time frame. Plus, they’ll also be able to monitor your progress and propensity for withdrawal during the recovery.
During the evaluation, the therapists will try to establish facts and get information regarding your addiction. So, they may ask you specific questions. Expectedly, they’ll ask about your medical history and the state of your emotional health. They may also ask you about;
- The last time you took the drugs
- If you’re using multiple drugs
- What type of drugs are you currently use
- How often do you take the substances, and do you opt for alternatives when you can’t get them?
In addition, you may also have to undergo a blood test to determine the state of your cardiovascular system. The therapists will use all of this information to create the best treatment plan for you. Once they have the plan down, you’ll move to the next stage.
Stabilizing the Brain and Body
Indiscriminate consumption of narcotics disrupts the natural function of the body system. The compounds present in the drugs will cause some drastic changes in your body operations. The changes always lead to psychological dependence, which can then graduate to physical dependence.
When you develop psychological dependence, your body craves the drugs even though you don’t need them. Then, after a while, your body and brain become accustomed to the drugs such that you need a constant supply of the substances to function normally. At this point, you become both psychologically and physically dependent on the substance.
Essentially, this stage is where your body begins to learn to function normally without the drugs. It primarily involves your brain learning to crave less and less of the substance. Plus, your body also begins to adjust and work efficiently without the narcotics.
Related Article: What Medications are Used During Detox?
Side Effects of Drug Detox Process
The process is never easy when you suddenly stop feeding your body and brain something they can’t do without. Your body protests and throws a tantrum, making you very uncomfortable until you retake the drugs. The general term for this period is the withdrawal phase.
During the withdrawal period, you’ll experience various symptoms that will make you very uncomfortable. The detox symptoms you’ll experience will depend on the type of drug you regularly consume. However, below are some of the common symptoms you may experience:
- General lethargy
- Muscle pain
- Inordinate eating habits (lack of or excessive appetite)
- Agitation, restlessness and irritation
- Anxiety, hallucinations and depression
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Difficulty Concentration
- Heart palpitations
Then again, the level of the withdrawal symptoms may also depend on the drug detox process you choose. The types of drug detox are the different ways you can practice abstinence from your object of addiction. Primarily, there are four methods of detoxification, and they include;
Medical aided detox: This detoxification method involves augmenting abstinence with practices and medications recommended by doctors. It may include staying at a facility where you undergo intensive treatment and therapy sessions.
Drug Tapering: We’ll also refer to this method as drug weaning. In this method, you’ll gradually take less of the drug over time until you eventually stop taking it. However, this method is quite risky, and it’s often very easy to relapse. So, it would be best if you did it under the supervision of a medical practitioner.
At-home-detox: This detox process involves practicing abstinence at home while following recommended recovery regimes.
Cold Turkey: AKA stopping without weaning, this is the most dangerous detoxification method, and it’s often unsuccessful. Cold turkey means stopping drug use abruptly. You shouldn’t attempt to quit your addictions when you’re not mentally and physically ready for recovery.
Cold turkey drug detox often leads to the most severe side effects. Since you’re not physically or mentally ready to quit, it comes as a shock to your system. The shock then takes a toll on your health, and it can prompt fatalities in extreme cases.
Fortunately, drugs like meth, cocaine, and nicotine rarely contribute to withdrawal-related fatalities. However, they can also present severe complications for addicts who quit them abruptly. Eventually, you may end up relapsing, leaving you with psychological scars. In addition, it may leave you with a sense of defeat and helplessness that you can’t beat your addiction.
How Medically Aided Detox Works
You’ll undergo a series of medical procedures and regimens for this detox process. Typically, doctors use medication and psychological therapy to speed up and ease the treatment. The caregivers employ diverse psychological therapy practices, ranging from individual discussions to support groups. They may also use herbal or music therapy and affirmations as part of your treatment.
Doctors prescribe several medications during a drug detox process to tackle, ease, and reduce withdrawal symptoms. The common ones you may get in Ontario drug detox centers include;
One of the general and commonest withdrawal symptoms is depression. You’ll experience depression during recovery because your brain is struggling to produce sufficient levels of happiness-inducing neurotransmitters. Unfortunately, some of the compounds present in the drugs you use have negatively influenced your brain’s ability to produce these neurotransmitters. As a result, your brain can’t secret them efficiently without the aid of those drugs.
So, when you stop taking the drugs, your brain struggles to produce happiness-inducing neurotransmitters (particularly dopamine). This situation triggers depression. Antidepressants help relieve these symptoms while your brain learns to produce sufficient dopamine and serotonin without the aid of any narcotic substance.
Doctors administer these medications to counter anxiety and irritability symptoms occurring during withdrawal. However, they’re not applicable in all cases. It depends primarily on the type of narcotic substance you’re dealing with. Overall, don’t take these medications without the supervision of medical experts because they can be addictive. You don’t want to end up replacing one addiction with another.
Doctors prescribe methadone to help reduce cravings. The medication works by attaching itself to opioid receptors in the brain. It then creates the satisfactory effects of the narcotic substance without getting you high. However, the downside of this medication is that it can be addictive. So, you want to be extra careful with how you use it.
This medication does the same thing as methadone, but it’s weaker and has a lower potential for addiction.
How Long Will Detox Last?
The duration of your drug detox process will primarily depend on the type of drugs you use and your level of dependence on them. It can also depend on how long you’ve been taking the substance and the general state of your health. Also, your level of motivation to get clean may create a placebo effect which will positively influence your recovery.
In general, it should take your body anywhere between seven to fourteen days to thoroughly flush out all traces of the substance. However, it may take up to a month if you have been a chronic user for a long time.
Detox is Not Enough
While detox is one of the first and most essential stages in overcoming drug addiction, it’s not sufficient to achieve full recovery. Admittedly, detox may be the most painful phase of your recovery, but it’s not the most tricky one. The real work is redesigning your lifestyle, so it no longer revolves around drugs.
As an addict, you would have built a lifestyle around drug consumption. But to be free, you’ll need to create a new one with no considerations for narcotics use. That may be somewhat tricky, and the risk of a relapse is always around the corner. So, you need to take extra care and develop new productive habits to replace the old destructive ones.
Overall, the road to complete recovery will be bumpy, and you may fail a couple of times along the journey. But you can do it if you have an overwhelming desire to be free.
Related Article: What Are Signs Your Body Is Detoxing?
In the End
You can expect the drug detox process to be a memorable experience. You’ll have painful moments, but it’ll all be worth it. Your best bet is to go for medically assisted detox. It’s less risky and has a higher probability of success than the other methods. Cold turkey is the worst, don’t subject yourself to a potentially traumatic experience. Get help when you need it.
Speaking of getting help, we assist drug dependents in Canada. You can check out our drug detox services at Medical Detox Ontario. We administer medically assisted drug detox to our patients, and we can assure you of 100% support in your recovery journey.