Medical detox is the first step in conquering addiction. Medical detox is the process through which you purge the toxins existing in your bloodstream that keep you addicted and seeking more. Medical detoxification changes based on which substance you are purging, but it’s never a pleasant experience. During the first few hours after quitting, patients become agitated and often throw temper tantrums.
Shakes, cravings, vomiting, and sweats are all to be expected in the first days as your body tries to shed its toxins by any means necessary. It is for these reasons that medical detox is best handled with the help of professionals in a detox center that is equipped to deal with these kinds of procedures. Consider detox to be the first hurdle towards a full recovery. It’s a tough one but it can be endured.
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Attempting to detox at home is extremely unwise. Addicts who reside in the comfort of their own home will often go seeking their chosen substance as soon as willpower gives out. Addiction cannot be overcome by “toughing it out”, and even the strongest people can find themselves unable to resist their urges when the withdrawal symptoms kick in.
Moreover, the messy nature of detoxification is best handled in a sterile environment such as a hospital, where messes can be cleaned before germs and bacteria can spread. And lastly, addicts do not think rationally when deprived of their drug of choice, and the reduced functionality, agitation, and violent outbursts can make them difficult (or dangerous) to be around. It is best to seek a medical professional’s opinion on the severity of the addiction and the best treatment.
Detox programs come in two main varieties: residential and outpatient. Residential detox programs require you to live at the facility itself for a period of a few days to multiple weeks. During this time, you must submit to counseling and a battery of medical tests. This can be intimidating but it’s far superior to the alternative of not knowing what’s going on with your body. Outpatient detox programs also involve extensive medical checkups and counseling sessions, but you are allowed to reside at home, checking in only on prescribed dates.
Certain detox medications include methadone, which can mitigate some of the withdrawal symptoms of opiates and help the body gradually adjust, and phenobarbitals and anti-depressants are often prescribed to recovering alcoholics. Diazepam is often prescribed for milder symptoms of stimulant withdrawal, whereas benzodiazepine tranquilizers are used for most intense addictions, such as cocaine or meth.
All types of withdrawal include cravings, irritability, and some nausea, but certain substances bring unique symptoms to the table. Alcohol withdrawal, for instance, involves near-constant sweating, and often brings a foul odor too. Recovering alcoholics also sometimes report painful bowel movements, insomnia, and vivid nightmares on the nights they do manage to sleep. Meth withdrawal can be even more intense, involving profound lethargy, depression, and an increased appetite. Opiates, such as heroin, morphine, or oxycodone, bring muscle aches, spontaneous tearing, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping.
Some of these withdrawal symptoms can lead to death as the body becomes “shocked” into a new chemical state. After surviving with an addictive substance inside it for so long, cold turkey deprivation can actually cause organ failure, brain damage, or suicidal tendencies. It is for these reasons that many programs will wean you off the addictive substance, or provide you with a medicinal substitute, rather than simply deprive you of it all at once. This also makes the non-life threatening symptoms more manageable as they progress.
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