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What is Medical Detox?

Medical detox allows you to safely rid yourself of the harmful toxins left in your body from addiction during early sobriety. You might think that you can safely detox alone at home if you quit “cold-turkey.” However, detoxing alone without support from medical staff can be uncomfortable and potentially deadly.

What Does Detox Mean?

Detox is short for “detoxification” and occurs naturally within your body to get rid of harmful substances. Your body has a way of filtering toxic chemicals from your system and flushing them out. Detox is a natural process that keeps you healthy, as your body keeps what’s good and gets rid of what’s bad.

Physical Dependency and Withdrawal

When you use drugs or alcohol excessively, your body gets accustomed to these chemicals being in your system. As you continue to use drugs and alcohol, you gain a tolerance for these substances, which means that you need more and more for the same effect. At some point, your body becomes so used to drugs and alcohol that it doesn’t know how to function without them.

When you have a physical dependency on drugs or alcohol, your body expects these substances regularly. When you don’t drink or use drugs, your body does not know how to react now that you are dependent on these substances. Without drugs or alcohol, your body goes through withdrawal, and you might feel sick or “off” until you consume more drugs or alcohol.

The severity of your withdrawal symptoms depends on a few factors:

  • Frequency of use (daily, weekly, “binging” episodes, etc.)
  • Length of your addiction (weeks, months, years)
  • Your overall state of health
  • Types of substances used

Withdrawal symptoms from some substances might be different than others. “Hard” drugs like opioids or amphetamines can cause painful or even deadly withdrawal symptoms if you do not detox with the support of medical professionals. Some withdrawal symptoms are common regardless of what substances you use.

Common symptoms of withdrawal from drugs and alcohol include:

  • Anxiety, nervousness, or feeling “on-edge”
  • Irritability and outbursts of anger
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping problems
  • Difficulty concentrating and thinking clearly
  • Sweaty or feeling “clammy”
  • Getting chills
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
  • Changes in appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches and migraines

Many of these symptoms are similar to being ill when your body fights to get rid of harmful infections. During detox, your withdrawal symptoms are your body getting rid of harmful substances so you can be healthy again. Without medical assistance, you might struggle with withdrawal symptoms and relapse to ease your symptoms, continuing the cycle of addiction.

How Does the Medical Detox Process Help?

Medical detox can help you manage withdrawal symptoms while you are monitored by professionals to avoid relapse and detox safely. Remember that addiction is a disease, and diseases are best treated with medical professionals. 

Medical detox can help you in the following ways:

  • Providing comfort for painful symptoms
  • Supporting your emotional well-being during your detox
  • Monitoring vital signs to make sure you are safe 
  • Testing for other medical issues associated with alcohol and drug abuse

For severe symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol, opioids, or other drugs, medical detox can help you with medication-assisted treatment (MAT). With MAT, you take medications that can speed up the detox process by curbing cravings and easing withdrawal symptoms.

How Do Medications Help During Medical Detox?

The medications used during MAT can help you feel normal during the early stages of your addiction treatment. Some medicines can help you with the psychiatric symptoms of withdrawal. Other medications help you stay sober by easing potentially painful and distressing withdrawal symptoms. 

Some medications used for MAT include:

  • Benzodiazepine
    • Helps to manage symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues
    • Effective at preventing seizures, which might occur with severe withdrawal symptoms
    • Prescribed with caution for medical detox due to harmful interactions with opioids and alcohol
    • Examples include: Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin
  • Clonidine
    • Regulates high blood pressure, which is a common withdrawal symptom
    • Can help with other symptoms, like agitation, anxiety, muscle cramps, and stomach aches
  • Methadone
    • Used for withdrawal from opioids by providing a slow release of opioids into your system at a safe dosage
    • Methadone does not get you “high” but helps you feel normal by easing withdrawal symptoms
  • Naltrexone
    • Blocks opioid receptors in the brain so that you don’t feel high if you do relapse
    • Used for both opioid and alcohol withdrawal
  • Buprenorphine
    • Partial opioid agonist, which activates opioid receptors to prevent withdrawal symptoms
    • Similar to methadone, except that buprenorphine is not as potent and has less potential for misuse

Depending on your symptoms, MAT might be helpful for you during medical detox and in the early stages of recovery. As you ease off these medications, you will build skills during recovery to help you manage cravings and triggers without medications.

How Long Does the Medical Detox Process Take?

Most medical detox programs last about five days to two weeks, depending on the severity of your withdrawal symptoms. Medical detox is the first step to addiction recovery that helps your body adjust to life without drugs or alcohol. 

Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Nashville

You might continue to have cravings for several months after medical detox, so finding a comprehensive treatment program is vital to your recovery. Brentwood Springs Detox of Nashville, TN, is here to help you through every step of addiction recovery. We offer medical detox from drugs and alcohol, residential rehab, and aftercare to ensure your continued success. Call us today at (615) 560-7545.

Medical Detox Process

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