When I stopped drinking, I knew nothing about detox. I don’t think many drinkers do. When drinking or drugs take over your life, the best you can hope for is staying alive day by day. When you consider a big life change and finally decide to leave drugs and alcohol behind, you might not even be thinking about how it will happen or what the experience will be like.
But the truth is, if you’re physically dependent on alcohol or drugs, you will experience a period of withdrawal after you stop using. These symptoms can range from simple discomfort to life-threatening changes like rapid heart rate and delirium tremens. This is why it’s important to consider medical detox when you get sober.
Medical detox vs. at-home detox
If you decide to quit drugs or alcohol at home without any help, or with the help of a detox kit, these methods are considered at-home detox. If you choose to stop using and let detox take its course on your own, you run a higher risk of relapse down the road. Depending on the severity of your addiction, withdrawal symptoms can be deadly and without the support of medical staff, you may be unable to detox safely.
The problem with drug detox kits is that these are made to rid your body of the traces of drugs. They are normally used to pass drug tests, or to rid your body of substances quickly. These kits do not have medication or substances that can help you get through withdrawal. They are simply made to get drugs out of your system. You don’t have a medical team there to help you if something goes wrong or if your body experiences an adverse reaction.
Another component of detox that you miss at home is the full treatment program. Detoxification from drugs is just the beginning of a long journey in recovery. While the act of detoxing drugs from the body is important, it does not treat the underlying addiction. You need treatment that addresses why you drink, how to stop, and how to live a healthy life in recovery free from alcohol and drugs. This is not something you can learn by detoxing at home without help. Addiction is a disease that affects the mind, body, and spirit and all of these areas must be treated if you are to get well and live sober.
In medical detox, you will be surrounded by professionals who are educated and trained to treat addiction withdrawal symptoms, help ease your discomfort, and help you transition into the next phase of your recovery.
What to expect at medical detox
Once you choose a medical detox center you can expect the next stages:
You will be given a formal physical and mental assessment when you enter detox. Medical professionals will ask for your personal health history, and they will be able to determine if you’re experiencing any co-occurring disorders so you can receive proper treatment for those.
Stabilization and monitoring
Your withdrawal symptoms will be monitored and treated with medications if necessary. The most common type of medication used during alcohol detox is benzodiazepines. Drugs like Valium and Librium are used to reduce tremors and seizures. The goal will be to keep you comfortable and ease the pain of any withdrawal symptoms. You will also be given fluids to avoid dehydration.
Continuing treatment plan
While you are monitored for health and comfort, the next action plan for your recovery will be put into place. At this point, your doctors will address the psychological factors associated with your addiction. After detox, you will enter inpatient or outpatient treatment, participate in group therapy sessions, one-on-one behavioral therapy, and any other recommended therapies that will help your recovery progress. You will have help and support every step of the way.
Why you should seek out medical detox
The number one reason you should seek out medical detox is that at-home detox does not treat addiction. In order to overcome addiction and life a healthy life in recovery, you’ll need to understand the extent of your drinking and using. You’ll begin to learn why you abused drugs or alcohol, which can be done through group therapy, behavioral therapy, and extensive self-reflection. You’ll also need to learn new coping skills and relapse prevention strategies to help you live in the real world without using drugs and alcohol. At-home detox isn’t able to provide you with these things.
Additionally, at-home detox can be dangerous depending on what drugs you’re using, how long you’ve used, and how dependent your body is on the drug. Why take the chance with your life when there are medical professionals waiting to help you? You’ve come this far; why not ask for help and let medical detox be the starting point to your new life?
When we’re at the greatest point in our suffering, we often feel like we deserve to carry the burden alone. We think we deserve to be lonely, to endure the pain, and can only overcome our addiction by ourselves, but this just isn’t the case. Help is available. You don’t have to do it alone. Medical detox is the first step.
Written by: Kelly Fitzgerald