WHAT IS MEDICAL DETOX?
Detox is short for detoxification, the process by which your body eliminates
poisons or harmful substances, called toxins.
Drugs and alcohol are toxins, and your body reacts to them as it does to any poison — it wants to flush them out, and get to work repairing toxin-damaged tissues and restoring a healthful, balanced system.
Medical detox is when detoxification takes place under medical supervision.
The agony of withdrawal symptoms, and any unexpected situations that arise, are handled with appropriate medical intervention and treatment. This makes medical detox safer, and far more comfortable, than other detox procedures.
A successful medical detox doesn’t mean that all the toxins have been eliminated from your body, or that all cravings for drugs or alcohol are gone. But it does mean that there are no more serious medical risks from not taking the drugs or alcohol.
After a medical detox, you are ready for a rehabilitation program, or a return to normal life, depending on your personal situation.
DEPENDENCE AND ADDICTION
Detoxification occurs naturally all the time as your body eliminates the waste materials that result from converting food into energy, growth and cellular repair, as well as toxins to which you have been exposed in your environment.
When you stop taking drugs or alcohol to which you are dependent, the body begins to detoxify and exhibits withdrawal symptoms. These can be mild, severe, dangerously unhealthful or even lethal, indicating the degree of difficulty the body is having to detoxify.
When a person can’t stop taking drugs or drinking alcohol because of the way it makes them feel, and will go to extraordinary lengths to get more drugs or alcohol, they are said to be addicted.
Almost everyone who is addicted to a substance has also become physically dependent. But not everyone who is dependent is addicted.
HOW DRUGS AND ALCOHOL CREATE DEPENDENCE
DNA is the basic ‘set of blueprints’ that predetermines how your body gets built and how it works. Metabolism is the complex process that transforms food into energy, creates new cells for growth, and manages waste elimination.
Every individual possesses unique metabolism and DNA, and these play an important role in physical reactions to drugs and alcohol, how long it takes to become dependent, and how you react to detoxification.
Drugs and alcohol create physiological changes that can also affect thinking, emotion and behavior. Drugs and alcohol artificially stimulate chemical reactions that, under normal circumstances, could occur naturally, and without harmful effects.
Unfortunately, when drugs and alcohol are used habitually over time, they can ‘train’ your body to produce less of your natural substances, and instead rely on the alcohol or drugs. When you stop taking them, your body protests and reacts by creating ‘withdrawal symptoms’ — sickness, pain and emotional distress — signaling that it needs the drugs or alcohol to feel normal.
This situation is a drug-created dependence. In most cases of drug and alcohol dependence, at higher doses the substance might or might not make you feel drunk or euphoric, but you do need at least some just to feel normal.
MEDICAL DETOX ADVANTAGES
Ninety-five percent of people dependent on or addicted to narcotics who try ‘cold turkey’ withdrawal on their own usually give up and stay on the drug, according to government figures.
Narcotics such as heroin or morphine, or narcotic prescription painkillers like OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, oxycodone or methadone, may not produce life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, but they are so agonizing that almost no one gets through a successful detox without some kind of medical assistance.
Many other drugs, and alcohol too, can create devastating withdrawal symptoms with serious medical implications that can create permanent harm and even death.
Medical detox was developed to address the safety issues of drug and alcohol withdrawal, as well as to help ease the discomfort and pain issues.
Good medical detox follows a proven detox protocol — a detailed plan and procedure that covers every known aspect of each type of drug and all its potential withdrawal symptoms and complications.
And good medical detox is not ‘one-size-fits-all’. Everyone has a unique metabolism, DNA, and health situation, so a properly designed medical detox protocol is personalized for each patient. It provides alternative medical procedures and dietary needs to meet each patient’s special needs, to ensure the safest, most comfortable detox possible.
CHOOSING OUTPATIENT OR INPATIENT MEDICAL DETOX
Outpatient detox takes place when someone withdraws from drugs at home or with a friend, rather than in a medical facility.
For example, a patient sees the doctor in his or her office, usually receives a prescription drug or drugs, and then returns home to begin the withdrawal process. The doctor supervises the detox from his office, usually by phone, and the patient can revisit the doctor when needed.
In this kind of outpatient situation, the doctor must be very cautious and go slow, usually applying a gentle, long-term tapering off of the dependent drug, plus adding prescription drugs to help ease withdrawal symptoms, because the patient is not under medical care 24 hours a day.
This kind of detox can take many weeks, or even months. Unfortunately, in spite of the slow tapering off and assistive prescriptions, many patients can’t tolerate the withdrawal symptoms and give up the withdrawal.
In other cases, patients have become dependent or even addicted to the drugs used to assist the detox, sending them from one drug problem another.
Inpatient detox involves checking into a medical detox facility that, like a hospital, provides medical supervision 24-7, but usually in more of a residential, hotel-like setting.
Some facilities bill themselves as medical detox facilities, but only provide a room with a bed, and the only interaction with medical professionals is when the patient is taken to the doctor’s office.
A true inpatient medical detox facility provides on-site medical supervision 24 hours a day. Better medical detox clinics also offer nicely-appointed private rooms, a comfortable lounge, dining rooms with good, nutritious food, and even a garden or poolside for relaxation.
The best medical detox clinics not only provide round-the-clock medical care, as part of their personalized program they receive the right medical drugs and / or natural products, in the right dosages, to optimize their withdrawal. If unexpected problems arise, they can be addressed and handled instantly.
For these reasons, inpatient detox is much faster, requiring as little as 6 to 14 days for patients to complete withdrawal from alcohol and most drugs. Add to this the safety of constant medical attention and the added comfort, and you can see why inpatient detox is widely preferred.