The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) reports that each year, at least 15.4% of the American populace struggles with a substance abuse disorder. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), around 20.4 million Americans were diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder in 2021, and of that number, only 10.3% received any kind of treatment.
In 2019, NIDA said almost 71,000 Americans died of drug-related overdoses. To make matters worse, the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics says there is an observed 3.8% increase in drug use each year. Combined with the staggering death toll, these statistics are perhaps the best argument for the importance of medically assisted detox.
Medical detoxification, or medical detox for short, is the process of physiologically or medicinally removing toxic substances from the human body. The natural process of detoxification is typically done by the liver. In instances of alcohol or substance abuse however, the toxicity may be too much for the liver to flush out alone, particularly if the person has not stopped taking alcohol or substances. The medical detox phase necessarily needs to include completely stopping the person from taking alcohol or any kind of substance before the substances in the body are flushed out.
The medical detox phase also necessarily includes the period of drug or alcohol withdrawal, which is intended to return the person’s system to homeostasis after long-term use of an addictive substance. This is because prolonged substance abuse is known to alter the chemical balance of the body after some time.
Depending upon several factors, including the type of substance taken, the person’s natural threshold, and inherent genetic predisposition, medical detox would usually last anywhere from five days to up to a week. Patients that need to undergo a medical detox have to be thoroughly screened to know several specific things. This is so that the clinicians would know if any adverse reactions could come up during the actual detox process. A standard detox program will usually come with the following:
As the name might suggest, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a process that involves the use of medication to help a person through withdrawal. It particularly helps in dealing with specific difficult elements of detox such as withdrawal symptoms and adverse reactions that come during detox. The medication is necessary because the withdrawal symptoms are not only immensely uncomfortable at times, but there are also instances when they could become outright debilitating or even life-threatening.
There are many substances that are extremely difficult to quit because apart from the agonizing withdrawal symptoms, they could also produce cravings and urges that are almost impossible to resist. These intense urges and cravings are mostly only managed through the use of medications that help dull these sensations. Before this approach, people unable to resist the urge to take substances once more or become hysterical while going through withdrawal symptoms had to be restrained. This is particularly true for the people who had the misfortune of having seizures during withdrawal, as their bodies had become used to the presence of substances in their bloodstream and are not reacting to its absence.
Medication-assisted treatment is only done within the confines of a rehabilitation center and detox drugs are administered only by medical specialists trained in the process. This process is also done alongside counseling and behavioral therapy. This is mainly because this period is characterized by persistent confusion, great discomfort and even pain, and overpowering urges to take substances once more.
MAT is also strictly done only in rehab centers because people who have a dependency issue tend to substitute one dependence with another, and there is also the risk that the detox medications used might promote a new kind of dependence. This is particularly seen in the behavior of some people going through detox, where the mere act of taking a substance, whether it be orally or intravenously, produces a placebo effect, as the patient goes through the familiar motions of addiction.
The three main forms of substance abuse treatment are:
This phase is characterized by great discomfort, pain, and mental distress. These things are primarily because the body is seeking to readjust to not having alcohol or drugs in the system, and also largely due to the fact that the body has already suffered damage from the substance abuse.
In other instances, people suffer highly distressing symptoms such as seizures and unbearable pain. To mitigate these symptoms, medication is used to ease the agony felt by the patient. Meciation-assisted treatment has even proven to be quite effective in helping reduce the instance of relapses in many people, as they permanently lose interest in taking substances.
Therapy is important in the recovery process because being in the real world once more outside of the rehabilitation facility will expose the patient to the stressors and situations that might cause enough stress to make them take alcohol or drugs once more. A large part of therapy is focused on helping the patient develop specific responses to the stressors and situations that could push them back to old habits.
Withdrawal symptoms experienced during medical detox would typically depend on some factors, such as the type of substance taken, the duration with which it was taken, if it was taken with anything else, and the quantity that was taken. The severity and manifestation of withdrawal symptoms may also vary greatly depending on the person as well. There are people who have a higher threshold for pain and discomfort, and these people are usually only bothered by the most severe of symptoms, while others with a lower threshold could agonize over the simplest and least painful of symptoms.
Those who undergo medical detox could experience some or even all of the symptoms that are associated with the substance they are detoxing from, which is why there is a need to work with trained specialists when undergoing a medical detox and not try to do it at home.
There are also some more severe symptoms, and these are associated with delirium tremens syndrome, which is characterized by severe seizures. These symptoms include:
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) revealed that in 2020, at least two million Americans are addicted to opioids, and nearly a hundred people die due to opioid overdose every day. Withdrawal symptoms from opioid addiction include:
The first step is usually the most difficult in any journey, and this also applies to the journey to recovery. No one knows this more than the people at Path to Recovery, where we make it our business to know how best to help people achieve a full and lasting recovery from substance abuse. We believe that everyone deserves the best treatment available, and this is our mindset when we help people recover. We can help you too. Talk to us now.