What Happens During Addiction Detox

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Entering an inpatient rehabilitation center for addiction is a courageous decision, and uncertainty about the process is a typical reaction. Detoxification seems to be the main concern for most people—will withdrawal be worse than what they experience on drugs or alcohol? At Willingway, we want to be completely transparent about what to expect and how we can help, so here’s what you should know.

Understanding Detoxification

If someone needs drugs or alcohol simply to function day-to-day, they probably have physical and mental chemical dependency. This requires medical attention before the real work of addiction recovery begins.

Detoxification, commonly known as detox, is an evidence-based treatment to remove toxic substances from the body and mind. Depending on an individual’s condition, detoxification might refer to medical intervention to alleviate physical dependence from substances, the actual process of substance withdrawal, and/or the type of method administered to lessen withdrawal symptoms. 

Certified addiction medicine physician specialists determine a course of treatment in three stages: 

  • Evaluation. Because each person has different needs, their detox process is designed as a unique program. The evaluation assesses types of substances used, length of abuse, addiction intensity, medical history, and presenting health issues, including co-occurring mood disorders.
  • Stabilization. Based on the evaluation, the addiction specialist determines what type of physical and mental detoxification support is necessary, including the potential for a medically managed detoxification approach and other supervised care to ease the acute phase of withdrawal. 
  • Preparing for treatment. Many people believe the detox phase is the treatment for addiction, but it’s only the first phase of the recovery process. Once a person is stabilized, they require other interdisciplinary components of a rehabilitation program to sustain sobriety and avoid relapse. Recommended treatment might include behavioral modification; individual, group, and potentially family therapy; issue-specific counseling; 12-Step and other recovery support programs; and more.

Why Is Physical Detox Necessary?

Drugs and alcohol wreak havoc on a person’s physiology in various ways, including but not limited to the following:

  • The body processes drug and alcohol toxins through the liver. Consequently, drug and alcohol abuse impairs the liver’s ability to do this effectively, which might lead to liver damage.
  • Excessive drinking can damage the brain, heart, immune system, pancreas, and liver. 
  • Certain types of drugs, such as methamphetamines and opiates such as fentanyl, may cause brain, kidney, and liver damage, as well as impaired blood circulation, significant weight loss, and tooth decay.
  • Abuse of serious illicit drugs, including cocaine and heroin, often result in severe damage to circulatory and respiratory systems.
  • Stimulants such cocaine and methamphetamines put users more at risk for heart attack and stroke and negatively compromise the immune system, which increases the risk of infection. 

Additionally, the National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that women metabolize substances, especially alcohol, more quickly than men because they don’t have “a functional gastric protective barrier.” This means substances enter their bloodstream more quickly and also reach vital organs faster, which increases the likelihood of severe health complications such as: 

  • Cancer
  • Concentrated organ damage
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Hemorrhagic stroke
  • Obesity

Why Is Mental Detox Necessary?

The National Institutes of Health points out the many effects of drug and alcohol abuse on the brain, which we provide verbatim: 

  • “Drugs or alcohol can hijack the pleasure/reward circuits in your brain and hook you into wanting more and more.”
  • “Brain imaging studies of people addicted to drugs or alcohol show decreased activity in the frontal cortex. When the frontal cortex isn’t working properly, people can’t make the decision to stop taking the drug.”
  • “Addiction can also send your emotional danger-sensing circuits into overdrive, making you feel anxious and stressed when you’re not using drugs or alcohol. At this stage, people often use drugs or alcohol to keep from feeling bad rather than for their pleasurable effects.”

Artificial chemicals in alcohol and drugs also decrease the proper regulation of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which affects critical functions such as appetite, behavior responses, body temperature, cognitive abilities, and sleep patterns. 

The Withdrawal Phase

Without question, this phase of detox is what sparks the most concern among people entering addiction rehabilitation. 

Withdrawal symptoms vary considerably based on all the points mentioned in the evaluation stage mentioned above. As such, some individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms for a few days, while others with more severe issues struggle with them for several weeks or months. This variance means it’s all the more vital to choose a facility with trained medical professionals assisting the detoxification process at every level.

More common withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Aggression, irritability, and moodiness
  • Feelings of anxiety, depression, and/or hopelessness
  • Flu-like symptoms, including body aches, fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting
  • Increased appetite
  • Motor control problems, such as shakiness and tremors
  • Period of insomnia and/or extreme fatigue
  • Skin conditions such as acne, rashes, and/or welts

In more serious cases, people might also experience delirium tremens (DTs), hallucinations, and paranoia.

Willingway: With You Every Step of the Way

Detoxification isn’t the full treatment plan. However, it starts the process of becoming “clean” and advancing to the next stage of addiction treatment and recovery, including: 

  • Understanding and accepting the underlying reasons for addiction
  • Adapting to a more healthy lifestyle
  • Reinforcing techniques to maintain sobriety
  • Developing meaningful, supportive relationships

Willingway’s team of board-certified professionals in Statesboro, GA, will help ease you through the short-term period of discomfort so you can discover a lifetime of joy and purpose. Learn how we can help you navigate one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.

Looking for a top drug rehab in Georgia? To find out more about services offered by Willingway contact us 24 hours a day at 888-979-2140, and let us help you get started on the road to recovery.Willingway - Addiction Treatment Experts