Addiction: what to Know About Detox

If you are addicted to alcohol, pills, or illegal drugs, the first step toward recovery is detox. The process of getting rid of the substance is known as detoxification.

You can detox in two ways: tapering or cold turkey. You can often combine either one of these methods with prescribed medicine to reduce withdrawal symptoms or prevent relapse.

Tapering vs. Cold Turkey

Sudden stops can pose a danger to some substances. Most addiction experts caution against the cold turkey approach. Instead, they recommend tapering or gradually weaning yourself off of the drug.

It is possible to have dangerous effects if you stop taking certain substances cold turkey.

With heroin and alcohol, doctors won't give you these substances to wean you off them. You will get prescription drugs that act in the body like heroin or alcohol in order to ease withdrawal symptoms. These medications will be tapered by your health care provider.

The length of the taper depends on how long you have been using the drug, and how many you take. It is possible to reduce your dosage gradually over the course of several weeks or months. Most alcohol detoxes take a few days.

If you are heavily addicted to any of the above substances and try to stop cold turkey, you may experience uncomfortable and dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as rapid heart rate, hallucinations, and seizures.

Detoxing where?

Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a mental health problem. This addiction has both psychological and physical effects. It is not a good idea to detox on your own without supervision or guidance.

However, detox can be done in many settings. It is possible to choose between your own home and outpatient or inpatient rehab. There are many things that will determine which option is best for you.

When in doubt, talk to your doctor or an addiction specialist about the best choice for you.

You can call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) if you don't know where to turn or are unsure of the best way to get help. This confidential, free service is available to anyone who needs information on substance abuse treatment.

Detox at Home

Some prefer detoxing in their own homes. If you do not have insurance or can't afford a treatment plan, this option may be a good choice.

Detoxing at home usually means doing it all yourself. It is unlikely that you will have someone to assist or monitor your progress. The option to take medication may not be available. Some of the detox medications that doctors recommend are not available for you to do at home. If you detox at your own home and don't use a treatment program for substance abuse, it is possible to fall back into the same pattern. If they do relapse, they are at higher risk of getting addicted again. This is because your body can't tolerate as much drug once it's out of your system.

If you are otherwise well and have not been taking drugs in a long time, an at-home detox might be ok. You should consult a doctor if you feel it is the best choice. You should at least have someone to watch you as you go through this process.

Hospital Detox

If you experience severe withdrawal symptoms such as difficulty breathing or rapid heartbeat, it is a good idea to visit the emergency department (ER). However, detoxing at the ER is not always the best option. Many emergency rooms are not prepared to treat addiction. If you show up without a medical emergency and are not experiencing any symptoms, the doctor may refer you to an addiction treatment center.

However, it might be possible to detox at a hospital and not have to visit the ER. In recent years, as the opioid epidemic has exploded, more hospitals have expanded their addiction services. Buprenorphine is a prescription that helps with opioid withdrawal symptoms without making you feel high. Talk to your doctor to see if hospital detox might be right for.

Outpatient Detox

There are many options for outpatient detox. Others may not require much supervision and can simply visit their doctor or home health agency during detox. Other people may be offered a nurse's check-in. A few people may attend a program in a hospital, or at an addiction treatment center. Others might go home after hours.

Outpatient detox programs offer the main advantage of being able to remain in your home while still receiving professional assistance. Inpatient detox programs are generally more expensive than outpatient.

Inpatient or ambulatory care may include medication-assisted withdrawal. This will make it easier. Methadone or buprenorphine might be available if you are trying to detox from opioids. If you're quitting alcohol, you might get anti-seizure medication or benzodiazepines to help with the withdrawal, and naltrexone or other medications to help you stop drinking.

One of the main drawbacks to outpatient programs, however is their inability to provide monitoring and support 24/7.

Inpatient Detox

Inpatient detox programs may include peer support and some medical care. Some programs include full medical monitoring, with nurses and doctors available 24 hours a day.

These programs are usually the most expensive. Some inpatient detox programs can be a good option for people without insurance.

Inpatient medical rehabilitations are the most advanced form of treatment and monitor. This program can help you stay safe while on the verge of stopping dangerous medications.

Once you have completed detox, your health has stabilized and you are able to afford a full-time program such as this one, you may be eligible for a transfer into a residential program with less supervision.