What is Drug Detox Like?
Going to detox is scary. Maybe we’ve tried detoxing ourselves or have gone to a detox facility before, and experienced the difficulty of coming off drugs or alcohol. Or maybe you’ve never gone through the process and are frightened to live without drugs and alcohol. The wonderful news is that professional detox facilities really can help you go through the withdrawal process with minimal discomfort.
It’s important to not try to detox on your own. With many substances, going cold turkey is incredibly dangerous. For example, seizures are a possible klonopin withdrawal symptom, and withdrawing from alcohol may prove fatal. Furthermore, a common symptom of withdrawal from most substances is an intense craving to use. Being in the right setting with support can help us stay sober and get through the withdrawals so we never have to experience it again!
As we discuss what happens in detox, keep in mind that each facility is unique. We are offering general statements about detox, and cannot speak for any specific facility. If you’re thinking of going to detox, we encourage you to speak to the facility yourself and ask questions to find out more about them and their program!
One of the most important parts of the drug detox program is the level of physical care. Detox from benzodiazepines and alcohol can cause seizures and severe muscle contractions. Detox from opioids may cause fevering and chills. As such, a detox facility will monitor your vitals, possibly prescribe medication, and make sure you are safe throughout the process.
The regimen of care differs depending on the individual, facility, and substance of abuse. In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help ease withdrawal symptoms or taper the person off the chemicals. In other cases, the person may go cold turkey and be prescribed lots of rest and relaxation. Either way, detox centers have professional staff, doctors, and nurses there to make sure your needs are met. There’s no avoiding the discomfort that comes with detox, but we can work to minimize the pain.
In addition to the physical level of care offered, many detox facilities will offer some therapeutic care. Although the deeper work may be done in inpatient treatment after detox, it can be helpful to have a trained clinician there for you throughout the process. Whether you’re feeling pain, considering leaving to use, or need someone to talk to, a trained therapist can sit with you and offer perspective.
Some detoxes may have regular groups or twelve-step meetings as well. This offers the person an opportunity to engage with other people who are going through or have gone through the difficult process of withdrawal. Social support is an important aspect of recovery from any disease or disorder, and addiction is no different.
The Withdrawal Process
The process of withdrawal is subject to the individual’s condition. This includes what substance the person was using, how much/often they were using, and their individual body chemistry. Because of these variables, the withdrawal and detox process varies greatly from individual to individual. However, you can expect a few things.
The first few days of detox are often the most difficult. The acute withdrawal symptoms will generally peak in the 3-5 day range depending on the half-life of the drugs you were using. During this period, people will usually go through the worst of the process. The good news is that after the first week or so, things tend to get easier.
The acute symptoms will begin to subside, sometimes slowly. Many detox facilities keep people for 5-10 days, as this is how long it takes for the drugs to completely leave your system. However, you may continue to experience psychological symptoms of drug detox like anxiety, irritability, insomnia, mood changes, and altered eating habits for a few weeks after.
Although the physical symptoms generally cease within a week or two, the cravings and changes in mental state may persist for some time. This is one of the reasons that it is important to continue on to a sober living or treatment center. Just because we have removed the drugs from our system does not mean we are cured or immune to addiction. To get sober and stay sober requires some work to deal with these difficulties we face in everyday life.
Settings and Locations
There are many different detox facilities offering different programs and levels of care. Some detox programs are offered in a hospital setting. Treatment centers may offer sub-acute detox in a residential home or facility. There are many different places to detox from luxurious mansions to local hospitals. Ultimately, your desire to get clean and sober is what matters, not the fanciness of your surroundings.