What Is A Medical Detox?

Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reflect that 4.1 million Americans aged 12 and older had gotten treatment for their substance addiction. Many of the people who receive treatment for their addiction are required to complete a detox or medical detox before their treatment can progress. A medical detox is typically performed in extreme cases where it is deemed necessary by the program facilitator.

What is a detox?

A detoxification is the time in which a patient of a drug treatment program needs to endure the withdrawal symptoms of their substance abuse and work the drug out of their system. Depending on the severity of the addiction and what substance is abused, detoxification can sometimes be severely unpleasant. A medical detox is used in severe instances where a patient may not be able to cope with the acute withdrawal symptoms.

A medical detox is done in a detox facility that is staffed with doctors and nurses who are able to give medical attention and administer medication in gradually decreased dosages to ease the withdrawal symptoms of patients. Traditional detoxifications can be done at drug treatment centers; more commonly at inpatient facilities.

How does a detox work?

The point of a detoxification is to help the patient get past the withdrawal symptoms so they break the physical dependence to the abused substance. By enduring the symptoms in a controlled environment during the detoxification, patients are not able to obtain and abuse substances to self-medicate. A medical detox involves medication administered to patients in gradually decreasing dosages until the patient is able to cope and their treatment program can continue.

Medications for withdrawal symptoms

Some medications have been approved in the United States for use in easing withdrawal symptoms. Some of the medications include:

  • Suboxone: Suboxone is prescribed to people who suffer from opiate withdrawal. The chemicals inside Suboxone consist of an agonist and antagonist that are used to mildly mimic a decreased opiate induced effect on the person while blocking opiate receptors so that increased effects cannot be felt even if an opiate is abused.
  • Antabuse: Antabuse is prescribed to patients who suffer from alcoholism as it blocks an enzyme that is needed in metabolizing alcohol once it has been consumed. If even a small amount of alcohol is consumed while the effects of Antabuse are still occurring, the user will experience extremely unpleasant side effects such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, light headedness, weakness, confusion and blurred vision among others.
  • Bupropion: This medication is used to help patients who are experiencing extreme depression that can be a symptom of withdrawal. It is also known to reduce cravings that are felt from the withdrawal symptoms of some substances such as nicotine.

Withdrawal symptoms

The withdrawal symptoms that are experienced by addicts vary depending on which substance is abused. Below is a list of the withdrawal symptoms of some drugs:

  • Methamphetamines: Withdrawal symptoms that are typically experienced following methamphetamine abuse include fatigue, depression, paranoia, increased appetite, sleep pattern irregularities and vivid or lucid dreams.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically occur 8 hours after the last alcoholic beverage is consumed. Symptoms include anxiety, fatigue, depression, shaking, mood swings, irritability and an inability to think clearly.
  • Heroin: Some side effects that are caused from heroin use include nausea and vomiting. The withdrawal symptoms once abuse has stopped include body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, shivering, sweating and severe discomfort.

Detoxification should be assisted by professionals in a suitable environment to ease the patient’s withdrawal symptoms as much as possible and keep them from obtaining addictive substances.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.