Medical detox is the medical process conducted after an assessment once a person enters a rehab program. The goal of detoxification is to begin physical healing after long-term alcohol or drug abuse.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), recommends once a person is stabilized, a medical detox is performed to eliminate from the body any illicit substances. The medical detoxification also treats the withdrawal symptoms by minimizing or eliminating them.
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Medical detox breaks the body’s physical dependence on substances by using prescribed medications. The medications, administered by medical staff, remove illicit substances from the body. Medications used replace the illicit substances by imitating their effects, with less intensity, to eliminate any physical drug cravings.
Medications are also given to decrease or eradicate any withdrawal symptoms. The process is tightly controlled to avoid any shock to the body that would happen with an abrupt stop. The controls are needed to minimize health complications, reduce discomfort and decrease the chances of medical complications.
It is dangerously risky to detox at home. Medical emergencies cannot be dealt with immediately and emergencies are unpredictable, can easily occur and can be serious or fatal.
Additionally, prescribed medications to minimize discomfort and keep someone safe aren’t available when detoxing at home, as there is no medical staff on hand to administer medications.
Using illicit substances eventually leads to long-term alterations in brain chemistry. While these changes develop in the brain, receptors stop functioning correctly, producing neurochemical reactions when the substance isn’t available and withdrawal starts. When the calming brain chemicals are not being manufactured and excessive toxins build up in the brain, and there are no illicit substances being taken, painful and distressing withdrawal symptoms appear.
When alcoholics try to cut back or stop the amount of alcohol consumption, alcohol withdrawal symptoms will appear. Seizures, convulsions, tremors and disorientation are common with heavy drinkers. Hallucinations are known to occur with alcoholics. Alcohol detox is an especially dangerous situation and death can result if not medically supervised.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms manifest when a person tries to decrease or stop taking it with no prescribed medications to replace heroin. Symptoms are painful and can result in death in some cases. Heroin withdrawal symptoms may include perspiration, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, agitation, and severe anxiety. A medical opiate detox minimizes or eliminates these symptoms.
Traditional Medical Detox
The medical detox process reduces the levels of addictive substances a person has in the body. The process replaces these substances with other substances such as methadone, benzodiazepines, or other replacement medications. Over approximately a few days, the levels of the replacement drugs will be lowered until the body can function without stimulation of any kind and no longer displays any distressful symptoms.
Rapid detox is used selectively, is not for everyone, and depends on the health of a person. Consultation with addiction center medical professionals is needed to see if this is a recommended course of treatment. Opiates abuse responds best to a rapid detox.
The person is put to sleep and while unconscious, the process begins. Medications are given which block effects of all opiates. The person doesn’t feel painful withdrawal symptoms while asleep. Upon awakening, the ability to experience the pleasurable effects from opiates is lost.
The addict can take opiates to experience a “high”, but opiates won’t deliver the same effects as before detox. Once the ability to enjoy opiates’ effects is lost, it removes the motivation for the person to abuse them.
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