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The First Step to Drug Rehabilitation

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The process of recovery from substance dependence and abuse can be seen as occurring in stages and along a continuum. For drug and alcohol treatment to be truly effective for you, you must undergo a series of essential steps that are complementary to one another and work together to achieve the goal of lifelong recovery. In addiction treatment, those elements are medical detoxification, inpatient treatment, intensive outpatient treatment and aftercare programming, active participation is sober support groups such as AA and NA as well as sober living environments such as halfway houses.

Medical detoxification is considered an essential early step in the recovery process and is part of your overall plan of long-term recovery. You may have heard horror stories about detoxification and may fear the detox process. You also may feel they you can quit on their own or undergo forms of self-detoxification. As it will be explained later in the article, these methods are highly discouraged and have the potential to have life-threatening consequences for you. It is not only important to note the benefits of medical detoxification, but what is involved in the medical detoxification process and how it ties into the larger recovery picture.

What is Medical Detoxification?

In its’ simplest terms, the medical detoxification process safely manages the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal associated with stopping drug use. Many drugs significantly impact the overall functioning of both the body and mind. If you abruptly stop takes drugs and/or alcohol you can experience a series of physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms that can be extremely uncomfortable and painful. Additionally, these withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening depending on any underlying medical conditions you may have.

In a safe, secure and controlled environment, the medical detox process can help minimize these withdrawal symptoms and allow you to become physically and psychologically stable and free of substances. Once this is established, you can transition into intensive drug treatment. It is important to note that medical detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug use. Although detoxification alone is rarely sufficient to help addicts achieve long-term abstinence, for some individuals it is a strongly indicated precursor to effective drug addiction treatment.

Origins of Medical Detoxification and its Benefits

The emergence of medical detoxification in relation to substance abuse recovery had its’ roots in the 1970’s when the medical model of care emerged.  Prior to that time period, those who were intoxicated or showed signs of intoxication were often arrested and held in so-called “drunk tanks” or other holding areas.  Without medical intervention, individuals often had to handle the withdrawal symptoms “cold turkey” and sometimes with significant physical and emotional consequences.

As defined by Quick Guide for Clinicians published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), detoxification is a set of interventions aimed at managing acute withdrawal and intoxication.  With detoxification, there is a clearing out of the toxins that have accumulated in the body and these interventions are used to minimize both the physical and psychological harm caused by substance abuse.

There are three guiding principles behind medical detoxification:

  1. Evaluation-the testing of substances in the bloodstream, their concentrations and any co-occurring mental or physical conditions that may accompany substance abuse as well as other medical and social assessments.
  2. Stabilization-assisting patients through the withdrawal process towards a stable and substance-free state.
  3. Fostering Entry into Treatment-preparing clients to enter formal treatment and providing encouragement and support.

How Long Does the Medical Detoxification Process Last?

The process of detoxification from substance abuse can vary depending on the type of drug or drugs that have been abused, the frequency of their use and abuse, the presence of other drugs of abuse in your system, and the length of time the substances were taken. In general, the medical detoxification process generally can last between 3 to 5 days. During that time period, the individual may experience a variety of symptoms associated with withdrawal including vomiting, nausea, muscle cramps and bone pain for examples.

With certain drugs, such as heroin, oxycodone or Xanax for example, individuals may be given smaller doses of the abused drug or given synthetic derivatives in order to wean the body gradually off of that substance because sudden withdrawal could cause severe physical effects.  Other factors that can determine length of stay in medical detox include, among others:

  1. Significant swings in mental status
  2. Age of client
  3. Cultural views and attitudes towards treatment
  4. Working with parents of dependent children

What to Expect When Entering a Medical Detoxification Facility

Once you enter a medical detoxification facility you may be searched for items that could cause harm to themselves or staff. Those items can include shoelaces, clothing with drawstrings, and other medications or prescriptions they may be abusing. Once you are secured, you will begin the detoxification process and will experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms as described above. Licensed, experienced and trained staff will closely monitor you and may use synthetic medication or other interventions to help minimize those symptoms.

During the medical detox process, you will undergo a comprehensive physical evaluation as well as a mental health screening in order to see if you suffer from any co-occurring mental disorders such as depression or anxiety. Drug use is often seen as a symptom of a deeper mental issue. If there is a co-occurring disorder, detox staff can create an initial and individualized recovery plan that will address these issues and will serve as the basis of a plan of care once you enter drug treatment. Once you are in a state in which you are medical, psychologically and emotionally stable, you will be prepared to enter formal treatment with initial treatment plans put together from the various medical, social and psychological assessments that are performed by detox staff.

For Treatment That Will Help You Recover For a Lifetime, Call Ocean Breeze Recovery

Drug treatment–and especially drug detox–can be frightening for you or a loved who is struggling with substance abuse. Much of what you hear concerning this process is based on myth or misinformation. While the medical detox process can be uncomfortable, the experienced staff at Ocean Breeze Recovery will ensure that detox will be made as comfortable as possible and with your health in mind. Our experienced detox staff will constantly monitor you around the clock and will help create a personalized plan of treatment and care that is specifically designed for you.

If you have questions regarding detox and drug treatment, speak to one of Ocean Breeze Recovery’s experienced staff members today. Don’t wait another minute; contact us today and break the cycle of addiction today.


Stephanie T.

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