Drug addiction is defined clinically as a condition in which a person is physically and mentally dependent on one or more drugs. Although alcohol is technically a drug, we tend to distinguish it from other drugs such as heroin and cocaine. These other drugs can have far more serious effects on both brain and other body functions, leading to severe consequences.
Recovering from a drug addiction starts with detox. The detox process enables the body to cleanse itself of the substances being used, thereby restoring brain function and the body’s ability to naturally heal itself. Rehabilitative therapies are put in place following detox in order to complete recovery.
If you are looking for help for yourself or a loved one, please understand that recovery is a multi-phase process. Detox addresses the physical portion of addiction while rehabilitative therapy addresses the mental and emotional. That said, it is nearly impossible to succeed with rehabilitative therapy unless detox is completed first. Detox is always the first step toward successful recovery.
We can only give you a general overview for drug detox because there are so many different kinds of drugs to deal with. Generally speaking, drug detox lasts anywhere from 7 to 10 days. It can be completed in a residential setting (such as BlueSkies) or on an outpatient basis.
A doctor or recovery specialist begins by examining the individual to determine the severity of his or her addiction and develop a detox plan. In some cases, like heroin detox, for example, substitute medications can be given to allow for gradual withdrawal and the least severe withdrawal symptoms. In other instances, there are no substitute medications available.
Please understand that an addict should never attempt to detox on his/her own. Some drugs involve withdrawal symptoms that are severe enough to present a medical emergency if the individual is not properly monitored. You should only detox with the help of an experienced and certified professional.
During the early stages of detox, the client is made as comfortable as possible. Within a few hours of the last instance of drug use, withdrawal symptoms will begin setting in. Those symptoms will gradually increase until they reach their peak before subsiding and eventually disappearing. During that time, the individual’s health is continually monitored for any signs of a medical emergency. Treatment staff also do their best to make sure the person remains comfortable.
Completion of a detox programme enables the individual to begin rehabilitative treatment. Where detox lasts 7 to 10 days, rehab can take anywhere from three to 12 weeks, depending on individual circumstances.
The nature and severity of withdrawal symptoms depend on the drugs being used. In a general sense, the different withdrawal symptoms are divided into two categories: physical and emotional. Below are some of the most common symptoms in both categories. Keep in mind that some drugs (such as heroin and tranquillisers) produce more of the physical withdrawal symptoms while other drugs (such as cocaine and marijuana) produce more of the emotional withdrawal symptoms.
Physical withdrawal symptoms:
- increased heart rate, palpitations
- muscle tension, tightness in the chest
- breathing problems
- tremors or shakes
- nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea.
Emotional withdrawal symptoms:
- anxiety, irritability, restlessness
- inability to concentrate
- insomnia and/or nightmares
- depression, feelings of isolation
- excessive cravings.
Some drugs can potentially produce withdrawal symptoms of a more serious nature. Among them is a condition known as delirium tremens. This condition produces a full range of symptoms including hallucinations, seizures and more. Although such serious withdrawal symptoms rarely lead to a medical emergency, the possibility always exists. This is why we recommend individuals not attempt to detox on their own.
If you or someone you love is currently in the throes of drug addiction, we invite you to contact BlueSkies for help right away. We offer a modern, state-of-the-art facility that provides detox and rehabilitative therapies. We can help you achieve recovery, enabling you to move forward into a life free of addictive substances and behaviours.