Drug detoxification (normally referred to simply
as 'detox') is the most important part of becoming free from addiction,
and for this reason, drug detox should be handled with great care.
Detox is a medical procedure, and should be handled in a medical
facility under great supervision.
The reason for this is that detox can be fatal.
What happens to the body when one becomes addicted is a chemical
change, and to take this chemical away from the body all at once
without proper care from the drug detox can turn from a positive
process to a fatal one.
The physical symptoms of detoxification vary
according to what type of drugs you are detoxing from. Because there
are thousands of chemical reactions that can occur in our body as a
result of the drugs, taking the drug away will affect those chemical
reactions. Symptoms range from cold sweats to shaking, to things as
serious as convulsions and heart palpitations. Here is what you can
expect from specific drugs:
Stimulants (eg. cocaine, amphetamines): These
drugs enhance nerve cell signaling. As a result, the nerve's native
signaling chemicals are depleted. This and sleep disturbance are the
neuro-biochemical reasons for the "come down" from cocaine and speed.
Benzodiazapenes (eg. Valium, Xanax, Ativan,
Ambien): Drugs in this category turn down the signal of nerve cells.
They make you sleepy and relaxed. When these drugs are stopped, the
nerves are sensitive to the smallest stimulation. Taking these drugs
out of your system will make you very jittery and shaky. You may have
trouble sleeping, and in severe cases, you could have convulsions.
Alcohol: An abrupt cessation of alcohol
consumption can cause seizures and even a heart attack. Hallucinations,
sleep disturbance, and anxiety can occur as well.
Opiates (eg. heroin, Vicodin): These drugs are
used as pain killers and are meant to soothe and calm the body.
Withdrawal from opiates can be particularly painful and severe. Expect
sweating, severe muscle aches, nausea, and intense cravings.
Because these symptoms are so painful, detoxing
from opiates often lead addicts to begin using again. Medical
technology has provided specific drugs that can help with
detoxification symptoms. While it sounds odd to take a drug in order to
get off a drug, because some of the symptoms are so severe, having
certain pain-killers available can be very important. Also, the drugs
used are generally not addictive, and when you are under the care of a
doctor, they will monitor your usage very carefully until you won't
have to take those drugs anymore.
Having said this, some detox centres are
explicitly non-medicated, meaning that they resist giving
pain-relieving drugs during the detox process. Even so, such facilities
have medical professionals constantly monitoring their patients, and
ready to respond to any medical emergency.
Detox is the first and necessary step in the
process of rehabilitation for drug addicts of all varieties. The
overall rehab process can take many months and even years, but it
begins with detox, and this process should not normally take longer
than about one week.
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