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Safe Detoxing

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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