Drug and alcohol detox is one of the hardest parts of recovery. When a person chooses to kick their addiction, the central nervous system and brain typically undergo an excruciating process of re-calibration to adjust to the new chemical balance. Withdrawals, as they are commonly known, can range from feelings of unease, anxiety, and sweat to convulsion, muscle pain, seizures, and nausea. The range and severity of symptoms depend on the type of substance abused as well as the time length of the addiction. At Landmark Recovery, we strongly advocate for enrolling in a medically supervised detoxification facility if you wish to have the best chances of avoiding a relapse.
Why Detoxing is so Difficult
Drugs and alcohol create chemical imbalances in the brain that radically change the way our bodies react to the environment around it. People abuse drugs and alcohol because of the way these substances artificially inflate our supply of feel-good chemicals. The only problem is, as times goes on, it takes increasing quantities of these substances to achieve the same levels of euphoria as it made initially, known as increasing tolerance. Here’s a video that demonstrates this principle with a simple cartoon.
It takes time for the body and brain to heal from an addiction correctly. That is why rehab and detox centers will place recovering addicts in a safe, supportive environment for as long as it takes the body to stop suffering from withdrawal symptoms. This process is usually helped along through the use of medication such as buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone.
Guide to Alcohol Detox
Prolonged usage of alcohol can lead to a severe physical dependence on the substance to get through the day. Detox from alcohol can be carried out in a private residential clinic or home detox, but it is strongly recommended that alcohol detox is done in a medically supervised setting due to the possibility of a fatality. Alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances to detox from because of the symptoms that can occur, which include possible brain damage, seizures, and heart palpitations, along with similar effects known to result in hospitalizations or death.
If you try to detox on your own, without medical supervision and assistance, it can be very unsafe. The following symptoms can occur:
- Elevated Blood Pressure
- Muscle/Body Pain
- High Body Temperature
- Delirium Tremens
Delirium Tremens is an especially dangerous part of the alcohol detoxification process. The risk of fatality associated with DT’s increases with age along with repeated histories of seizures, liver abnormalities, and other medical illnesses. This set of symptoms includes confusion, sweating, panic attacks, high blood pressure and temperature, and possible seizures. The medical term was initially coined in 1813, but the symptoms had been well documented before then. Nicknames for DT include shakes, barrel-fever, drunken horrors, elephants, and gallon distemper.
How to Detox Safely from Alcohol
Detox is typically carried out on an inpatient basis at a residential treatment center. In a residential treatment center, clinicians will have the medical expertise and resources to create a safe and comfortable detox. The choice of treatment setting depends on a range of factors, like the patient’s age, the history of abuse, psychosocial issues, and co-existing medical conditions. Alcohol detox can last anywhere from one day to two weeks.
Enrolling in a residential rehab center is the best possible to achieve sobriety safely and efficiently, but it is not always possible for everyone to afford the time or money to do this. An at-home detox may be the next best option for this demographic. Having a registered clinician create a structured detox programme can be more practical in some instances. Conducting an at home detox means you can begin immediately, with no waiting lists or risk of delay.
Detoxing in a Residential Treatment Center/Detox Facility
To detox in a residential treatment center or detox facility, conduct an online search in your area for local residences that offer these services. Make sure to select a facility with an appropriate user rating, and that is certified by either the Joint Commission, Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, or other official accreditation entities.
In a residential setting, you will be placed in a safe residence with 24/7 medical personnel and access to food, medicine, supplements, water, and support to ease your transition to sobriety. During detox, medical staff may administer specific medications such as buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone to make the withdrawal symptoms less painful. In some cases, medical personnel may even administer small doses of opioid or benzodiazepine medication. The most common medication-assisted treatment options are:
Suboxone is a prescription medication used for the treatment of opioid addiction. It is a combination of two different drugs: buprenorphine (a partial opioid agonist) and naloxone (an opioid antagonist), and helps to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings while preventing misuse.
Naltrexone is also used as an effective treatment for alcohol withdrawal. It works by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain to reduce cravings while stopping the effects of heroin from taking place.
Buprenorphine, while used as a part of Suboxone, can also be administered by itself. Buprenorphine works with the same opioid receptors that heroin affects, but it is limited and not nearly as potent. Buprenorphine is effective for withdrawal and cravings.
Methadone is more widely known than buprenorphine, but it works in the same fashion. Methadone use is controversial because, when used excessively, it can cause a build up in the body, making overdose a more likely outcome. Methadone users run the risk of becoming addicted.
Medically supervised detox is available as a stand-alone service, along with as an inpatient and outpatient treatment program. If your condition is severe, it is recommended that you attend an inpatient program, because you will be covered by 24 hours of medical supervision.
Detoxing at Home
Detoxing at home is dangerous, so it is recommended that you enlist the support of a registered clinician such as a doctor or nurse if you wish to pursue this method. Many consider at-home detox because it is a comfortable, safe location that gives addicts more control over the timeline and circumstances surrounding their withdrawal. They may also wish to avoid the stigma surrounding the label of an addict and so choose to stay at home. If you believe that self-detox is right for you, it’s essential to follow some crucial steps:
Remove alcohol from your residence
This is the first critical step to an at home detox. When you start to experience the early symptoms of withdrawal, you may be extremely tempted to cave and have a drink to ease the pain. Remove the temptation by simply removing all alcohol from the premises. You may also want to have a friend or family member hold on to your wallet or keys, so you do not purchase more alcohol
Clear your schedule for at least one week
The length and severity of withdrawals are different for everyone, but it’s wise to take at least a week so that your body is more fully detoxed and capable of functioning normally again. It may be difficult to get time off work, but you’ll better off at work and in life without having to rely on alcohol anymore
Get outside support
You may feel tempted to face this alone, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Find a family member or friend who wants to help you stay safe and see if they can periodically monitor you or help supply you with food and water during your time detoxing. Ideally, you will want 24/7 medical supervision, but this is not possible for everyone.
During alcohol withdrawal, you will experience fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and sweating. These symptoms can severely dehydrate you and worsen the already painful side effects of withdrawal. Drink plenty of fluids to rehydrate and flush out the toxins. Water, electrolyte enhanced drinks, ice pops, and gelatin are good options to start.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Once you can regain your appetite, make sure to eat a well-balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fats, as well as lean sources of protein. Your body will need nutrients and fuel to flush the toxins from your body and maintain functionality.
Supplement Vitamins and Minerals
Within a detox facility, administrators will typically prescribe medications and supplements to ensure your vitamin levels remain in a healthy range. Some supplements you can purchase beforehand include B vitamins, C vitamins, E vitamins, calcium, garlic, and magnesium.
Staying Motivated During Recovery
To successfully withdraw from alcohol, you may need the emotional and social support of others. These will be difficult times, so it helps to have friends and family at your side to motivate your recovery. There are also recovery quotes, podcasts on addiction , and other methods to help you. Here are some of our favorite motivational alcohol recovery quotes for overcoming addiction.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger — something better, pushing right back.” – Albert Camus
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller
“We may think there is willpower involved, but more likely … change is due to wanting power. Wanting the new addiction more than the old one. Wanting the new me in preference to the person I am now.” – George Sheehan
“Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” – Bernard Williams
“I realized that I only had two choices: I was either going to die, or I was going to live, and which one did I want to do? And then I said those words, ‘I’ll get help,’ or, ‘I need help. I’ll get help.’ And my life turned around. Ridiculous for a human being to take 16 years to say, ‘I need help.’” - Sir Elton John
“My recovery from drug addiction is the single greatest accomplishment of my life… but it takes work — hard, painful work — but the help is there, in every town and career, drug/drink freed members of society, from every single walk and talk of life to help and guide.” - Jamie Lee Curtis
Motivation during recovering can also come from within. Think of the reasons and purposes behind your decision to stop abusing alcohol. Maybe you did it to become healthy, or for the sake of a loved one. Think about your long-term goals and how alcohol was only going to impede that progress in the long term. Recovery works best for those who can find the motivation to achieve and maintain sobriety in the long run. This means setting goals that don’t have expiration dates or that require continual work. Finding motivation can be difficult, but with the help of licensed psychotherapists and clinicians available at residential treatment centers, recovering addicts can receive the proper help they need to succeed.
Detox may be one of the most physically demanding portions of recovery, but the next part of your journey will involve intense mental strength. Recovering addicts may face intense cravings or periods where alcohol seems like the only solution. The key to avoiding a relapse is to have healthy coping skills available. In residential treatment centers, therapists help teach recovering addicts coping mechanisms and healthy alternatives to addiction. Post-detox life will come with many stressors and temptations to relapse. Ultimately, it will come down to how prepared you are to deal with those moments, and motivated you are to maintain continued sobriety after you detox from alcohol or drugs.
This is where Landmark Recovery can help. We help addicts every single day by customizing treatment plans around the needs of our patients. Landmark will walk you through the detoxing your body from drugs and get you back on the right track. We take care of everything from counseling, therapy sessions, and a wholesome diet, to family networking, spiritual health, workshops, and aftercare planning to ensure victory against addiction. Contact Landmark Recovery today for more information about our detox, outpatient, and alcohol rehab services.