What is drug detoxification?

What is drug detoxification?

General overview about detox

The word detoxification or detox has become popular among those who want to lead healthier lifestyles or diet. However, detoxification is an important concept to understand in the context of addiction, where it is associated with the first step in a rehabilitation program.For more sophisticated information related to detoxification and home detox services, you can reach out to Dr. Seitz.

Generally speaking, detox is the process of letting the addicting drug leave the body completely. Detox means that the person might experience withdrawal as he or she begins a period of abstinence to get “clean”.  However, as detox is a potentially dangerous, unpleasant and difficult process (depending on the drug), it is important to seek medical help before you begin.

So, why is it important to seek medical assistance for detoxification? The cessation of drug or alcohol use is often associated with withdrawal symptoms that appear hours or days after last use.  For example, in the case of heroin, withdrawal symptoms can appear just 8 hours after the last dose. When a person uses a substance, their body becomes habituated to it, so its absence, even if it is a harmful substance, can cause a severe reaction.

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Some drugs are associated with fairly mild withdrawal symptoms (e.g. marijuana), while others (like alcohol or sedatives like Xanax) can have potentially lethal effects.  Even when the symptoms are not life-threatening, they can be extremely uncomfortable and make it unlikely that the individual will successfully complete detox.  Luckily, there are specific and highly effective medicines to treat such withdrawal symptoms so the individual can remain quite comfortable during detox as long as the withdrawal medications are taken correctly under the supervision of an experienced physician.  With professional help, it becomes more likely that the individual will both complete the detox process safely and be able to achieve long-term sobriety.

Additional issues are the presence of co-existing physical or psychiatric conditions. Many people are addicted to more than one substance, so quitting them all at the same time can be difficult. Many have mental health disorders or physical conditions that may be exacerbated by the withdrawal symptoms. Finally, there are some patients (like those with chronic pain) who may experience re-emergence of their symptoms even after a successful detox.  All these considerations often make drug detox a complex process, but one that can be successfully managed by a trained Addiction Medicine specialist.


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