Drug detox is the first, and most critical step in recovery from addiction. During the drug detox process, an individual cleanses his or her body of toxins and chemicals from the drugs he or she has been using during addiction. If an individual wishes to get sober and remain in recovery from addiction, drug detox is the first step along the path.
How Does Drug Detox Work?
Drug detox can be accomplished in many different ways, which mostly depend on the drug from which an individual needs to withdraw.
The most common form of drug detox is traditional, which should not be confused with “cold turkey”. A traditional detox allows an addicted individual to enter a detox facility, and have the support of staff and medical personnel for the purposes of:
- Administering medication if/when necessary to ease severe withdrawal symptoms
- Monitoring individuals to prevent any medical or health complications
- Providing moral support throughout the drug detox process to encourage the individual to complete the process
- Help provide a more seamless transition into addiction treatment from the drug detox process
When an individual first enters a detox facility to withdraw from his or her drug(s) of addiction, he or she will go through in intake process during which a nurse will ask a series of questions which include:
- When was the last time you used?
- What did you use?
- How much did you use?
- How often were you using on a daily basis?
- Do you use any other prescription, illegal, or over-the-counter drugs?
- Do you have any known medical conditions, illnesses, or diseases?
- When was the last time you ate?
- What did you eat?
- Have you been through a drug detox before?
The nurse will likely also check blood pressure, heart rate, lung function, and draw blood to get a toxicology report before the drug detox process begins.
Depending on the drug(s) of addiction, the process of detox can range from 5 days up to 30. This also depends on the way in which an individual chooses to go about detox. In most cases, drug detox is not dangerous, and many medications are available to increase comfort and ease severe withdrawal symptoms.
Holistic Drug Detox
There is another method of drug detox one may opt for when making the decision to get sober from drugs. Aside from “cold turkey”, which is not recommended, the other option for drug detox is holistic. Contrary to traditional drug detox, holist detox does not include any medications. During a holistic drug detox, a facility will still monitor each individual and provide emergency care, should it become necessary to do so. However, the planned detox typically involves a variety of treatments while the individual is withdrawing for the drug(s) of his or her addiction. Some of these treatments can include:
- Hot tubs
- Acupuncture therapy
- Massage therapy
- Meditative therapy
- Exercise therapy
- Water therapy
- Vitamin therapy
For individuals who choose to completely rid themselves of pharmaceuticals, holistic drug detox may be the more effective route. Just as safe as traditional detox, holistic detox facilities also have an intake process during which each individual is medically examined and assessed, and medical attention is given if it should become necessary for any reason.
Holistic drug detox is a growing preference among addicts seeking sobriety from their drug(s) of choice because of the “whole body” approach of holistic treatments. Holistic refers to the mind, body, and spirit of an individual, so every step of the process is aimed to improve and strengthen each part of the whole person.
Opioid and Heroin Drug Detox Methods
Drugs detox for substances like heroin and opioid painkillers can vary between four main methods, depending on the individual, and his or her preferences with the speed and intensity of the detox. The first method of drug detox for heroin and painkillers is traditional, which is the same for every drug of addiction. Depending on the severity and length of addiction, traditional detox usually takes between 5-14 days. This also depends on whether or not other drugs have been abused with the heroin and/or painkillers.
Other forms of drug detox available for those who struggle with addiction to painkiller and/or heroin are not available for any other drug as of yet.
Rapid Opiate Drug Detox
Rapid opiate detox is an inpatient procedure performed while the individual is under general anesthesia. The process usually lasts about 48 hours from the time an individual checks into the hospital, to the time he or she is walking out, drug-free. The process is as follows:
- Patient checks into the hospital and begins the intake process during which he or she is asked a series of questions about use, length and severity of addiction, physical health, potential complications, and blood is drawn
- The patient goes into his or her hospital room, dressed in a hospital gown, and is given general anesthesia
- While unconscious, medical staff administer an opiate antagonist, which immediately reverses the effects of the opiates, and initiates an instant onset of full withdrawal. The unconscious patient does not feel this, however he or she can be witnessed having muscle spasms (kicking).
- After approximately 12 hours, the drugs are completely out of the patient’s system, and he or she is held for a few more hours to ensure stabilization
- Within 48 hours of entering the hospital, the patient is ready to leave, drug-free, assuming there have been no complications
While this process is very fast and convenient, many people who have participated in a rapid drug detox procedure have reported feeling very fatigued, sore and uncomfortable at completion. Many of these individuals have requested some form of medication to help them feel better, which has a tendency to undermine the purpose of the process and facilitate relapse. For many more, however, the process has been a complete success and those who have gone through it have managed to stay sober and remain in recovery from addiction.
Opiate Assisted Drug Detox
For individuals addicted to heroin or painkillers, some opt to use long-lasting opioid to help taper the drug(s) of addiction, and then taper the long-lasting opioid. There are two main opioids used for this process; Methadone and Buprenorphine. Both are strong and very long-lasting opioids, Methadone lasting up to 36 hours and Buprenorphine up to 72 hours. The process of this type of drug detox is to administer the long-lasting opioid while withdrawing the individual from the heroin and/or painkillers without having to experience withdrawal symptoms. Since the long-lasting opiods bind to the opiate receptors in the brain just as they do with heroin and painkillers, the individual still has opioids in his or her system, so withdrawal symptoms will be extremely minimal, if felt at all. Over a period of several weeks, the individual will be slowly tapered down on his or her dosage of the long-lasting opioid, until they can completely withdraw, having the slightest amount of withdrawal symptoms.
While this process can last upwards of 30 days, it is very effective in significantly reducing withdrawal symptoms from heroin and/or painkillers.
After Drug Detox
Once drug detox has been completed, it is likely necessary to enter into an addiction rehab center for continued care and maintenance of newly-formed sobriety. Often, drug detox is the first part of addiction rehab, and can be completed within the rehab facility itself, making a truly seamless transition to rehab therapy treatments and sessions. It is important to understand that drug detox alone does nothing to address the root causes behind addiction and the destructive behaviors that lead to it. Drug detox also does not prepare an addict for returning home and maintaining sobriety while tackling the daily stress, pressure, and business of life. These are important things to consider when making a decision of what to do after drug detox has been completed. These are also all things that are addressed in addiction rehab programs, to prepare recovering addicts for all they will face when they return home. Additionally, addiction rehab programs help addicts to recognize dangerous people, places and things that may jeopardize their sobriety, among many other valuable and powerful tools and skills that are very effective when applied in the home environment.
If you, or a loved one is in need of drug detox, please call us now at to speak with a trained counselor about the situation. We will work with you to help you determine the kind of drug detox that will work best for you, or your addicted loved one. Additionally, we will talk with you about options for addiction rehab, if you are considering that as well. We can assure you, that after working hard to earn sobriety back from addiction, it’s never a bad idea to insure sobriety and get a strong foundation for recovery in a rehab program. We can help you find the one that is best for yourself or your loved one, based on need, preferences, and belief system. Don’t wait to get help, and don’t underestimate the power of addiction. We are here to help you help yourself. Please call now.