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Medical Detox

Medical detox is the process of slowly weaning a person off of an addictive substance while under the supervision of a medical professional. According to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, almost one in ten Americans over the age of twelve require treatment for some form of addiction.

During a medical detox, patients may be prescribed certain medications to help ease some of the more severe withdrawal symptoms that occur during withdrawal from alcohol or drugs – opiate and alcohol withdrawal being the most dangerous. Detoxification is the first stage of drug and alcohol addiction treatment offered in Massachusetts and is necessary to remove all traces of addictive substances from a patient’s system. Once the patient is free from addictive substances, they can then begin intensive therapy sessions to learn new ways to deal with cravings and negative thought patterns.

How Does Detox Work?

Detoxification works by breaking a person’s physical dependence on addictive substances in a safe and controlled environment. Certain drugs such as heroin cause extremely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, and attempting to quit cold turkey often leads to a relapse. Patients that choose to go through the detoxification process at home are putting their health at risk and reducing their chance of remaining clean.

Types of Medical Detox Programs 

The two main types of medical detox programs offered in Massachusetts are residential care and outpatient care. Residential care involves a person residing at a drug treatment facility for a period of at least 30 days. After completing the initial medical detox phase, patients attend therapy sessions and group counselling to address the causes of their addictions. Outpatient programs offer patients all the same benefits as residential care, but patients return to their own homes at night.

Common Withdrawal Symptoms Associated With Detox

Different drugs produce different withdrawal symptoms in patients, and trained addiction specialists can help patients cope with some of the more severe symptoms.

OxyContin – OxyContin withdrawal can cause severe abdominal pain, irregular heartbeat, hot and cold flashes and frequent nausea and vomiting.

Alcohol – Withdrawing from alcohol after a period of heavy abuse can cause hallucinations, seizures and even death. Many people also experience anxiety, confusion and tremors.

Heroin – Early withdrawal symptoms of heroin include sweating, anxiety and agitation. Addicts will also experience diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps and muscle pain.

Medications Used During the Detox Stage

Suboxone – Suboxone is used to treat opioid addiction and is designed to block the pleasant effects of drugs such as heroin and benzodiazepines. It also reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and some studies report a 60% success rate of people remaining sober for at least one year after using suboxone.

Methadone – Methadone is the most common drug used to treat opiate addiction and has been shown to increase addicts’ physical and mental health as well as lower their risk of overdose. As methadone can be extremely habit forming in itself, it is only available from government approved clinics.

Antabuse – Antabuse is used to treat those with chronic alcoholism and produces unpleasant symptoms when combined with alcohol. It also inhibits the body’s ability to process alcohol by blocking an enzyme known as acetaldehyde dehydrogenase.

Due to the severe withdrawal symptoms associated with substance abuse, many addicts are unable to stop taking drugs without professional assistance. Addicts require a combination of prescription medications, medical supervision and intensive psychotherapy sessions to fully detox from drugs or alcohol and remain sober. Residential treatment centers offer addicts the best chance of getting clean and becoming productive members of society. Patients stay in a safe, supportive environment that helps them to prepare for reentry into their former lives and adjust to sober living.

If you are struggling with addiction, a medical detox can help you break your dependency on drugs or alcohol. Contact a Massachusetts drug and alcohol treatment center for more information and to discuss the best treatment options for you.