The road to sobriety is not easy, and never has been – but never before have we had access to as many tools, methods and actionable treatment plans as today. Let modern medicine take you through the path to better living with a comprehensive detoxification plan.
There is no sure-fire cookie-cutter answer to any substance problem. Every case is different and carries with it a different set of emotional, physical and mental circumstances. Nobody understands that better than we here at Vantage Point Recovery. With decades of combined experience, we know that help isn’t found in 12-step programs or experimental medicine – every patient’s best treatment plan is something we tailor specifically to their needs, and what they respond to best – and detoxification is something every sufferer of addiction must overcome.
When tackling sobriety, detoxification specifically can be considered the most crucial point of recovery. It’s the first actionable – and dangerous – step towards a healthy life, emotionally and physically, and for most, it will take its toll. That’s why it’s important for both the patients and their loved ones to understand what a detox process entails, how it works, and what to expect over the course of the days and weeks during which the body recovers from its abuse.
As we’ve said, the road to sobriety is not easy; but we can assure you of one thing. There’s a bright future at the end of this tunnel, and it’ll be the most rewarding journey you’ll ever undergo.
What is Detoxification?
Detoxification is a physical and emotional process, and it can be a dire time. Under the supervision of an experienced physician, each patient will be brought into a supportive environment that works to remove the influence of addictive drugs, while allowing the body to recover from substance abuse.
Understanding detoxification requires an understanding of addiction. Addiction is not only mental – it’s often physical. The body develops a need for a substance in order to remain functional – without it, it begins to show symptoms of extreme withdrawal, ranging from symptoms such as depression and headaches to nausea and vomiting.
Addiction is a creeping feeling, fueled in part by emotional circumstances, and in part by a physical need for an addictive substance. It’s hard to define the moment when someone becomes addicted, but the general red line can be considered to be when a person realizes that they cannot stop consuming a substance even when they want to, to the point that it begins to affect certain parts of their life, including:
Addiction develops in two ways: through the brain, and through the body. Before we understood how the chemical process behind addiction functioned, it was blamed largely on a lack of willpower. Today, we understand that it has more to do with neuroscience.
Whether a substance or an activity, certain individuals find extreme pleasure in certain activities. Over time, the constant flooding of the brain’s pleasure center with dopamine leads to an insensitivity towards the neurotransmitter – leading towards tolerance, and eventually, compulsion and cravings.
It’s different from person to person – just as some people have a natural tolerance to alcohol, some people have a natural deterrence towards its addictive properties, no matter how much they drink. On the other hand, someone else may not have had to have much to drink over the course of their lifetime before quickly developing dependence.
The Link between Addiction and Mental Health
One thing that recent research has discovered is that six in ten addicted individuals – be it to licit substances like alcohol and nicotine, or illegal drugs – has also been diagnosed with a mental disorder. This presents difficulties in non-tailored treatment methods, as the best approach is to identify the issue of addiction and the underlying mental condition, and to treat both in an integrated fashion.
Some cases of addiction can be battled with a strong support system, and finding alternatives to whatever the source of addiction is. In other cases, depending on the substance involved, tolerance can lead to physical dependence. With certain drugs like pain medication, a growing reliance and need for new prescription drugs may also hide growing underlying symptoms, another driving force for addiction.
In such severe cases where the physical dependence of a substance is a factor – like in severe alcoholics – the withdrawal phase of a detox is the most dangerous, to the point where some patients can face fatal symptoms without a physician present. When the body is weaned off a substance, it takes some time to adjust and revert back to a normal, functioning and healthy state.
Taking You through the Detoxification Process
Detoxifying a body and mind entails creating an environment that removes a patient from the influence and presence of their drug of choice, puts them under medical supervision, and then slowly prepares them for a sober life.
There is no on or off switch behind addiction – the fight against addiction never ends, but does become easier. And it all depends on the success of the first few simple steps.
Step One – Acceptance
Step one is a mental decision, and has little to do with the body – it’s accepting and agreeing to a residential treatment or treatment plan of your choice. The most important thing in the path to recovery from addiction is that the patient themselves wants to get better, with every fiber of their being.
There is no effective treatment plan in this world for someone who does not want to accept or fight against their addiction. You can compel an individual to get better, and many enter rehab as a result of court mandates or an employer’s or family’s wishes, but it isn’t until cooperation begins between a patient and their treatment that results begin to show.
In cases of severe depression and other mental disorders, certain steps have to be taken alongside battling the addiction to establish a support system and form of therapy that gives the patient the freedom to choose sobriety and reject their old way of thinking.
Outside of that, careful steps have to be taken by the family to stage an intervention, make arrangements with therapists, and help encourage their loved one to take the path of recovery, hoping that they in the end choose of their own will to lead a better life. It’s our natural instinct to want to get better, for ourselves and those around us.
From there, it’s a matter of coordinating with the treatment center of your choice to begin the detoxification. Here at Vantage Point Recovery, we take into account a patient’s medical and family history, personal drug use history, and other factors that can help us determine and diagnose the type and severity of a case, and find the best and safest way to move forward.
Step Two – Detox
Step two involves the actual detoxification and withdrawal symptoms. It’s not recommended for individuals with severe addictions to detox on their own – especially in the case of opiate and alcohol addiction – because the symptoms can be life-threatening. Some possible symptoms include:
- Muscle cramping.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Lack of appetite.
The severity of the withdrawal phase depends on the patient, their level of addiction, physical tolerance, and emotional state. However, symptoms almost always begin to appear as soon as 24 hours after the last intake of the drug in question.
Regarding the Use of Drugs in Drug Detoxification
While it sounds paradoxical, it’s not always a medically-sound idea to force a patient to go “cold turkey”, or stop all drug use completely. Some addictions can only be battled and properly detoxified through a slow and steady process, in order to avoid some of the above symptoms, and potentially avoid a fatal moment.
But it isn’t just a matter of addressing a patient’s physical dangers. Detoxification brings with it the potential to aggravate or introduce feelings of dread, severe depression, and anxiety. While the detox process is by its very nature tough, there is no need for it to be emotionally traumatic.
At Vantage Point, we take the utmost care of our patients and take into account their very personal needs – that includes formulating a withdrawal treatment that alleviates their suffering as best as possible, without hindering the process of detoxification.
Depending on a person’s addiction and withdrawal symptoms, doctors may call for the use of any of the following substances to relieve symptoms, including:
- Barbiturates – in controlled dosages, they act as sedatives to calm a patient during detoxification. Common barbiturates administered include phenobarbital, which is commonly used to treat epilepsy.
- Benzodiazepine – an anti-anxiety medication given most commonly during alcohol detoxification, to relieve the feelings of dread and depression following alcohol withdrawal. Common examples of benzodiazepine include Diazepam, also known as Valium. It’s also used in stimulant addiction, to substances such as cocaine and methamphetamine.
- Methadone – the original and most common detox drug against heroin, it is used to ease the body off heroin dependence without the dangers of severe withdrawal. However, in some patients, methadone becomes a new addiction.
- Buprenorphine – used in the treatment of opioid addiction as an alternative to methadone, in that it does not produce a high, and still relieves some of the symptoms associated with heroin withdrawal. Since heroin is one of the most severely addictive substances there is, many patients continue to take buprenorphine after detox and rehab for a few weeks or months, to taper off drugs entirely.
Not all examples of withdrawal involve the use of medication – but if the symptoms warrant it, then doctors will administer these drugs to save a patient’s life and keep them healthy.
Detoxifying the body is the first step towards proper recovery, and a healthy sober life – but it is far from the last. Once the drugs are out of the system, the physical portion of addiction recovery has been addressed – but the mental and emotional portion behinds.
While addiction resides in both the mind and the body, detoxifying the mind to conform to new habits and create behavioral changes to prevent a relapse can take much longer than training a body to function without alcohol or opioids. Once the detoxification is over, we here at Vantage Point Recovery will work closely with a patient and their support system of friends and family to create an environment that fosters a drug-free life filled diverse interests that help someone tackle the issues of addiction and depression with natural forms of dopamine release.
The possibility of relapse never disappears, but always grows fainter. Within the span of years, a person can go from the brink of death to total decade-long sobriety – but all it may take is a single moment of instability to reintroduce the conditions that lead to addiction in the first place.
Recovery is a process of growth. Taking that into account and forgiving relapses is important in order to focus on what truly requires everyone’s attention – the process of moving on past an addiction.
The Vantage Point Way
With years of experience, we here at Vantage Point Recovery have learned that there is no easy way to ensure recovery. There is no 12-step program that fits everyone’s needs, and no textbook or self-help guide will give you a perfect path to sobriety.
We also know that drug recovery isn’t just a matter of willpower, but a medical issue that has to be tackled with a sound medical mind. Addiction often comes coupled with mental health issues, and carries with it a host of other physically debilitating conditions, such as infections and injuries. Detoxification takes its toll on the body – we make sure that toll is never too high. We treat our patients’ addiction and other symptoms in tandem because one problem aids the proliferation and growth of the other.
Sobriety and recovery are paths every patient must each forge on their own, with their own hands. However, the help of family and friends and the expertise of professional therapists can help light the path and provide a patient with the tools necessary to pave that way and turn what seems to be an impossible feat into a concrete hope for a better tomorrow. We never give up on our patients – and we know that for every willing patient, there is a way to overcome addiction, given the proper attention.
If you or your loved one suffers from an addiction, do not hesitate to contact us for more information. We are available to provide the support needed to move forward with your recovery.