The decision to get sober is an empowering one, but figuring out your path to recovery is often confusing and overwhelming at first. Taking recovery one step at a time and gathering as much information as possible will lessen the stress of making important decisions about your health. After you’ve decided to pursue recovery, focus on the first step: drug and alcohol detox.
What Is Detox?
Detox is typically the first step for a physically dependent drug user who wants to recover. When the body becomes dependent on a substance to function, simply cutting off the supply could cause harmful effects. Suddenly stopping the use of substances like alcohol, benzos and opiates can result in dangerous withdrawal symptoms and even death. The detox process involves going through withdrawal under the supervision of qualified health care professionals who can lessen your discomfort and address any medical or mental health emergencies, should they arise.
Think of detox as a cleansing of your body. After a long period of functioning with progressively higher concentrations of drugs in your system, your body will need time to get rid of the accumulated toxins and get used to functioning without the presence of substances. The process is not easy, but an addiction-free life is worth it.
What to Expect in Drug and Alcohol Detox
The process of drug detox typically consists of three stages:
The evaluation process is a general assessment of your substance use and mental and physical health. Addiction specialists will determine how much of a substance is in your system, and they’ll test for any co-occurring mental or health issues. Your mental state, social situation and environmental factors will also be assessed. The information collected during evaluation will inform your detox care and will help health care staff recommend an appropriate treatment plan after detox.
Stabilization is the process of withdrawing safely. During this stage medical staff will ensure you have adequate medical, psychological and social support in order to make you as comfortable as possible during what can be a challenging process. This could mean administering medications to keep you safe and to minimize pain, providing mental health support when you need it or just generally providing compassion and company.
After the difficult part of stabilization is over, you’ll be able to explore different treatment options beyond detox, and you’ll get recommendations based on your evaluation. You’ll also learn about your role in your recovery, and family and friends can be involved at your request.
3. Transitioning Into Addiction Treatment
In this stage, you’ll be prepared for substance use treatment. Your health care providers will communicate the importance of following through on your treatment plan. This step is important because, sadly, many addicts who make it through detox fail to enter substance abuse treatment. This practice is so common that some facilities will ask a patient to sign a contract affirming that they will seek further care after detox. Detox is of course an important first step, but it’s only the first on the road to recovery – staying sober requires working through an effective treatment plan and following up with diligent aftercare.
Do I Really Need Detox?
Not all people who are addicted need detox, but many do. Here are some indications that you may need to undergo detox before receiving addiction treatment:
- You experience painful withdrawal symptoms if you stop using your substance of choice
- You have a co-occurring mental illness
- You’ve become accustomed to having substances in your system
- Your drug of choice is alcohol, benzodiazepines or opioids
- You’re addicted to more than one substance
If one or more of these statements is true, you will need to detox in the care of medical professionals who can address your unique symptoms and keep you safe. Your rehab’s admissions team can help you determine the best course of action for your situation.
Does Withdrawal Hurt?
The short answer to this is yes. Withdrawal can be painful depending on your level of drug use and substance of choice. But detox professionals are there to make you feel as comfortable and safe as possible, and the good news is that the process soon ends and leaves you ready to start your recovery.
Depending on your substance of choice, these are some of the symptoms you might have during detox:
- Depression and anxiety
- Delirium tremens that cause generalized distress, hallucinations, fever and seizures
- Inability to sleep
- Changes in blood pressure and heart rate
- Stomach upset
- Muscle pain
- Difficulty breathing
You should also know that after the initial withdrawal period, you could suffer episodes of post-acute withdrawal (PAWS) for up to two years. These symptoms will be mainly psychological and emotional, and can include fatigue, irritability, anxiety, lack of concentration and sleep disturbances. An episode of PAWS lasts a few days, but in early recovery these symptoms could be intense and ongoing. PAWS can be uncomfortable, but it’s manageable: try to remind yourself that this is a temporary and normal part of a full recovery.
What Do I Do After Detox?
After detox it’s imperative that you enter a comprehensive addiction treatment program. Detox prepares you to fully engage in the hard and rewarding work of recovery, but it is only the first step of many.
Listen to the advice your treatment providers give you in the initial stages of detox. They may have advised you to go to inpatient or outpatient treatment depending on your situation, and they may have recommended different types of therapy that would benefit you. Use the momentum you’ve built up during detox to continue your recovery progress.
Safely Detox at Chelsea By The Sea
If you’re ready to leave substance abuse behind you, Chelsea By The Sea can help. We provide comprehensive, evidence-based treatment options in a family- and pet-friendly setting in the heart of Huntington Beach. Our caring and compassionate team will be right by your side, from the early stages of detox all the way through residential treatment and aftercare. Recovery is hard work, but it’s incredibly rewarding – and at Chelsea By The Sea, you’ll have the support of people with the experience and experience and expertise to see you through it.
Contact us today to find out how we can help you.