The Fear of Detox

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The Fear of Detox

I think my first memory of seeing what detox was like was the film Trainspotting where the character played by Ewan McGregor is having an intense, scary and close to death experience as he’s cradled in his bedroom.  After working in detox and substance abuse for almost a decade, I can see this is so far from what a patient at a detox facility actually goes through. As the executive director of a detox program, I have found that on more than one occasion I’ve had to use the initial call for help to change the misconception that detox is painful, scary and inhumane. This is the reason people attend detoxification programs because these symptoms are often associated with not treating the detoxification with anything and coming off of drugs and alcohol which can be extremely dangerous and deadly.


What is Detoxification?

Detox refers to the process of removing the toxins from the body often in the form of drugs and alcohol, it is important to note the key differences of withdrawal from drugs and alcohol. Some drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and amphetamines do not have physical withdrawal symptoms most of them, require sleep and abstinence but won’t harm you physically whereas pain killers, oxycontin, opiates, heroin, alcohol, benzodiazepines, Xanax and other drugs have physical withdrawal symptoms that can be linked to not only uncomfortably but even death.


Physical Withdrawal

Physical withdrawal is categorized by the body adapting to the drug and eliciting physical symptoms if drug use abruptly ceases. Unfortunately, many of the drugs prescribed to individuals for pain such as opiates can lead to lead to physical withdrawal symptoms. It is estimated that 2.1 million people in the United States struggle with drug addiction related to prescription opiate abuse.

Physical withdrawal symptoms can include

  • Restlessness
  • Severe muscle and bone pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Cold flashes
  • Cravings

These physical withdrawal symptoms can last for over a week and despite what some people think, without proper treatment, even drugs like opiates pose a risk of death from withdrawal.


Proper Medication Management

Medication Management is the one way in which physical withdrawal symptoms can be alleviated. With drugs like Suboxone, Subutex, Buprenorphine, Ativan, and other medications a proper medical doctor can assess the situation to find the best approach to take medication over a period of seven to ten days and reduce the pain of withdrawal as well as diminish the risk of complications or death from detoxification. At a detox facility, the main goal is to reduce the patient’s pain, monitor the health risks and reduce the daily intake of medications over a period of seven to ten days. Medication management is essential to detoxification.


Following Detoxification

Detoxification is an important piece of anyone struggling with physical addiction, but it is only the first stage and shouldn’t be treated as treatment. It’s to manage the symptoms and guide a person to eventually being abstinent or participating in a maintenance program. Detoxification is the process of removing the drugs from your system and addiction is a complex disease that has biological or physical symptoms but also psychological and social connotations within the framework of the disorder. It is important to attend residential drug and alcohol treatment or outpatient treatment following a successful detoxification to address all the reasons for substance abuse and dependence.  Successful transitions from detoxification to treatment are associated with higher outcomes for those who attend treatment and better success rates of long-term sobriety.


Addressing the Fear of Detoxification

It is important to address the fears of detoxification as coming to terms with an addiction to drugs and alcohol can be very difficult, but the prospect of a better life is possible. Detoxification is a process where you will be monitored for risks and giving your body time to heal from the afflictions of drugs and alcohol.

Common fears associated with addiction are withdrawal, shame and guilt, pain and anguish. It is important to understand the complexities of addiction and to know the first process of the road to recovery is healing physically before you heal physically. It is okay to feel scared and to be afraid of the pain of detoxification, but you need to develop trust and safety within the confines of the detox program you attend to help manage the symptoms of withdrawal and complications of detoxification. This is the most important phase of the treatment process because you no longer will dependent on the drugs and alcohol that have controlled your life physically.

Fears can control our lives in the depths of addiction, it’s important to address them when you are ready to get sober and change your life. While television and film can show detox and withdrawal as a difficult, painful experience treatment programs who specialize in detoxification from addiction can ease the discomfort of withdrawal and medically manage the symptoms associated with physical withdrawal.


Garrett BraukmanGarrett Braukman is the Executive Director of Alta Centers, a luxury drug and alcohol detoxification program located in the hills of Hollywood, California. With over a decade of experience working in behavioral healthcare, he has been featured in E! Televisions, Music Connection Magazine, The New York Times, and other widely known publications for his work in addiction treatment. Garrett’s approach to recovery is unique, providing powerful insight into the programming of Alta Centers.

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