People worldwide in every country and culture are struggling with substance use disorders (SUDs). There is an endless list of reasons for people to develop SUD, including biology, environment, and exposure. However, regardless of why a person develops SUD, at some point, each person must decide for their health and outlook on life that they need to find recovery from their addiction.
When a person decides to get sober, what are the first steps? How does someone quit using alcohol or drugs after long-time use? After long-term substance abuse, the body and mind must be able to clear themselves of toxins. Clearing the body of substances is called detoxing.
However, while detoxing, a person will experience physical withdrawal symptoms that may be painful. The fear of feeling these symptoms can sometimes cause people to put off getting sober.
What Does It Mean to Detox?
Detoxification, or detox, is the process of abstaining from substances to rid the body of said substances. For SUD treatment, detoxing is when a person quits consuming alcohol or drugs. This way, their body can recuperate and get the substances out of the system.
This process can take days for some drugs. For example, hallucinogens or people who have only been abusing substances for a short period may detox more quickly. However, detoxing may take longer for people who have been abusing substances for a long time or multiple substances.
If a person decides to begin their recovery journey, they must enroll in a detox program. Detox programs are usually residential facilities where a person lives and is monitored around the clock by medical professionals. These medical professionals will help individuals with the following:
- Prepare for withdrawal
- Provide a safe and comfortable space to detox in
- When needed, provide medication to help mitigate some of the physical withdrawal symptoms
The entire detox process will include an evaluation, stabilization, and preparation for the completion of detox. However, the effects on the body of long-time addiction do not disappear overnight, nor do the cravings. Due to this, it is recommended not to quit cold turkey but to seek professional help.
Should You Be Concerned About Withdrawal Symptoms?
In short, potentially, yes. Not all people who abuse substances require medication to help with their body’s detox of drugs or alcohol. However, those who use opioids such as heroin or alcohol will almost always require medical intervention to begin detox.
Withdrawal symptoms can be mild or severe, and a person should be aware they may experience the following:
- General physical and emotional discomfort
- Muscle aches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose
- Abdominal cramping
- Mental confusion
- Body tremors and shaking
Medical intervention is required for some substances, such as alcohol and benzodiazepines, because withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening. In addition, the body becomes dependent on the substance, and organs such as the heart, lungs, and brain will work overtime to counteract the effects of the substances. Because of this, benzodiazepines and alcohol can cause heart attacks, seizures, and in severe cases, death.
Medication Assistance for Withdrawal Symptoms
There are two types of medication assistance to help with the detox process. Medical detox should not be confused with a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program, as medical detox is to help during the detox process. MAT programs are to help longer-term and help someone during inpatient or outpatient treatment.
The point of medication is not to continue to feed someone struggling with SUD more substances. Instead, medication helps the body slowly use less and less of the substance until the medication is no longer necessary. A person can lessen physical and psychological pain by engaging in medication intervention.
The medication used is to help the physical symptoms such as headaches, tremors, nausea, and seizures. When a person is trying to get sober, it is tough to do so when they feel sick. This is because they know most substances will make those feelings disappear for a short time. By getting medication assistance to quit, a person does not have to feel the full intensity of the withdrawal symptoms, which may prevent relapse.
The Importance of Seeking Professional Treatment
If a person tries to detox alone, they will only feel their withdrawal symptoms and usually need to take care of themselves. However, this can be dangerous. For example, if they experience seizures while detoxing from alcohol, no medical professionals will be present to ensure their safety.
For this reason, a professional detox facility will provide medication to help mitigate physical withdrawal symptoms. They will also have staff on-site 24/7 to ensure the detox process goes smoothly and safely. So, if someone is ready to start their journey into sobriety, a detox facility is the best option to mitigate physical symptoms and ensure safety.
Have you been contemplating starting recovery but don’t know where to start? At Laguna Shores Recovery, we believe sobriety is possible for anyone who puts their mind to it with the right amount of help. We offer a variety of programs and therapies to help you begin your sobriety journey. From experiential therapy and 12-Step programs to eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and substance-specific treatment, our variety of programs can help you identify the reasons for your addiction. Contact us at (866) 774-1532 to talk with our experienced and friendly staff. At Laguna Shores, you and your recovery come first. Contact us today if you need help; we are here for you.
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