Drug detox is the gradual and managed process of removing drugs, alcohol, and other harmful substances from the body. The process also seeks to reduce stress on the body and manage the effects of abstaining from drugs.
Drug detox is often the first stage in addiction treatment. However, it is ineffective for treating addictions on its own. Effective treatment for addictions will also involve rehabilitation through counseling or formal therapy.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) leads public health efforts to reduce the impact of substance abuse and addictions. And at the state level, the Office of Behavioral Health in the Louisiana Department of Health licenses detox centers and rehab specialists.
The average time required for a drug detox may range from a few hours to a few days, but the drug cravings may last much longer. Generally, individuals undergoing drug detox may experience withdrawal symptoms that may decrease after the first or second week. Withdrawal symptoms may be mild or severe and include a range of physical and physiological symptoms such as vomiting, headaches, cold chills, and anxiety.
Generally, a drug's half-life determines the severity and the resolution of these symptoms. However, other factors affect how long drug detox takes
This is critical as certain drugs stay longer in the body than others. For instance, cocaine and other stimulants enter and leave the bloodstream quickly. The high from stimulants is often short-lived, and addiction patterns often involve binging on the substance.
On the other hand, detox from heroin and prescription-strength pain relievers may last anywhere from a few hours to several days and sometimes a few weeks. The worst withdrawal symptoms typically arise on the second day of drug detox. Symptoms often include dilated pupils, intense drug cravings, stomach upset, nausea, body aches, and agitation.
An individual's underlying medical condition may also affect how long it takes to detox. For instance, there may be little chance of a person recovering from addiction quickly if they have a chronic illness. On the other hand, people in relatively stable health might need less time.
Individuals who use multiple drugs simultaneously will often take longer to completely remove the substance from their bodies.
Patients who, during their addiction, used the drugs more frequently tend to take longer to detox.
The amount of substance the patient takes plays a role in determining how long one may take to recover from the addiction. When taken in large quantities, some drugs tend to affect the body's normal functionality, and the effect may take longer.
Alcohol detox may take a couple of days to several weeks—withdrawal symptoms from alcohol addition peak within 2 to 3 days of abstinence. Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include racing heartbeat, sweating, headache, agitation, confusion, and increased blood pressure. These symptoms gradually ease but may linger for as long as a few months.
Typically within the first 6-12 hours of alcohol detox, patients may experience symptoms like headache, mild anxiety, insomnia, minor tremors, and stomach upset. These symptoms may escalate to auditory, visual, or tactile hallucinations between the 12 to the 24-hour mark of detox.
Meanwhile, some symptoms peak from 24 to 72 hours and level off. Some of the most dangerous symptoms are experienced between this time mark, with some experiencing seizures and delirium.
Although there is no precise timeline for alcohol withdrawal, the symptoms and their duration will vary based on various factors. These factors include:
The typical detoxification process at a Louisiana drug detox center involves 3 major phases. These include
During this phase, a clinical professional at a detox center extensively reviews a patient's physical, psychological condition, and medical history. These evaluations will help determine a patient's acute intoxication, withdrawal potential, and other medical conditions. The evaluation phase is critical as it helps determine the treatment plan and the level of care a patient requires
In this phase, the treatment center follows a personalized treatment plan for the patient to help stabilize and manage withdrawal symptoms during the detox. Stabilization may be done with prescribed medications, as recommended by the medical professional at the treatment center.
After a patient completes detox, it is recommended the patient goes into rehab to help sustain long-term recovery. Most substance abuse patients often require rehab to help manage the physiological and social aspects of substance abuse.
Depending on the substance, nature of use, and how long a person used a substance, patients in drug detox experience a range of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may be mental, physical, or emotional. Withdrawal symptoms are the body's reaction to the abrupt cessation or reduction of a substance on which it has become reliant.
Alcohol withdrawal typically begins six hours or a few days after the last drink. These symptoms often consist of:
These symptoms peak after about 2 to 3 days. However, some milder symptoms may persist for several months.
Delirium tremens is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal, characterized by altered mental status and autonomic hyperactivity, which can progress to cardiovascular collapse. Other severe types of withdrawal symptoms may include:
Opiates, like oxycodone or morphine, can help with pain but are very addictive. They function by attaching receptors on nerve cells in your nervous system to block pain messages that your body is sending to your brain. They also trigger your brain to release dopamine.
Opiate withdrawal may begin 6-8 hours after consuming the last dose. For short-acting opioids like heroin, withdrawal symptoms may set in 8-24 hours after use and could last as long as 4 to 10 days. On the other hand, with long-acting opioids like methadone, withdrawal symptoms set in at about 12 to 48 hours after last use and could last as long as 10 to 20 days.
Symptoms of opiate withdrawal include:
Louisiana residents may detox at home, but this home detox can be dangerous and ineffective. Detox comes with withdrawal symptoms that can result in a medical emergency if not managed. Some of the dangerous and potentially fatal complications of detoxing at home include the following:
Relapse is a frequent danger when detoxing at home. Because cravings and withdrawal symptoms can become unbearable, it may result in a deadly overdose. People who attempt to detox at home may find it difficult to resist the drug they struggled with due to severe withdrawal symptoms. A person's body chemistry and drug tolerance reset when they start the detox process from a substance. This means that the body can no longer manage the high dosage of medication it was used to before detox, which can lead to a medical emergency.
Drug withdrawal symptoms include melancholy, anxiety, tiredness, and frustration. Additionally, co-occurring mental health disorders and substance use disorders can worsen during detox and become incapacitating. These strong emotions should never be felt alone because they can trigger a relapse.
During detoxification, mental health issues might also cause someone to attempt suicide. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received reports of suicides in 2019 from patients who became addicted to opioid painkillers and abruptly stopped taking them.
During the detoxification procedure, health issues frequently occur. Seizures and severe psychotic symptoms are some of the negative effects of benzodiazepine detox. Severe withdrawal symptoms can cause issues that need professional medical attention. Additionally, co-occurring health issues may deteriorate or complicate the detoxification process.
Ambulatory detox or outpatient detox is an outpatient medical treatment program for those suffering from addiction. It is a cost-effective way to detox. During the detox, the patient can spend the night with family and friends while receiving high-quality treatment during the day.
Ambulatory detox is often used for patients with no prior history of complicated detox, no history of medical or psychiatric illness, and a supportive environment. The main difference between ambulatory and medical detox is the level of care. Medical detox is more closely monitored than ambulatory detox. Individuals requiring medical detox typically have co-occurring complications that may impede the detox process.
Rapid detox is a detoxification method where drugs such as sedatives are used to quickly remove substances from the body. During rapid detox, medical intervention is used to speed up the detox process, and patients may have unpleasant pharmacological side effects.
Rapid drug detox is an inpatient procedure usually done in a hospital or clinic. During the procedure, the patient is put under general anesthesia, and opioids are flushed out of the patient's system using the opioid antagonist naloxone. While rapid detox is a much faster way to detox, it is generally expensive and risky. Major side effects associated with rapid detox include:
Substance addiction is often started and maintained by several psychological or social triggers. While the cause of addiction may vary, it is generally acknowledged that detoxification is often the first step to treating addictions.
Detox helps in removing all traces of leftover drugs or alcohol in the body. However, it does not address the root causes of addiction. Therefore, patients who only complete a drug detox may often return to taking the same drugs. Several treatment options for a patient that completes a drug detox to remain clean include:
Louisiana residents struggling with substance abuse disorders may find and enroll in a rehab facility. These facilities provide inpatient and outpatient services based on the individual's need to help keep the patient clean from such substances in a drug and alcohol-free environment. Rehabilitation centers offer coordinated care for mental and physical health that lead to substance abuse. In rehab, addiction treatment professionals will also manage other mental or physical health conditions present.
Most additions may be effectively managed by behavioral treatment. Behavioral therapy seeks to address a person's response to triggers that lead to the use of drugs or alcohol. Treatments such as cognitive-behavioral and family behavior therapy have proven to help manage and treat addiction effectively.
A patient who has completed a detox will require long-term addiction treatment and follow-up. This helps in monitoring the patient's progress in staying clean and not relapsing.
Patients recovering from addiction need to join support group meetings to help address the circumstances that lead to the addiction.
In Louisiana, detox services are provided by the regional human service district authority or through the Healthy Louisiana Plans for the Medicaid population. Similarly, individuals may also use the ATLAS treatment locator for substance abuse disorders to find the nearest treatment location.
Patients struggling with opiate addiction may visit the Louisiana Department of Health website to find the nearest opiate detox center nearby. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also provides a detailed list and contact details of treatment centers in the state.