What is a Drug Detox?

What is a Drug Detox
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Detox, or detoxification, simply put is the process of toxins leaving the body. Detox is the starting point to begin the drug rehabilitation process. Going through this can be scary and uncomfortable, however, there are a lot of programs and medications to help with the withdrawal symptoms.

Medically Assisted Detox is supervised by medical or mental health professionals. Medically assisted detox is usually found within an inpatient program. There are a variety of medications that professionals can use to help you with a variety of withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms vary from drug to drug. Heroin withdrawal symptoms include hot/ cold sweats, restlessness, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, insomnia, anxiety, and more. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms include exhaustion, restlessness, vivid nightmares, difficulty concentrating, slowed brain activity, and more. When going through withdrawal in a medically assisted program there are medications a medical health professional can prescribe to help you get through them.

Depending on the substance and program, you may hear medications like Suboxone, Vivitrol, or Methadone. They help with the extreme discomfort that comes along with detoxing. The medical professional will know what type of medication and dose that medication accordingly.

Detox is the first stepping stone to getting clean. Detox gets you clean, but it is only the beginning of staying clean. The time after detox is precious time you can use to get ready to get back to your life and make real changes. Residential programs are highly recommended. They provide you time to truly focus. Inpatient and outpatient programs are incredibly helpful to anyone just starting out after detox.

An alcohol or drug dependency can be a difficult habit to break, and many times withdrawal symptoms can be painful and even dangerous. Detox should be medically supervised in a safe and secure environment. The two main types of detox are natural and medical detox. Both can be facilitated in either an inpatient or outpatient capacity. An approach that doesn’t introduce any medications is considered natural, while medical detox often introduces the use of pharmaceuticals.

Opioid and Non-Opioid Agonists

Opioid drugs are derived from the opium poppy plant and, with the exception of heroin, are typically prescription painkillers like morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and codeine. Opioids attach to opioid receptors in the brain and body, thus reducing the sensation of pain. Opioids also stimulate the brain’s reward system, producing a euphoric effect that can be addicting.

The misuse of prescription drugs is an epidemic in the United States, second only to marijuana use, with one in 22 people over age 12 admitting to using prescription pain relievers for nonmedical purposes in the past year, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

There are several types of medications that can help relieve these symptoms as well as help you detox from opioid addiction. These medications usually fall into one of two categories: opioid agonists and opioid antagonists.

An opioid agonist binds to opioid receptors in the brain and mimics and heightens the naturally occurring neurotransmitters’ effects. Methadone, often dispensed in clinics, is an opioid agonist commonly used to detox from heroin. It stays in your system longer than street drugs and can relieve withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Other non-opiate agonists have shown some success in managing opioid withdrawal symptoms and may be effective during detox as well. One such alpha-adrenergic agonist is clonidine which works to suppress opioid withdrawal symptoms by stimulating alpha-receptors in the brain and reducing nerve signals sent to blood vessels.

Clonidine is a blood pressure medication that helps reduce the flood of adrenaline, which causes the “fight-or-flight” response, a common withdrawal symptom. Clonidine can assist in detox from narcotics, methadone, and sometimes even alcohol. Another high blood pressure drug with similar effects that acts as a beta-blocker, propranolol, may help with severe cocaine and alcohol withdrawal symptoms as well.