“More than 67,300 Americans died from drug-involved overdose in 2018, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids.”

National Institute on Drug Abuse

What is Drug & Alcohol Detox and How Does it Work?

Detox is referred to as the phase of recovery when the body flushes out the toxic substances that have resulted in physical dependence. Detox is the highest level of medical care and the first hours and days when a person’s body rids itself of toxic substances.  According to ASAM criteria, this phase of treatment requires 24-hour nursing care with physician visits as needed.  This level of care can also be understood as “Medically Monitored Inpatient Withdrawl Management.”

This period can be very vulnerable for the patient because acute withdrawal from drugs and alcohol may be fatal. Beachway carefully monitors each patient on an individual basis and may provide a drug taper to detox the body safely while easing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.  This stage of recovery can last anywhere from a few days to weeks.  There may be cravings, body aches, irritability, insomnia, nausea, increased sleeping, and other physical side effects.

Detoxification is most successful under the supervision of medical staff and clinicians who can oversee the process and provide motivational strategies in a 24 hour structured setting.

The Drug & Alcohol Detox Process

The first step in any detox protocol is the evaluation and assessment step.  Medical providers will gather a patient’s drug and alcohol use history.  Together with a patient’s reported symptoms, this information will inform a detox plan, or withdrawal management plan, for each patient.  Within a withdrawal management plan, a physician may provide patients with medications when medically appropriate.  An addiction specialist physician may use evidence-supported approaches to select pharmacological agents, dosages, and routes of administration.

While the healing and recovery process is a life-long journey, detox is a much shorter time period of – on average, 3 to 7 days. Not every patient needs to go through a detox protocol; this step occurs only when a patient’s severity of symptoms deem it medically necessary. The focus is to safely taper off drugs while an experienced medical team monitors the patient.

Not all drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms are fatal, but detox can still be very uncomfortable. Our job is to make sure the detox process is managed in the most beneficial way to the patient. We will address all concerns transparently to offer the best support and guidance required to make the detox process a success.

What is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?

The World Health Organization estimates more than 76.3 million people worldwide suffer from an alcohol use disorder (or AUD). Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a condition that results when a person suffering from an AUD intentionally or unintentionally stops their alcohol consumption. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawals typically begin within 1-3 days after a person’s last drink of alcohol.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome include:

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Raised body temperature
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hand/body tremors
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased irritability and agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety

Drug Withdrawals and Symptoms

Like with alcohol use disorders, the abuse of drugs such as benzos and opioids can also lead to serious and often life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. A drug withdrawal refers to the body’s physiological response to a sudden stop or decrease in a person’s use of a drug they’ve become dependent on. The body attempts to reach a new state of homeostasis by purging any remaining chemicals left by the drug, which can lead to various mental, emotional, and physical symptoms.

Symptoms of drug withdrawals include:

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Hand/body tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Increased irritability and agitation
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

How to safely detox and ensure success in your road to recovery

The process of detoxification from drugs or alcohol is one that requires plenty of care and medical attention. Doing so unsupervised or at home can be extremely dangerous, uncomfortable, and even fatal in severe cases. Unsupervised detoxification may also reduce a patient’s chances of success, or willingness to try again.

When considering detox, it is advised that an individual consult with their doctor or another medical professional. When a person has been a chronic user of drugs or alcohol for a long time, they may be at higher risk of complications during detox and inpatient care is often necessary.

Risk Factors

For people with extreme alcohol use disorder, certain withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and sometimes life-threatening. Medical supervision is extremely important for continuously monitoring one’s health and vitals throughout the detox phase. This also ensures that patients will be able to receive the quick medical response needed should any complications arise.

Some risk factors of withdrawals include:

  • Accidental injury to oneself (for example, during a seizure)
  • Severe anxiety or panic attacks
  • Delirium Tremens: A condition associated with acute alcohol withdrawals that can cause fatal seizures or hallucinations
  • Lower chance of success

When detoxing from Benzodiazepines, a class of prescription drugs, people may experience extreme withdrawal symptoms. When a person is detoxing from a combination of alcohol and benzodiazepines the detox can be life-threatening if not supervised by a medical professional.

Examples of Benzodiazepines

  • Valium
  • Xanax
  • Klonopin
  • Ativan

More About Detox

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “The clinician should ensure that a treatment plan is developed cooperatively with the person seeking treatment, that the plan is followed, and that treatment expectations are clearly understood. Medical, psychiatric, and social services should also be available.”

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Fatigue/Apathy
  • Depression
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Intense sweating
  • Mood Swings
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Bodily Aches & Pains

After Detox

Besides safety and comfort, another benefit of inpatient medically supervised detox is effectiveness. Detox is considered the first step towards recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Detox alone will not address the various psychological and behavioral issues associated with addiction. It is recommended that another extended treatment program immediately follows the detox phase.

Some examples of treatment recommendations are:

  • Inpatient Residential
  • Outpatient
  • Group Counseling
  • Individual Counseling