Detox, or detoxification is the process of getting drugs and their toxins out of the body of a user. In most cases of detox, drugs run their natural course of being expelled from the system of an individual, with the assistance of other drugs to increase comfort and decrease severe withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the drug from which an individual needs to withdraw, the history and severity of addiction and/or dependence, and his or her response to the detox, this process can take from 48 hours-30 days, and even longer in some cases.
Opiate and Opiod Detox
The one class of drugs that have the widest range of detox times is opiates and opiods. The only difference between an opiate and opiod is that opiods are either completely or semi synthetic (man made), and opiates are derived from the opium poppy plant. Both have identical effects, addictive properties, and the withdrawal symptoms from both are also the same. Essentially, heroin, morphine, and codeine are the only opiates, while all other painkillers including OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, Fentanyl, Methadone, and Dilaudid are opiods.
When detox from opiates becomes necessary, there are several options available to individuals as to how they can complete the process. Each method of opiate detox has a different length of time, and the severity of the symptoms experienced during the detox also vary, depending on how one chooses to go about it.
Medical Drug DetoxMedical drug detox from opiates is the most common form of detox. In this process, an addict can be administered a long acting, mildly potent benzodiazepine to help ease some of the severe withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and insomnia. When benzodiazepines are used to manage the symptoms of opiate withdrawal, their dosage is tapered with each day, until they can be safely discontinued in the detox process.
While none of the symptoms of withdrawal from opiates are life threatening, they can be excruciating and very difficult to endure. One of the most common withdrawal symptoms of most drugs of addiction is high blood pressure. In a medical drug detox environment, medication is also supplied to manage high blood pressure.
In general, the withdrawal symptoms from opiates peak around 24-72 hours after the last dose, and without complications this process can be completed in as little as 7-10 days. In some cases of severe and/or long-term addiction, this process may take longer, as severe symptoms can persist for an extended period of time. This is most common with those who have an extremely high tolerance or have been addicted to longer-acting opiates (those with half-lives of 60-72 hours).
Once complete detoxification has been accomplished, both the opiates and benzodiazepines will be out of the system of the individual, allowing him or her to continue onto addiction treatment (if necessary) along the path to recovery and sustained sobriety.
Rapid Drug Detox
This process of detox is only medically accepted for the detoxification from opiates, and no other drugs. In this process, an individual is admitted to a hospital, where he or she will be given general anesthesia. While unconscious, doctors will administer an opiate antagonist, which blocks and reverses the effects of opiates. Most commonly used is Narcan®, which is generically Naloxone. This is used by emergency rooms in the event of opiate overdose. The administration of this drug produces an immediate and full onset of withdrawal from opiates.
It is not uncommon for the individual to be seen having muscle spasms while unconscious, since this is one of the physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal. The individual will also be constantly monitored and given various medications to manage other symptoms like high blood pressure.
The process of rapid drug detox is typically completed in less than 24 hours. Once completed, the individual may have a few hours, or overnight to recover from the process, as he or she will likely feel muscle soreness, nausea, fatigue, and various other residual effects of the detox. In many cases, individuals are given a prescription for benzodiazepines and/or other medications to assist with insomnia, anxiety, and other protracted symptoms of opiate withdrawal that may persist for several days or weeks after the procedure. The length of time an individual may still feel some symptoms depends on the length and severity of the addiction.
It is important to note that rapid drug detox is not covered by most insurance plans, and typically costs a minimum of $,5000.00. Also important is the understanding that the speed with which this process is completed does not preclude an individual from feeling the effects of the detox once discharged from the hospital, and it may be very uncomfortable for several days or weeks thereafter. Always consult with your doctor or physician before engaging in a rapid drug detox process.
Buprenorphine Assisted Drug Detox
Buprenorphine is distributed under the brand names of Subutex® and Suboxone®. Both are synthetic opiods that bind to the opiate receptors in the brain, but do not provide the euphoric effects as other opiods and opiates. The difference between the two drugs is that Suboxone has an added ingredient to the buprenorphine, which is Naloxone, an opiate antagonist. The Naloxone actually makes it so that an individual may experience withdrawal symptoms if he or she were to try to use opiates while taking it.
During the detox process, and individual will be switched from his or her opiate of addiction to an equivalent dosage of burprenorphine, and then slowly tapered from that dosage. This is often done on an outpatient basis, as it often takes several weeks, and sometimes longer than 30 days to complete. The goal is to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms while reducing the opiates in the system of the individual.
When used in a medical detox setting, buprenorphine can be administered to an individual in addition to blood pressure medication and benzodiazepines, then tapered over the course of the following days. The clinicians and the patient usually assess the response to the rate of tapering, and determine together when the dosage is low enough to withdraw completely without experiencing severe symptoms.
Alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs from which to withdraw for alcoholics. Unlike opiates, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be fatal, and can be mild to severe and life threatening. Some of these symptoms include:
- Body tremors
- Delirium Tremens (DTs)
- Nausea and vomiting
- High blood pressure
- Vivid and disturbing nightmares
- Black outs
Among many other symptoms, depending on the severity, alcohol detox should always be conducted in a medical detox setting. The symptoms of alcohol detox can suddenly worsen, creating a dangerous situation for an individual who does not have medical supervision and assistance.
In a medical alcohol detox setting, an individual will be given a benzodiazepine (the type and dosage depends on the detox facility) to prevent seizures, and manage insomnia and anxiety. In addition to a benzodiazepine, he or she will be given medication for the management of high blood pressure. Depending on the severity of the alcoholism, the detox process usually takes about 10-14 days. In some cases where an individual may have a history of seizures, previous failed detox attempts, and/or benzodiazepine use or abuse, the detox process will likely take longer because of these complications. Medical detox can always manage these complications in a safe and effective way, however more time may be necessary to do so.
Benzodiazepines are sedative tranquilizers that can also produce fatal seizures during withdrawal. For this reason, detox from benzodiazepines should be completed in a medical setting to ensure the prevention of dangerous seizures. Most typical to benzodiazepine detox are rebound withdrawal symptoms. These are symptoms which the benzodiazepines are intended to treat, such as:
When an individual is going through benzodiazepine detox, he or she many be given one of several medications to manage withdrawal symptoms, and this depends on the benzodiazepine(s) from which he or she needs to withdraw. In some cases of an individual who needs to withdraw from a short-acting benzodiazepine, a longer-acting drug may be given to manage the symptoms, and then slowly tapered for the completion of detox.
In other cases, where an individual has been addicted to longer acting benzodiazepines, or has a long and/or severe addiction, he or she will likely be given a barbiturate for detox. Barbiturates have equivalent effects to those of benzodiazepines, only stronger. The administration of barbiturates can serve to prevent seizures, and assist with anxiety and insomnia. Just like with benzodiazepines, the dosage of barbiturates is tapered over the following days, the rate of which depends on the individual’s response to the reduction. If severe symptoms continue to persist, clinicians may opt to slow the tapering process, thereby extending the time necessary for a safe and comfortable detox from benzodiazepines.
After Drug Detox
The most severe cases of drug detox may require extended periods of time to complete, but follow-up is imperative once the detox has been completed. If an individual does no more than detox from a drug of addiction and abuse, he or she is left with no support, tools, or therapy to assist in relapse prevention. Although most drug detox facilities make every possible effort to keep individuals as comfortable as possible throughout the process, the fact is that drug detox is not a pleasant experience for anyone. The best thing an individual can do to ensure that he or she will not have to go through detox again in the future is to establish a firm foundation for continued abstinence and sobriety through addiction treatment. The determination of the effectiveness of inpatient or outpatient treatment should be based on:
- the individual
- history of addiction
- severity of addiction
- mental health and emotional stability
- support for recovery in the home environment
- Physical or psychological illness that may need treatment alternative to pharmaceuticals
If you, or a loved one is in need of drug detox, please call us now at 1 (866) 445-4137 to speak with a trained counselor. We will talk with you about your situation, concerns, and goals with drug detox. Understanding that detox alone is not enough to overcome addiction is important, and we can help you find the appropriate and most effective addiction treatment program, based on the needs, preferences, and belief system of the individual in need of help.
Drug detox is the essential first step in finding recovery from addiction and sustained sobriety. As important as detox is, it is only the first step, and should be followed by some form of addiction treatment. Please call now to speak with us about how we can help you, or your loved one get sober and on the path to recovery from addiction.