Initial withdrawal from drugs or alcohol can be physically distressing, painful and even dangerous. Without appropriate care, withdrawal symptoms can include increased blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, severe muscle cramping and seizures.
Detoxification from alcohol and certain types of drugs can cause physically distressing, emotionally draining, painful, and sometimes, dangerous withdrawal symptoms, which, without proper care can endanger a recovering addicts life. This said, detox doesn’t always have to be painful and alarming. And while increased blood pressure, severe muscle cramping, irregular heartbeat, and incontrollable seizures, along with other forms of withdrawal symptoms are a clear and present danger due to the process, proper care and supervision while undergoing detoxification can prevent these negative experiences.
Detox generally requires constant monitoring of the patient’s vital signs, consultation with a doctor or qualified health care specialist, and properly prescribed medication to help ease withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol along with different types of drugs like benzodiazepines, opiate-based drugs like heroin, prescription painkillers, and other extremely potent drugs require detoxification. However, other drugs like marijuana, methamphetamines, and cocaine don’t require detox as they leave the system quickly. Just the same, drug dependency also has significant effect on psychological dependence, which is why a period of stabilization along with ‘psychological detox’ is also needed to achieve long term success.
Alcohol withdrawal is one of the most dangerous forms of withdrawal, especially without proper medical care. The abrupt cessation of intake may result in symptoms only within hours of the last drink and these symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable. Depending on the amount and frequency of alcohol intake, complete detox from alcohol can take anywhere from 3 to 14 days or even longer.
Some of the most common physical and psychological symptoms that may result from alcohol detoxification may include mild symptoms like nausea, headaches, perspiration, vomiting, agitation, restlessness, insomnia, and loss of appetite. More severe effects include the disruption of the autonomic system, which may result in convulsions or seizures, auditory and/or visual hallucinations, and the most severe, Delirium Tremens (DT).
An estimated 1 in 4 patients have high risk of withdrawal seizure from alcohol when not properly medicated during the detox stage. This is why alcohol detox often requires medications that induce similar effects as alcohol to reduce this risk. Tapering amounts of alcohol intake can also reduce withdrawal effects, although this may also mean longer periods of detoxification.
Benzodiazepines or tranquilizers, depressants, and sedatives like Xanax, Valium, and Klonapin slow down cns (central nervous system activity). These highly addictive substances are among the most dangerous to detox from as they pose high risks of seizure.
Opiate drugs like methadone, heroin and different kinds of prescription painkillers require detox and the length and mode of the process largely depends upon the frequency and amount of drug usage. Going cold turkey or dramatically reducing intake of opiate-based drugs after heavy or prolonged use will likely result in extremely difficult withdrawal. This is why supervised detox is recommended to manage withdrawal symptoms safely.
When smoked, snorted, or injected, methamphetamines can cause a powerful rush of adrenaline, causing heightened excitement, euphoria, and exhilaration. As such, addiction can be instant and intense and while detoxification from meth often does not require strict supervision, cravings for the drug can be too intense for a recovering addict to get past by himself. This is why different techniques have been developed to reduce risks of relapse during and after detox.
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