A Look at Medical Detoxification for Alcohol and Drugs

by | Mar 5, 2018 | Addiction, Treatment | 1 comment

medical detoxification

Home » Mental Health » A Look at Medical Detoxification for Alcohol and Drugs

Medical detoxification plays a massive role in the addiction industry, which rakes in about $35 billion a year. The detox process removes harmful toxins from the body to curb cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms.

It is usually the first process that a patient undergoes when seeking drug addiction treatment programs at addiction treatment facilities. This type of treatment is critical for withdrawal processes that can get deadly, such as those suffering with alcoholic addictions. It’s often paired with other types of treatment programs and behavioral therapies.

Not every drug requires medical detoxification. Some addictions do not need it at all; however, patients may still elect to get medical detox if they:

  • Feel that they can’t handle the withdrawal symptoms
  • Have become a danger to others and themselves
  • Need extra medical supervision and are feeling psychotic during the treatment

The entire process usually lasts 3 weeks, although it can last longer depending on the addict’s condition. To determine whether medical detox is necessary, it’s important to consider one’s condition and addiction. Only a professional can make an informed decision, so don’t hesitate to ask for help.

What Types of Drugs Need Medical Detoxification?

treatment programsAs mentioned above, not all substances need medical detoxification.  However, there are some exceptions. The type of drugs that do need medical detox include:

  • Alcohol
  • Heroin
  • Hydrocodone
  • Opiate-related drugs
  • Oxycontin
  • Vicodin
  • Xanax

For these abused drugs, addiction treatment without drug detoxification may prove to be deadly. This is because the withdrawal symptoms can be serious and severe. In worst-case scenarios, the withdrawals can be fatal.

The withdrawal process can also be challenging to manage and overcome without medical detox programs. The withdrawal symptoms are often severe and may include symptoms like nausea, vomiting and trembling. They often lead to relapses.

The Different Types of Medications Used

Many different types of medications are recommended for alcohol and drug detox. It depends on the type of substances being abused, as well as the dose taken.

Medical staff will personalize the drug treatment plan to each patient. The dose and frequency of administration may change during the treatment based on each patient’s vitals. This is because each person responds differently to the medication due to their biological makeup.

Also, some drug abusers may experience more severe side effects with some medications. In these situations, medical professionals may switch patients to another medication. Patients receive around-the-clock supervision once they enter the detox facilities.

Common Types of Medications Used for Alcohol Detox

detox programsAlcohol detox can turn deadly. For a safe recovery, drug detoxification is highly recommended. Common medications used for alcohol detox include:

  • Acamprosate
  • Anticonvulsants, like Depakote or Tegretol
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-nausea medications
  • Benzodiazepines, like diazepam and chlordiazepoxide
  • Disulfiram
  • Naltrexone

The dose and frequency of administration will vary from patient to patient. Some medications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifically for alcohol detox. Others are prescribed to treat specific withdrawal symptoms.

Medications used for alcohol detox come in the form of pills. It can also be injected, like in the case of naltrexone.

Common Types of Medications Used for Opiate/Opioid Detoxification

It’s no secret that there’s a rising opioid epidemic in America. Overdose death rates have surpassed breast cancer death rates. Medical detoxification for opioid addiction is also known as Opiate Replacement Therapy (ORT). Stronger opioids are substituted with weaker ones to curb cravings and manage withdrawals.

Some of the most commonly used medications for opioid detoxification include:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Dolophine
  • Methadone
  • Naloxone
  • Naltrexone
  • Suboxone

Each medication targets the opioid receptors in the body in a different way. Some have a similar mechanism of action to opioids, whereas others block opioids from attaching to the receptors. Some of these medications come in a pill form, while others involve an intramuscular injection into the bloodstream.

Other Types of Medications Used for Medical Detox

Other addictions rely on different medications. For example, modafinil and antipsychotics like olanzapine are ideal for stimulant detox. These substances include cocaine, methamphetamine and even prescription medications used to treat ADHD.

Medical Detox Timeline

Medical detox timelineThe medical detox process can take some time depending on each patient’s circumstances. While on average it takes 3 weeks, some drug abusers may get away with just several days of detox. Others may need a much longer time.

Most experts can give an approximate detox timeline for each patient. The detox timeline is dependent on:

  • The drug abused
  • The patient’s health
  • The dose and duration of drug use
  • The detox environment and setting
  • The number of detoxes attempted before

It’s important to play the detox process by ear. Drug abusers need to be honest with the medical staff with how they’re feeling both physically and emotionally. Mental health status plays a huge role in getting sober. Psychological withdrawal symptoms are just as dangerous, and can encourage relapses if not properly monitored.

Learn More About Medical Detoxification

Here, at Amethyst Recovery, we offer a wide range of medical detox options. Our recommendations depend on the type of addiction you have, among many other factors. During the treatment process, we will monitor your vitals to check how you’re responding to each medication. This will give us a better idea of what works and doesn’t work for you.

The success rates for detox programs is reasonably decent. Those who are looking to get more information about medical detox should not hesitate to contact us. We’d be more than happy to answer any and all questions that you have.

1 Comment

  1. Mastsea

    #2: Detox at home is risky. This kind of detox is possible if there is a highly supportive and motivated home environment. The home detox includes gradually tapering off the drug, simply by lowering the morphine doses, but does require medical supervision from your prescribing doctor. Small doses do not make you high, but they put off morphine withdrawal symptoms. Please do not attempt any home detox without a medical consultation first! #3: Cold turkey morphine detox can be dangerous.


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