What Happens in Drug Detox?

The thoughts of what happens in drug detox is often enough to prevent some people from even admitting to having a drug problem, let alone reaching out for help. There is a huge amount of stigma attached to the illness of addiction and there are massive misconceptions about what happens in drug detox. The idea that it is a painful process that will leave the individual writhing in agony is not an uncommon one; it is also not true.

So, what happens in drug detox? Well, for most of those going through the process, a drug detox is a chance to overcome their physical dependence on the substance to which they are addicted. It is true that as the body attempts to get back to normal there may be some discomfort and a few withdrawal symptoms, but with the right programme, a drug detox can be effectively managed so that the affected person is safer and much more comfortable.

What is Drug Detox?

A detoxification takes place when you quit drugs for good. When your body realises that the usual supply of drugs is not coming, it will go into overdrive in an attempt to get back to normal. This results in a variety of withdrawal symptoms occurring.

To understand what happens in drug detox, it is important to consider what happens to the body when you take mood altering chemicals such as illegal or prescription drugs.

The first time you took drugs, your body tried to resist the changes the substance induced. For example, if you took a drug that had a sedative effect on functions such as breathing and thinking, your body tried to resist by speeding up. The reverse happens when a stimulant drug is taken; the body will try to slow down various functions in response.

As the effects of the drug wears off, the body again resists by either slowing down or speeding up, and this can result in you feeling irritable or edgy. Some people quickly learn that taking more of the drug can provide a rush of relief.

While some individuals can use drugs in moderation, there are others who quickly develop a tolerance and for whom drugs become a necessity. They become caught in a cycle of drug abuse and withdrawal and find it almost impossible to break free.

Those who have developed a physical dependence on drugs will almost certainly have to go through a drug detox to get better. When the supply of drugs is completely cut off, the body will overcompensate in a bid to return to normality. This can result in various symptoms including mood swings, nausea, shaking and sweating.

The way in which your detox progresses will depend on how long you have been addicted, your age, your overall health, and the type of substance you were abusing. Detox can vary from one person to the next, and while some will only ever experience mild to moderate symptoms, others will have severe symptoms that could even end up being life-threatening without treatment.

The Detox Process

The way in which a detox progresses cannot be predicted in advance. However, there are certain symptoms that are more common with specific drugs. While it is impossible to tell which symptoms you will experience until the detox begins, there is a list of symptoms that commonly occur:

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Intense cravings
  • Drug-seeking behaviour
  • Stomach cramps
  • Aches and pains
  • Muscle twitches
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue

The above is just some of the symptoms that tend to occur among those detoxing from drugs. You are likely to experience some, but not all, of these symptoms.

For most, symptoms tend to start within hours of their last fix. The earliest symptoms tend to be mild. Nevertheless, as the days go by, symptoms can become more pronounced or more severe before reaching a peak and starting to ease off.

The process tends to last anywhere between one and two weeks and depending on where you detox, you may be provided with medication to ease the symptoms or even prevent the worst ones from occurring.

Where to Detox?

You should be aware that a drug detox can be a complicated process and the risk of severe symptoms is present for everyone. With that in mind, where you detox is an important consideration. You may be thinking that detoxing at home is the best option because you will be surrounded by your own familiar things and you can have people you love with you throughout.

Nonetheless, while a home detox is possible, it may not always be the best option, and there is a lot to consider before you decide. For example, if you detox at home, you are going to need someone with you 24-hours a day, every day until the process is complete. Whoever is with you will need to remain alert at all times, which means you will need a number of people who are willing to take shifts.

Remember that detoxing from drugs can be stressful and even dangerous, so any thoughts of detoxing at home should only be followed through after careful consultation with a medical professional. Most experts agree that it is much safer and far more comfortable to detox in a well-run detox facility where you will have access to care and support around-the-clock.

There are also certain situations that make a home detox inadvisable. You should avoid a home detox if:

  • you have experienced withdrawal symptoms in the past when in need of drugs, particularly if these symptoms have included hallucinations, extreme shaking or nervousness
  • you have any underlying medical health problems such as hepatitis c, liver disease, diabetes, or heart disease
  • you have a mental health condition such as anxiety disorder, panic disorder or chronic depression
  • you have previously had thoughts of suicide or have felt that your life was not worth living
  • you have been violent or aggressive while under the influence of drugs
  • you have previously suffered with convulsions or seizures
  • you have been abusing drugs such as sedatives or opiates.

It would be risky to try a home detox if you have experienced withdrawal symptoms when in need of drugs. If you have had severe symptoms, then you should not even consider a home detox and should instead look for a dedicated detox facility where you will be constantly monitored.

What Happens After Detox

The aim of a drug detox is to help you break the bond between yourself and the drug you have been relying on. Once the process is complete and you have been drug-free for up to two weeks, you might be thinking that you are now cured and that you do not require further treatment.

It is not unusual to feel this way, but you should know that there is no cure for addiction right now. Moreover, without further treatment, the issues that caused your addiction in the first place will still be lingering under the surface, threatening to return later.

To go on and have any chance of a permanent, substance-free life, you will need to follow a drug detox with a programme of rehabilitation. Rehab programmes are designed to help you learn how to stay sober.

During such a programme, you will be helped with identifying the reasons you became addicted and will be taught various skills that will help you to stay sober going forward. Relapse prevention forms a major part of most rehab programmes and you will also learn valuable life and work skills to help you integrate back into society when your programme ends.

If you would like more information about what happens in drug detox or if you are interested in finding out about how and where you can access such a programme, please contact Middlegate today. We work with various organisations across the UK that provide excellent detox and rehab programmes for all types of addiction. Call now to find out more about how we can help you get your life back on track.

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