Before starting a programme of rehabilitation for drug or alcohol addiction, it will be necessary to stop drinking or taking drugs and to allow these chemical substances to leave the body. This process is known as detox; many addicts are under the impression that this is something they can do at home. However, the reality is that although some people can safely detox at home, it is a process that is generally recommended take place within the confines of a medically supervised facility.
What Happens During Detox?
It is easy to say that detox is the process of eliminating drugs or alcohol from the body. Saying it like that makes it sound as though it is a quick and easy process. The reality, however, is that detox can be a traumatic experience if not handled correctly.
It is important to think about how alcohol or drugs have affected the mind and body before considering the effect on the mind and body when the supply is suddenly cut off. Drugs and alcohol have the effect of either speeding up or slowing down certain functions within the body. When these substances are taken, the body will try to counteract the impact by doing the opposite. So when you drink alcohol, it will slow down the mind and body, and when you take certain drugs such as cocaine, the mind and body begins to speed up.
The body tries to get back to normal every time the effects of the drugs wear off, which can result in the affected individual feeling uncomfortable until they drink or take drugs again. As the body begins to become tolerant to the effects of drugs and alcohol, the person takes more and more to achieve the desired effect. Nevertheless, during the process of detox, the supply of drugs or alcohol is cut off entirely, which causes the body to overcompensate while expecting the usual dose. When that dose does not arrive, a variety of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms is often experienced. These can include shaking, vomiting, mood swings, sweating, hallucinations, and paranoia.
Dangers of Detoxing at Home
While most withdrawal symptoms during detox are mild, some people can suffer from severe symptoms known as the DTs (delirium tremens). DTs can result in dangerous seizures or convulsions that affect the nervous system. The DTs can also cause severe paranoia and hallucinations that can lead to the individual becoming aggressive and violent. In extreme cases, DTs can be fatal because they can cause blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature to rise. DTs are classed as a medical emergency that will require immediate hospitalisation.
The issue with the DTs is that it is impossible to predict who will actually experience them. For that reason, it is always safer to detox in a facility where medical supervision is provided.
Detoxing in a Facility
A medically-supervised facility is the safest place for those with alcohol or drug addictions to detox. Detoxing in such a facility means having constant access to support as and when this is required as well as being supervised by people who have experience in dealing with detox.
Medication to ease the symptoms may also be provided if this is appropriate, or the affected individual might be offered various nutritional supplements to help prevent the most severe symptoms. Detox often forms a part of a treatment plan, and many treatment centres have a detox facility. Those advised to detox within a supervised facility would be wise to do so.