What Is Detoxification?

Simply put, detoxification is the process of cleansing the toxins from drugs and/or alcohol out of one’s system. Not all addictions require detoxification, often called detox for short, but for those that do, it is the first step in treatment. It’s also important to note that detox and treatment are not the same thing, as detox doesn’t solve one’s addiction. One can go through treatment without ever needing detoxification, just as one can go through detox without going through treatment (although this is not advisable).

Detoxification is never a pleasant process, it’s true, and much of the ugliness of it is brought to the fore by Hollywood painting a horrific picture in movies and television. What’s seen on the screen is rarely an accurate depiction of what can happen in detox, but while detox is never easy, it is certainly easier under medical supervision. Not every addiction requires detoxification and those that do, “cold turkey” isn’t always the best solution. In fact, it’s rarely the best solution. Ideally, a patient will slowly taper themselves off the drug, sometimes with assisting medications like methadone.

What Will I Face in Detox?

Going through detox can be a daunting, outright frightening prospect and the fear of it can sometimes prevent people from going into treatment. As previously stated, not every addiction will require a detox process, but for those that do, it’s important to know what you’ll be in for.

The first thing you’re going to deal with is withdrawals. Withdrawals can appear as soon as two hours after the last use of a substance and can persist for up to weeks, depending on how long the patient has been addicted and the severity of their use. Withdrawals vary from person to person based on a number of factors, including the substance in question, physiology, genetics, dosage, frequency and length of use, and more.

Unfortunately, there’s just no easy or comfortable way to go through withdrawals. The addiction has rewired the brain’s chemistry to be dependent on this substance and now it’s going without. Luckily, there are medical professionals who are trained in overseeing detoxification and can carefully monitor the entire process. Medications can assist with the discomfort, helping patients taper themselves off the drug of their addiction.

The Dangers of Detox

It may seem counterproductive to be thinking about the dangers of detoxification when going into treatment. After all, getting yourself off these dangerous substances should be a good thing, shouldn’t it? It is, but it’s important to understand exactly what lies ahead so you can be prepared and deal with it appropriately. Knowledge is power, so arm yourself accordingly. The body has become dependent on these chemicals you’ve been putting into it, so now that it’s deprived of those chemicals, it reacts negatively. This reaction can sometimes be fatal, which is why it’s important to detox in a safe, medically supervised environment.

While the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol and/or drugs can be lethal, it is much safer to detox with the help of medically trained professionals. Detox is not the end of rehab, however. It’s only the beginning of the rehab process. Detox does nothing more than flush the toxins out of your body. It’s absolutely critical to follow up detoxification with a rehabilitation program in order to truly conquer one’s addiction. Rehabilitation will help correct your brain chemistry to normal brain functions, as well as address your behavioral psychology to help you identify the underlying issues that led to the addiction in the first place.