When considering ending the vicious cycle of addiction, the first step is to get the substance out of your system. When it comes to detoxifying from substances, the bottom line is that the safest way to detoxify from any substance is through medical detox with supervision by trained professionals. There are very severe physical symptoms of withdrawal that can be life-threatening. In addition, the emotional aspect of withdrawal can be less expected, which may also pose a threat to surviving addiction.
Physical Well-Being During Withdrawal
The severity of a physical dependency must be understood prior to any attempt to detoxify. Some substances are more dangerous than others when it comes to the detox process. Benzodiazepines, alcohol, and opiates, for example, always require medical detox due to the potential for life-threatening symptoms. During detox, there is a heightened risk for relapse as well. Without medical care, quitting substances can be just as dangerous as continued use.
Emotional Well-Being During Withdrawal
The physical dependence on the drug tends to be the primary focus when choosing to detox from substances. In addition to the painful physical aspects of detox, the emotional aspect of withdrawal can be equally excruciating. A treatment facility with programs for substance use disorder provides a team of licensed professionals to address and treat the emotional volatility that can strike during detox. Anxiety, depression, frustration, anger, self-destructive behavior, and more are some emotional symptoms of withdrawal that people do not always prepare for.
It is common in addiction treatment for underlying mental health conditions to be diagnosed. It is also common in addiction treatment to realize that the substance use has been an attempt to self-medicate an untreated mental health condition such as anxiety or depression. When detoxing, symptoms of mental health conditions may arise unexpectedly, posing a risk for relapse and even suicide. With the clinical support of licensed experts at a facility like Midas House, they can manage the emotional side effects of withdrawal in a safe environment, and symptoms can be identified and treated before becoming life-threatening.
Dangers of Alcohol Detox
People with severe alcohol use disorder risk developing delirium tremens when abstaining from alcohol. If not managed by medical professionals, this symptom, among others, can result in death. Delirium tremens symptoms can be sudden and severe.
It is important not to underestimate the severity and danger of alcohol detox. Confusion, tremors, agitation, hallucinations, restlessness, bursts of energy, fear, sudden mood changes, deep sleep, sweating, and seizures are all additional risks of alcohol detox.
Detoxification in a medical environment drastically decreases the risk of death. For example, mortality rates in alcohol detox were as high as 35% prior to the development of treatment for alcohol detox. There is no need to subject oneself to this heightened risk for death with the modern ability to access treatment by experienced professionals. The current mortality for patients with delirium tremens ranges from 5-15%, but with proper medical supervision, this risk decreases tremendously.
Dangers of Benzodiazepine Detox
Any drug in the benzodiazepine class, such as Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium, poses a real danger in detox from the possibility of unbearable withdrawal symptoms. Detoxifying from these sedatives can cause withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, mood swings, difficulty sleeping, hyperventilation, panic attacks, seizures, and more. Psychotic symptoms such as depersonalization, perceptual changes, delirium, and hallucinations may also occur. Fatalities are far more likely to occur in benzodiazepine detox when not supervised by experts.
Dangers of Withdrawal from Opioids
Whether detoxing from prescription painkillers, heroin, or fentanyl, risks of complications and death are heightened if done without the help of trained medical professionals. Symptoms can begin as quickly as the same day after the last dose or can take time to take full force. Symptoms can begin mild at first in the form of agitation, diarrhea, insomnia, and muscle aches but can grow more intense and include anxiety, panic attacks, and severe vomiting.
Dangers of Withdrawal from Methamphetamines
With less severe physical withdrawal symptoms, methamphetamine users may feel safer than other substance abusers attempting to detox at home. While still physically difficult to endure, it is true that methamphetamine detox has less severe physical symptoms than substances like opiates and alcohol. However, methamphetamine detox poses a very high risk for an increase in relapse due to the prevalence of mental and emotional problems.
The most common complication from extended use of methamphetamines is the development of psychosis. Meth-induced psychosis can cause methamphetamine users to continue using as their grasp on reality is morphed and diminished. Treatment facilities with licensed experts experienced in untangling the meth-induced psychotic brain stand the best chance for those who suffer survival. Once meth-induced psychosis takes over the methamphetamines user, they are at risk of being lost in psychosis forever. A structured treatment environment is the safest route for surviving meth-induced psychosis, and that process begins with detox in a safe and secure environment under the supervision of experienced professionals.
Increased Risk for Overdose After Attempted At-Home Detox
Withdrawal at home without the support of licensed professionals tends to be much more painful. Relapse is common during home detox because the withdrawal symptoms and the cravings can become overwhelming and impossible to resist. With the increased emotional and physical pain comes an increased risk for resuming the use of the substance. Without supports in place to prevent relapse, it is that much more convenient of a solution to end the suffering by giving up on ending the detox.
After any duration of detox, an opiate user, for example, will have a lower tolerance to the opioid. A lower dose will be needed to achieve the same high a user was accustomed to before the detox attempt. When in immense pain, the user may refuse to adjust their typical dose in an attempt to end the suffering as quickly as possible. By failing to lower the dose to an adjusted amount, the user may consume too much at one time, although previously, their body had been able to handle that dosage. This oftentimes results in death by overdose.
Benefits of Detoxing at a Treatment Facility
Choosing to perform detox at home with any substance is a risk that should never be taken. Why risk your life when there are facilities full of licensed experts eager to keep you safe? Because of how quickly and unexpectedly the situation can become unsafe, it is not smart to risk your life with an at-home detox, even if it starts out mild. If you or a loved one are addicted to a substance and want to stop using, begin your recovery journey in a safe, secure treatment environment. Detox monitored by healthcare professionals includes:
- Vital signs are monitored regularly
- Observation of overall well-being by medical staff trained to recognize symptoms that can lead to increased suffering
- Access to prescription medications that can help treat and minimize the presence of severe withdrawal symptoms
- Access to mental healthcare specialists who can help manage emotional withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, psychosis, depression, paranoia, anger, etc
- Access to medical specialists who can issue rapid, effective care should complications emerge during detox
- Increased likelihood of completing detox and not resorting to relapse to ease the physical and emotional pain
- Increased probability of immersion in a sober community and access to sober support
Regardless of if you think you will need help during detox or not, knowing what to expect when you detox and reaching out to a team of licensed professionals prior to restricting your use is the safest route to take. Not only does medically assisted detox set you up for success in long-term recovery, but it can also save your life.