The term “detox” (which is a shortened version of “detoxification”) refers to a process through which a poison is removed from the body. In the context of drug addiction and recovery, detox involves weaning a person off alcohol or any other drug upon which that person’s body has become dependent.
Detox is an important first step in the recovery process, as effective drug addiction treatment cannot take place if a patient is still under the influence of alcohol or another drug.
Though it is clearly much healthier for a person to not be engaging in drug abuse, attempting to stop on one’s own (often referred to as quitting “cold turkey”) can be painful, dangerous, and in some cases, even deadly.
Withdrawal symptoms – the pain that results when an addicted person stops using drugs – can range from mild discomfort to extreme physical and emotional suffering. Depending upon the drug in question (and the amount a person has been using), the following are among the more withdrawal symptoms:
- excessive sweating
- muscle pain
- uncontrollable shaking (delerium tremens, or DT’s, common in cases of alcohol withdrawal
- heart palpitations
- auditory & visual hallucinations
- appetite disruptions
Though abused substances can wreak significant havoc on a person’s health, the bodies of addicted individuals adapt to the presence of the drug – and the sudden absence of the drug can trigger catastrophic physical responses.
For this reason, many comprehensive substance abuse recovery programs offer medically supervised (and, in some cases, medication assisted) detox services. When conducted under the supervision of qualified medical personnel, detox can be accomplished in a safer and less painful manner than would otherwise occur.
The detox process can vary depending upon a number of factors, including the nature and severity of the addiction and the drug that the addicted individual has been abusing. For example, a person who has been abusing alcohol for a relatively brief period of time may be able to be weaned off the drug with minimal physical pain – but a person who has been severely alcoholic for an extended period of time is at risk of dying if he or she suddenly quit drinking without medical supervision.
In comprehensive drug addiction treatment programs such as those in the CRC network, the detox process is conducted as safely and painlessly as possible, with round-the-clock supervision and medical support as needed to meet the unique needs of each patient.