Drug rehab is an important first step towards overcoming addiction, but what's the first step of drug rehab? In a lot of serious cases, it's an even more important step - drug detoxification. Going to drug detox may be the single most important decision you make in your recovery.
It's called "detox" for a reason - your body isn't equipped to handle those kinds of substances, and that, by definition, makes them "toxic." Your body can filter out small amounts of toxins at a time, but then your body builds up a tolerance to them. Usually that's a good thing - your body also builds up tolerance to illnesses and germs, and you'd be in real trouble if it didn't.
But drugs are different. They enter the body and elicit responses that demand more - and then physically punish you via withdrawals if you don't feed that impulse. That's what drug "tolerance" gets you.
Drug detox is about ridding you of these chemically-induced impulses and helping you through the period when those symptoms are at their strongest. This initial period of withdrawal symptoms can be potentially dangerous without proper medical attention, and that's what detox is here for.
But what actually is detox? Do you need it before you start a rehab program? Where and how can you get it? Let's get into answering those questions first.
Drug detox handles the period of time at the beginning of your rehab in which the influence of drugs is strongest.
The way addiction works, your body adapts to the presence of new substances (drugs, in this case), by building up that aforementioned tolerance. What tolerance does is it shifts your body's perception of what's normal.
Your body adapts to having drugs in your system so that you can feel normal while you're on them. And the other side of that is you feel abnormal when you're not on drugs. Since your brain chemistry has been altered to feel like your drug-induced state is normal, you find yourself reacting to not having drugs in your system - since your body has created this resistance, it needs to use it. These reactions are called withdrawals, and depending on your drug of choice, they can range in severity from mild to life-threatening.
Drug detox is about getting you through those withdrawal symptoms by lessening the severity of the chemical reactions going on inside you.
So we keep talking around the idea of "withdrawal symptoms, right? But what actually are withdrawal symptoms? Well, they vary from person to person, and more importantly from drug to drug. But there are some common ones to look out for, like
It's also important to note the most serious withdrawal symptom: Death. We're not trying to be alarmist here, but the fact is, leaving severe withdrawal symptoms untreated can sometimes be too much for your body to handle. Certain substances (like marijuana) have almost no risk of death as a direct result of withdrawal symptoms, but others (like benzodiazepines, methadone, and alcohol), can absolutely kill at a dangerously high rate.
A big part of the detox process is medical detox. This involves administering medication that blocks or alleviates withdrawal symptoms, and that method alone made up the majority of detox treatment for a while.
While this might seem like the best approach, and it is still an important part of detox, medical detox can create problems for patients in the long term. Addiction is all about using substances that make you feel "normal." So in the case of medical detox, the medications that are generally used for detoxification - which make patients feel "normal" in the face of withdrawal symptoms - carry their own withdrawal risks. One such drug is suboxone, which is typically used in opiate detox.
Granted, detox drugs aren't nearly as damaging as the illicit drugs they're used to treat. In many cases, it's quite the opposite - detox drugs can be life-saving, and are still an important part of the detox process. But medicine doesn't treat the core of addiction, it treats its symptoms. Medicine has to be used in conjunction with other methods that treat the root causes of addiction itself.
For that reason, holistic detoxification methods have become more popular. Holistic detox is a method that utilizes diet and physical fitness as a major component of the program.
Holistic drug detox programs address the basic needs people have when they've become addicted to drugs. You might not think things like eating and drinking are things you need treatment for, but they actually incredibly important.
A major component of a holistic drug detox rehab is nutrition, because many who have been addicted to substances tend to neglect proper nutrition. With addiction, the body's need for addictive substances overrides the desire to eat. Basically, any sort of "basic need" impulse your body gives you turns into a desire for drugs. Some people don't even feel hunger anymore because the "hunger" symbol doesn't result in eating.
Talking with a nutritionist about your addiction history and your diet will help both them and you to understand what vitamins and minerals your body is lacking, and then those things can be added into your daily food intake. Addiction also frequently causes dehydration, so a healthy supply of water will be involved as well.
Exercise - regardless of what kind of exercise - is also a major component of detox, for much the same reason as nutrition is. The focus here is on making your body healthier in general, and reversing some of the negative physical effects addiction has had on your overall condition. This is not only better for you in the long run, but it kick-starts your body's ability to handle toxins, which is the whole point of detox in the first place. This also helps reduce the chances you'll become dependent on detox medications.
This may seem more like the kind of treatment you'd get at a gym, rather than detox, but it is truly important and proven effective. Once your body starts getting the nutrition it needs to work properly, your body's normal functions kick in and start processing toxins much more efficiently. That means a drastic reduction in both the severity of your withdrawal symptoms, and the amount of time you experience them.
If you know you're going to enter rehab, and you're preparing to go into detox for the first section, there are some things you can do to prepare yourself. Mostly, these are steps geared toward jump-starting the sort of holistic treatment you'll get in detox, but getting an early start on this things can shorten your stay and make the whole thing a little easier.
You might be surprised to hear this, but if you're planning to go to detox, there's one thing you shouldn't do. This may be the only time you hear us say this, but... don't try to quit. Not before going to detox.
No, really. The point of going to detox is to get help navigating the withdrawal symptoms of stopping drug use. If you try to quit cold turkey a day or two before you go to detox, you're going to put yourself right in the middle of your withdrawals before you get that help, and that's potentially dangerous. You want to get into detox before your symptoms kick in, so you can get help easing through them. If you're already suffering from withdrawals, you're defeating the purpose.
That said, you can cut back on your usage and try to step down as much as possible, and there are a number of other things you can do.
Like we mentioned earlier, using drugs causes your body to get dehydrated. That's one of the reasons why drug detox clinics stress the importance of drinking water. But you don't need to be in detox to drink water. Start drinking more water, and you'll be way ahead in your detox. It's a small thing, and you may not see it as making a big difference, but it definitely does.
In addition, you can jump-start the nutrition aspect of detox by cutting back on junk food. When you're eating a lot of sugar and bad fat, it gives your body more toxins to filter through while you're trying to filter out the actual drugs. Avoiding foods that are hard for your body to digest is important at the best drug detox centers. The right foods can also help to flush out toxins and strengthen your immune system, which is definitely a must during drug detox.
Northpoint Seattle does not handle detox in-house, but we are proud to work with some of the best drug detox clinics across the state of Washington. We work with clinics that utilize the most modern, holistic methods for drug detox, and we make sure to incorporate it into our treatment plan.
In other words, this isn't a decision you have to make alone. If we think your recovery will require detox treatment, we will refer you out to one, and pick up your treatment once the process has finished - which can take up to two weeks.
Our goal is to help you successfully stop using drugs without worrying about relapsing. And we will make sure you get whatever treatment you need - even if we don't provide it. If you would like to learn more about how Northpoint Seattle can help you with your addiction, check out our treatment plan and philosophy. And if you'd like to discuss your options in more detail, please contact us.