Content reviewed by Christian Losch, LCSW, LCADC, CEO of Pinelands

Over time, chronic substance use can wreak havoc on an individual’s physical and mental health. Alcohol and other drugs interfere significantly with brain functioning, disturbing standard communication between brain regions and the cells within those regions. Chronic substance use persuades the mind and body to think that substance use is normal, forcing the brain to communicate abnormal messages between areas of the brain.

While the brain tries to adapt to regular substance intake, it also reinforces substance consumption because the brain recognizes the drug as a delivery agent of feelings of reward and pleasure. The brain is wired to remember and motivate activities that bring about these feelings of reward. With long-term substance use, the mind and body start to rely on chemical substances to experience any pleasure at all, making sobriety seem unachievable.

In most treatment cases for addiction and substance use disorders (SUDs), medical detox is a necessary first step towards recovery. Medical detox provides around-the-clock supervision for someone in the initial stages of tapering off or quitting the substances their mind or body had become dependent upon. It is essential to understand that medical detox is an invaluable resource for those seeking recovery from the harmful effects of substance use.

Medical detox clears the body of chemical substances.

Detox is the process of ridding the body of alcohol or other drugs. During medical detox, patients are under the supervision of medical professionals. This form of detox provides a safe space and opportunity for patients to manage their withdrawal symptoms, especially because initial withdrawal can be dangerous to those trying to quit their substance use. In severe cases, withdrawal can cause hallucinations, convulsions, tremors, or disorientation.

Rarely do individuals struggling with addiction or substance use begin treatment without a detox program first. This is because withdrawal symptoms can seem too unbearable to handle alone. In many cases of medical detox, medications may be provided for patients to help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Most treatment facilities offer medical detox as the first step towards long-term recovery. Detox can also occur in a hospital setting, specialized inpatient detox facilities, or outpatient facilities that provide close medical supervision.

Every person experiences medical detox differently. Some may require a week to detox, while others may need several weeks until severe withdrawal symptoms subside. Several factors that play into what a person can expect from a detox experience may include:

  • The patient’s brain chemistry
  • Co-occurring conditions
  • Type of substance used
  • Intensity of substance use
  • Frequency of substance use

Medical detox is a process that involves several steps.

If you or your loved one is considering treatment but have yet to experience detox, it may be helpful to become familiar with the general process of detox. Since everyone’s mind and body respond to abstinence differently, everyone will have different needs during the detox process. This is why most detox programs rely on individualized care.

The first step in the process of detox is evaluation. This stage involves a therapist or team of professionals working together with a patient to undergo medical screenings and interviews. Medical experts will evaluate patients’ medical history, bring attention to the severity of substance use, and search for signs of co-occurring disorders. Doctors then perform blood tests to measure the level of drugs present in the patient’s body, which helps uncover the proper type and dose of medication needed to manage withdrawal symptoms.

The evaluation stage also helps professionals gain adequate information on the patient, which is essential in creating long-term treatment and recovery plans.

The second step in detox is the stabilization stage. This stage involves a team of professionals working together to ensure safety and security measures are taken for the patient as they work to regain physical and mental stability. Therapists are available around the clock to help comfort and guide a patient’s psychological needs. Doctors may provide medications to patients to prevent complications with detox and reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Some uncomfortable yet common examples of withdrawal symptoms often experienced during detox include:

  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Physical discomfort or pain
  • Irritability

The final step in detox is preparation for treatment. At this point in the process, therapists and doctors have had several days to learn about the patient and where they are in their recovery process. Typically, a patient will be referred to a residential or other inpatient treatment facility, as it fosters the intensive treatment necessary to achieve long-term recovery.

Medical detox is the process of cleansing the body of alcohol and other substances entirely. Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford is a premier substance use treatment center that offers medication-assisted detox to make detox symptoms more manageable. Detoxing alone is dangerous; we are here to help. For more information on our detox program or to learn more about our treatment facility, call Pinelands today at (877) 557-5372.