physical drug withdrawal

Is Detox Only for Physical Drug Withdrawal?

Addiction doesn’t happen overnight. Individuals who begin experimenting with alcohol and drugs must continue that behavior for a prolonged time for addiction to set in. Moreover, there are frequently numerous other factors that contribute to the development of an addiction, including prior exposure to substance abuse such as having a parent with a substance abuse problems. In fact, the development of an addiction often depends on the confluence of several factors at once with the specifics varying from one individual to the next. As such, the journey of chemical dependence is different for each addict.

Despite the degree of variability in the development and experience of addiction, there are certain aspects of addiction that are nearly universal. This includes physical dependence, compulsive drug-seeking behavior, and a willingness to make huge sacrifices to sustain a substance abuse habit. Physical dependence is widely considered to be one of the most intense and difficult components of addiction to overcome. Many addicts either avoid or reject the recovery process due to an overwhelming fear of withdrawal, the onset of which occurs only hours after an addict’s last dose.

Therefore, overcoming physical dependence is one of the most important parts of the recovery process and a precursor to receiving actual treatment and counseling. Detox programs are widely held to be the treatment that addresses an individual’s physical addiction and allows him or her to overcome withdrawal with a minimal amount of discomfort. However, is detox treatment only for physical withdrawal, or can a detox program help with the mental and emotional aspects of addiction?

What Exactly Is a Detox Program?

The use of the term “detoxification” is associated with a process that rids the body of unnatural or harmful toxins so it can return to a natural, healthy state. Therefore, a detox program for addiction refers to a form of treatment that helps an individual to rid his or her body of toxins, including alcohol or drugs, while replenishing any depleted nutrients. In effect, detox addiction treatment provides individuals in recovery with a means of overcoming the physical components of addiction. However, this process almost always requires continuous care so that an individual’s safety can be assured at all times given that certain types of physical drug withdrawal—such as withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines—can be so severe as to be life-threatening or even potentially fatal.

When an individual begins detox treatment, he or she must enter the treatment facility, residing there for the duration of the treatment. By residing in the facility during the detoxification, a client can receive continuous supervision and 24-hour care, which is meant to ensure his or her safety as well as to allow for the treatment of physical drug withdrawal symptoms; to minimize the discomfort of detoxification, many physicians will administer “comfort medications” such as mild benzodiazepines or sedatives, which alleviate some of the symptoms and make the treatment more tolerable. If the comfort medication is a controlled substance, the individual’s doses are tapered, becoming incrementally less until no medication is needed or given.

By the end of a detox treatment, the individual will have virtually conquered physical dependence and will be experiencing minimal or no withdrawal symptoms, which will allow him or her to progress into the treatment phase of rehabilitation.

How Detox Treatment Makes Recovery Less Daunting

Fear of withdrawal is one of the most common reasons addicts give for being unable or unwilling to initiate the recovery process. Withdrawal symptoms are often described by addicts as being excruciating and debilitating; moreover, avoiding withdrawal often becomes the only reason why an addict continues to abuse alcohol or drugs. Unable to face withdrawal alone, addicts will continue their substance abuse until they are physically unable to do so, which can occur due to incarceration or becoming unable to obtain the money necessary to fund their substance abuse habits. However, detox treatment is reassuring. By detoxing in an actual detox program, individuals don’t have to simply endure the discomfort of withdrawal. Instead, the care of physicians and other professionals make the experience of detoxification less daunting and more accessible.

What Is Mental Withdrawal?

Detox programs would appear to be designed to treat only the physical symptoms of addiction and dependence. However, detox treatment is actually for more than just physical withdrawal. While physical withdrawal includes symptoms such as sweating, nausea, and aching in the joints and muscles, mental withdrawal consists of intense cravings for alcohol or drugs, frustration, depression, anxiety, the feeling of bugs crawling on the skin (called formication), severe insomnia, mood swings, irritability, and a pronounced decrease in appetite. For some drugs in particular—such as cocaine and marijuana—the mental withdrawal symptoms can rival the physical drug withdrawal symptoms in severity.

Although mental withdrawal symptoms are considered less life-threatening than the physical ones, they are still a major reason individuals enter a detox program. Mental withdrawal can just as readily push an individual into relapse as physical withdrawal. Additionally, the mental symptoms tend to linger for much longer than the physical symptoms, sometimes for months or even years at a time in a condition known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome. As such, individuals experiencing very pronounced or severe mental withdrawal symptoms may be candidates for additional medications such as antidepressants or an SSRI, which can sometimes offset some of the effects and symptoms of mental withdrawal.

Find Freedom in Recovery with Drug Treatment Center Finder

Much like the way that every addict develops and experiences addiction in his or her own way, every addict recovers from addiction in his or her own way, too. One of the most beneficial aspects of addiction treatment is that each individual entering treatment can personalize a curriculum to address his or her specific recovery needs.

If you or someone you love is suffering from chemical dependence and would like more information about how to personalize an effective addiction treatment program, Drug Treatment Center Finder can help. Call us today at 1-855-619-8070 for a free consultation and assessment. Don’t become another casualty of addiction—let one of our recovery specialists help you begin the journey back to health and sobriety.