Detox: An Important First Step

When you decide to take that brave first step to overcoming your addiction, detox is where you begin. You have to get the drugs out of your system to begin the healing. Detoxing is actually a natural process — when you stop taking drugs, they will exit your system within a few days. As long as you do not put any drugs back in, you will be cleansed.

In the throes of an active addiction, you continue putting your substance of choice into your body and never let it exit entirely. After some time, your body and brain learn to function with a certain level of that particular substance at all times. When you start to feel any withdrawal symptoms, like headache, anxiety, tremors or anything that makes you uncomfortable, you reach for another dose, and those feelings go away.

Detox is an important first step to rehab, but it can be a difficult one. The key is to get through those withdrawal feelings without taking another dose of drugs, and addiction makes that nearly impossible to do on your own.

The Importance of Detoxing Safely

You need a detox program to get you through this critical step of your recovery. Withdrawal symptoms range from uncomfortable to life-threatening depending on your situation. A lot of it has to do with your substance of choice, but your physical and mental health play a big part, too.Using medical intervention to manage withdrawal symptoms can make you more comfortable during the detox process. In addition, using life-saving medical intervention, if necessary, can provide the most comfortable detox experience when going through withdrawal symptoms.

How Does A Medical Detox Work?

A detox program is typically broken down into three stages:

STEP 1: 

Your condition is evaluated, and you are tested to see what drugs are in your system. This can help caregivers anticipate your needs throughout the detox process.

STEP 2: 

Your condition will now start to change as time goes by. You will be administered a medical intervention as needed to keep your vital signs within normal range and also to ease the pain of any symptoms you may feel. While all symptoms of every type of drug withdrawal may not be treatable, you'll be kept as comfortable as possible.

STEP 3: 

You will prepare to transition to the rehab program. You may begin to experience cravings at the end of your detox. We will begin working with you at this stage to reduce cravings and identify any underlying mental health issues that need to be addressed in rehab along with the addiction.

Facing your issues in rehab and working through them can be a challenge. You will be at a distinct advantage, though, if your detox is comfortable and you do not enter rehab feeling broken and ashamed.

The Detox Process: Less Painful Than You Think

Drug and alcohol treatment often begins with detox, allowing toxins to leave the body as well as managing withdrawal symptoms.  The length, type and medical protocol for detox varies with each substance and the amount and length of time of abuse. There are three stages to detox: evaluation, stabilization and transitioning to treatment. No matter where you detox, the third step is essential for any long-term sober or clean time. Detox is not treatment.

It is important to note that detoxing “cold turkey” can have severe and life-threatening consequences. Do not attempt to detox on your own, especially for alcohol, benzodiazepines and barbiturates. All of these substances require medically supervised detoxification.

Detox is also strongly recommended for opiates and prescription opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, as well as brand formulations including Lortab, Vicodin, Norco, OxyContin and Percocet. The risks of quitting cold turkey include:


  • Needlessly uncomfortable withdrawal
  • Increased risk of relapse
  • Increased risk of overdose form relapse due to lowered tolerance to the drug
  • Death (frequently in the setting of uncontrolled seizure and convulsion)*

The evaluation process includes blood tests, screening for co-occurring conditions (mental and physical) and risk assessment for withdrawal severity and need for medical supervision. The stabilization process helps you through acute intoxication and withdrawal with medication to ease symptoms. An evaluation process will provide you with an individualized detox plan made for you based on many factors, with the goal of keeping you as comfortable as possible during this important first step in recovery.

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Helping a Loved One With Addiction

The first step to helping your loved one with an addiction is recognizing the problem. The sooner an addiction is treated, the easier it is to overcome. The damage to their health and their life is mitigated by early intervention. Look for these signs in yourself or someone you love to identify an addiction:

  • Mood swings — People struggling with addiction might experience extreme mood swings, often becoming irritable and anxious when they are craving their next dose.
  • Secretive behavior — Addiction creates a lot of shame and causes people to try to hide their actions and behaviors, while at the same time pushing them to do things they would not normally do.
  • Empties — An unusual number of empty bottles or pill bottles in the trash can be a sign of drug addiction.
  • Social withdrawal — Often, someone struggling with addiction will pull away from family and friends, avoid social situations and spend more time alone
  • Weight changes — Drug abuse can produce excessive weight loss or gain in a short period of time.
  • Activity level alterations — When someone becomes much more active or much less active than usual, this can be a sign of addiction to a drug that is affecting blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Redness of skin or eyes — Red eyes or a flushed complexion can indicate drug addiction.

If you recognize any of these symptoms, they may be the result of drug addiction. Addiction is a serious condition that requires professional intervention. The best thing you can do for yourself or a loved one struggling with addiction is get in touch with an addiction treatment center for help right away.

Detox Is Not Enough

Detox services are only the first step to overcoming addiction. Detox is an important part of recovery and requires medical supervision and intervention.

Taking drugs is only the outward sign of drug addiction. The real problem is inside your brain where the drug habit hijacks your brain and controls you through your pleasure centers. The part of your brain that is naturally designed to create habits by rewarding good behavior with positive emotions becomes dependent on the drug and will not let it go easily.

As soon as the drugs are out of your system at the end of detox, your brain will be looking for that high again. Whether it be drugs or alcohol, the force of addiction was strong enough to make you act in ways that you knew were detrimental to your health, so you need behavioral therapy to get rid of your drug habit. Treatment services work in conjunction with detox to clear the drugs out of your body and reverse the changes in your brain that developed the habit.

Why Choose Tranquil Shores?

Tranquil Shores uses an integrated recovery model to transition you from one stage of the recovery process to the next.  Upon completion of the program, Tranquil Shores offers free group therapy to our alumni. We believe in preserving our client’s dignity through the detox and rehab process. Addiction can be difficult to face, but we try to make recovery a welcome relief from the pain and anxiety of addiction.

Call us today at (727) 391-7001 or (877) 566-1166 to speak to a counselor.

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