Medically Assisted Detox
- Print Version In This Article
- Advantages to a Medically Assisted Detoxification
- Disadvantages to a Medically Assisted Detoxification
- Medically Assisted Detoxification and Therapy
- The End Result
What is a Medically Assisted Detox?
A medically assisted detox is the supervised weaning of a drug addict, using a substitute drug. There is a whole host of substitute drugs available including: Suboxone, methadone and benzodiazepines. The average medically assisted detox lasts between three and seven days, depending on the individual circumstances. The National Institute on Drug Abuse confirms that medically assisted detoxification alone is not enough to ensure a successful recovery.
Advantages to a Medically Assisted Detoxification
The most common substitute drugs used during a medically assisted detoxification are Suboxone and methadone. The main advantage to the use of these drugs is they can reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawing from any drug is an uncomfortable experience and it is often the need to avoid these symptoms that encourages people to keep taking the drug. Therefore, offering them a safer substitute encourages them to become less physically dependent on the substance, says author Judy Bury for a Radcliffe-Oxford website.
Medical detox is only the first step of an addiction rehabilitation program. Experts believe the use of substitute drugs enables an addict to be in a better frame of mind to tackle the rest of the process.
There is also the safety aspect; unlike with street drugs; the individual is taking the drug in a safe environment under medical supervision. While this is a relatively safe process, if anything were to go wrong there are people around to help straight away.
Disadvantages to a Medically Assisted Detoxification
The most vocal critics of medically assisted detoxification programs accuse it of allowing individuals to do nothing more than swap one addiction for the other. There is also a small chance that some individuals will abuse the substitute drug.
A medical detoxification also does not address the strong psychological dependency people have on a substance, which is often the hardest part of the habit to break. However, it is accepted that many cases of medically assisted detoxification are successful when used in combination with behavioral and cognitive therapy. While the initial part of the program lasts seven days, most people are allowed home and can take the substitute drug as an outpatient. However, this is not always the case and some people who are on high doses of methadone have to visit a rehab clinic every day.
Medically Assisted Detoxification and Therapy
Chemical dependency is described as being when a person feels compelled to drink alcohol or take drugs, even when it has it negative consequences on their health, relationships, social life and more. People who use drugs or alcohol on a regular basis are likely to quickly develop a tolerance to it. This results in a vicious circle, where the individual has to take more of the substance to achieve the same effects.
Although it is not impossible for a person to stop taking a substance on their own, they stand a much better chance of success if they attend a rehabilitation center program. These programs are often a combination of a medically assisted detox and psychotherapy.The role of the psychiatrist in a person’s recovery is very important, as recovering from addiction is less likely without addressing psychological dependency.
Most people who are addicted to a substance believe they need to keep taking the drug, in order to feel normal and be able to function properly. The more of a drug a person takes, the more tolerance is built up, which leads to a vicious circle.
To address psychological dependency, the patient must be honest about triggers. Triggers are the high-risk situations that encourage the person to take the drug. Once these are identified, the therapist can work with the individual on avoiding these situations. Problem solving and coping skills are also taught to individuals during therapy, as stress is one of the biggest triggers for drug addicts. The feeling of not being able to cope is enough to cause a relapse.
The End Result
A successful medically assisted detox should deal with a person’s withdrawal symptoms within between one week and one month. People who are on substitute drugs for longer than this are either being given the wrong dose or their withdrawal symptoms are not being addressed correctly. Ongoing therapy is always an option and it is often a good idea for the first 12 months to lower the individual’s chances of a relapse.