The medical dictionary defines detoxification as the process of removal of toxic substances (like drugs and alcohol) from your body. In many ways, this is the first step to recovery from any kind of substance abuse and addiction. For instance, if you or someone you know has acknowledged they have a drinking problem or an addiction of any sort, then that’s about 50 % of the problem solved. The next step would be to rid your body of the toxins that have accumulated over the years.
By the way detox is advertised in the newspapers and media, one would think that there’s not much to it or that it is something that can be done easily at home. The proliferation with which detox products are marketed makes it seem like something that can be done without medical supervision. Just take a pill or two and you’re done, right? Well, wrong. When it comes to detox from drugs and alcohol, it is a different issue altogether, and let’s not forget, a whole lot more risky. The commonly available products in the market offer a colon cleanse, which of course, has its own set of benefits. But for something as serious as alcohol addiction, a colon cleanse wouldn’t suffice. As a matter of fact, alcohol detox at home could even prove to be deadly.
Before we speak of detox, it is important to determine how drugs like benzodiazepines and alcohol affect your body. Both work like a sedative; that means, it would be inhibiting certain chemicals in your brain and slowing you down in general. Yes, that is what the “high” or euphoria refers to. With incessant use, these substances might completely alter the way your brain functions, thus making it technically impossible for the body to function without the presence of the substance. This is where addiction comes in.
To most, the simplest answer would be to give up the substance altogether. However, quitting the substance your body has been used to all this while on impulse may trigger withdrawal symptoms which can even end up being fatal. Withdrawal symptoms aren’t just characterised by cravings; it takes a serious toll on both your physical and mental health.
It is thus recommended that you undergo rehab under medical supervision. With doctors and specialists overlooking your progress, it would be easier to keep your withdrawal symptoms under check and would also ensure that you make it to the finish line.
If you or someone you know believes that they have a drinking problem and needs to cut down on alcohol consumption, then lifestyle changes are in order. If one chooses detox at home, relapse is a higher probability. With no one to guide you, you begin to give in to your cravings. Thus, you are back to square one.
Alcohol detox usually involves two very important steps or phases. The first phase is during the initial days – the most crucial phase. This is when you encounter maximum withdrawal symptoms and might require help. Without medical intervention, these symptoms could take a turn for the worse. During this phase, your body is at a loss as to what is happening or why it is being deprived of the one substance it is craving. Medical professionals would know how to deal with such cravings without causing much discomfort to you.
The second phase is longer and more sustainable. This is when your body is gradually becoming accustomed to the new regime; of course, you are still going to crave alcohol from time to time, but by now, you know how to deal with them. Alcohol recovery is an on-going process – one that requires you to put in serious effort each day of your life.
Here are some withdrawal symptoms which are almost difficult to manage at home:
Just like alcohol, drugs belonging to the benzodiazepines group also come with their own set of withdrawal symptoms. They are:
Now these symptoms depend on a large number of factors, the most important being the severity of the addiction. Thus, it can be difficult to predict the extent of the symptoms that might show up in an individual.
An individual who hasn’t shown signs of psychological issues during his or her addiction to alcohol or drugs might demonstrate severe fluctuations in mood along with other mental health disorders during detox. This is due to the sheer absence of the substance in their body. Suicidal thoughts, severe depression, anxiety and agitation are just some of the common problems that a recovering addict may have to face; each of these, without sufficient medical help, might lead to long term problems for the person in question. Under medical supervision, signs of such mental instability would be detected in the early stages and treated before it’s too late.
This might be explained better with the help of an example. At one point or the other, we have all tried to go on diets. Now a diet would be impossible to keep up if you constantly have food in front of you. Similarly, for recovering addicts, who are just learning to lead normal lives without the support of alcohol environment plays a key role. During the first crucial phase of detox, if they are placed in an environment where alcohol is easily available (like, home!) it might be difficult to keep up the sobriety.
Complete abstinence from substance is a herculean task; there is no doubt about that. However, it isn’t impossible; the key is to get past that first phase when your body craves for a single drop of alcohol. Thus, inpatient alcohol recovery is given preference. Yes, it might cost you and would also turn your life upside down. But if you are to have a single chance at sobriety, a rehab facility would be a better option. Not only would you be in a safe and secured environment, you would also be getting the chance to turn over a new leaf and get over your addiction completely.
During alcohol and drug detox, you are bound to be prescribed certain medicines which can make this arduous journey a tad bit simpler for you. These medicines would reduce cravings, keep a tab on your anxiety, control sudden mood fluctuations, prevent seizures and convulsions and keep delirium tremens at bay. However, these medications aren’t your average over the counter drugs; they require vigilance by trained medical staff. Remember, detox is the most important step to alcohol recovery; and it works only when you are thinking with a clear head; and not one that is clouded by alcohol.