When someone with addiction hits rock bottom, they know they have to change, but one of their biggest fears is detoxification. Maybe you’ve seen fictional accounts or maybe you’ve seen it firsthand, but you know how bad detox can be without help. There’s no one answer to what kind of detox is best because it depends on the drug being abused, how much you used it, and for how long, but here are some of your options for which will be the most effective detox for you.
SHOULD I JUST GO “COLD TURKEY”?
Most people who don’t know better think that heroin detoxification is probably the most difficult form of withdrawal. Think again. While there are always exceptions depending on the length and the intensity of drug use, alcohol withdrawal hits most people the hardest. Not only are the symptoms of withdrawal usually worse, but they are the most medically complex and dangerous. You should never attempt to withdraw from alcohol alone and without medical intervention–you can literally die during withdrawal. Don’t do it under any circumstances and don’t agree to help a friend or family member go cold turkey.
WHAT IS MAT?
MAT stands for medication-assisted treatment. But that doesn’t mean you check into rehab, take a pill, and wake up completely detoxified. If only it were that easy, right? While medications help reduce the symptoms of the withdrawal, you should still expect that acute withdrawal will not be an entirely pleasant experience. MAT does make it manageable though and allows you to start doing the work of recovery sooner.
MAT works by stabilizing brain chemistry, blocking the euphoric effect of substance abuse, and helps reduce your cravings. Note that it helps reduce them, but it doesn’t get rid of them altogether. You’re still going to have to do the work of recovery.
A common misconception with MAT use is “substituting one drug for another.” This is false, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), who has developed a Bill of Rights brochure for those undergoing this treatment. Federal regulations ensure that these medications aren’t prescribed but dispensed as part of an addiction treatment program and used in conjunction with counseling and other behavioral therapies.
WHAT MEDICATIONS HELP WITH ALCOHOL WITHDRAWAL?
We’ve already said that alcohol detoxification can have serious consequences, but what medications are used to control symptoms? MAT is most often used for opiate addiction and the most commonly prescribed drugs include acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone. Acamprosate focuses on rebalancing the brain chemically so you won’t have the desire to drink. Naltrexone will also rebalance the brain chemically to reduce cravings and it’s important to use these two medications once the alcohol abuse has stopped–you don’t want to mix these medications with alcohol.
The classic anti-alcohol medication disulfiram, or Antabuse, takes a more direct approach. If you use alcohol or drugs with this medication you can expect some very unpleasant side effects, to put it mildly. Plan to spend your Friday night hovering over the toilet because this drug causes serious gastrointestinal distress, nausea, and vomiting.
WHAT OPTIONS DO I HAVE FOR OPIOID DETOX?
If you’re detoxing from opioids like heroin or prescription drugs such as morphine, oxycodone, codeine, or hydrocodone, your treatment can include naltrexone, buprenorphine, and methadone. Used as dispensed, you can take these medications long-term or for your whole life, if necessary. Of course, you should follow the dosage and any recommendations or adjustments made by your treatment program.
WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE DO IN THE CASE OF AN OVERDOSE?
Not surprisingly, there is a medication for that, as well. You’ve probably heard of it as Narcan, but its generic name is naloxone. The World Health Organization cites naloxone as one of the essential medications that should always be readily available and affordable. Even if you aren’t ready to get help with your addiction, you should be carrying Narcan for a potential overdose.
If you are in recovery, you really need it because the chances of you overdosing after detox increase if you use again. Why? Because once you go through detox and are clean for a period of time, your body can’t tolerate as much of the drug as before. If you relapse and try to use the same amount of drug you previously used, you can have disastrous results and overdose. Having Narcan on hand can save your life. A relapse is better than an overdose and death is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Finding the best detox can mean different things for different people. Having said that, many people choose the route of using medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This treatment is not simply replacing one drug for another, but uses medication to rebalance your brain chemistry, cut your cravings, and take away your “high.” Certain alcohol abuse medications can have the same effect and there’s the standby, Antabuse, which takes a more direct approach by making you sick if you drink. These medications are dispensed through a treatment program and federal regulations require you to also get counseling and medical support. If you are thinking about MAT, read the brochure provided by SAMHSA before you enter into any program. Everlast Recovery Centers can help you choose if this is the best recovery program for you, all in a home-like atmosphere. Let us get you the help you need before it’s too late. There is life after addiction. Call us at 866-DETOX-25