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How to Minimize the Discomfort of Drug & Alcohol Detox

For many people entering alcohol and drug addiction treatment, their biggest fear is detox. The majority of these fears are based on widely-held misconceptions and urban myths but depending on the substance involved, it is undeniable that detox can be extremely uncomfortable.

Knowing what to expect can serve to allay many of these fears. Everybody is different and severity of withdrawal is dependent on several factors including:

  • The length of time substances have been abused
  • The types of substances abused
  • The method of abuse, for example, injecting, smoking or swallowing
  • The amount taken each time
  • Genetic makeup and family history
  • Mental and physical health factors

There is a wealth of difference between the withdrawal experiences of each patient. For example, someone who has a long history of injecting heroin and has a co-occurring mental illness with a family history of addiction is likely to suffer from more powerful withdrawal symptoms than someone who has an isolated case of alcoholism.

Withdrawal from Drugs

Here, we provide an overview of certain drugs and their withdrawal timeline:

Heroin: Withdrawal symptoms will start to present within 12 hours from cessation, peaking within 24-48hours and lasting anything from a week to a few months, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Benzodiazepines (eg Valium, Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin): Withdrawal symptoms take a while to emerge for these drugs, starting from the first to the fourth day after the last dose. In some cases, withdrawal can last for months or even years unless specialist treatment is sought.

Cocaine: Within just a few hours of the last dose, patients will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms which peak in a few days, lasting anything from a week to three months.

Withdrawal symptoms present during the acute withdrawal phase include:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Tension and irritability
  • Tremors and heart palpitations
  • Sweating and fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle pain and stiffness
  • Hypertension
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Difficulty focusing and slurred speech

Withdrawal from Alcohol

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), alcohol is one of the most commonly abused substances in America, with around one in 12 adults are battling dependency or alcoholism. Research shows that the longer someone engages in heavy drinking, the more likely it is that their brain function is driving their compulsion to abuse alcohol.  Because of this, the withdrawal symptoms someone detoxing from alcohol can experience vary greatly in severity.

According to a report published by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), around 50% of people with alcohol use disorder will experience some degree of withdrawal when they cut down or eliminate alcohol. Around 3-5% are said to suffer from the more severe withdrawal symptoms of seizures, hallucinations, and delirium, which can be life-threatening unless detox is completed under medical supervision.

The other side effects of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Insomnia despite heavy fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches, muscle aches, shallow breathing
  • Dizziness and feeling of disorientation
  • Elevated heart rate, tremors, and palpitations
  • Dehydration and loss of color in the face
  • Inability to focus, slurred speech

How to Get Through Detox with Minimum Discomfort

Because the withdrawal symptoms from addiction to substances and alcohol are unknown elements, with numerous variables to take into consideration, it is unwise for people to attempt to detox on their own. A DIY detox is never a viable option for people who have developed a dependence or addiction, particularly if they have been using for a number of years or have co-occurring mental health issues.

It’s also important to bear in mind that detox is just the beginning of the rehab process and there is still a lot of work to be done over the long term to ensure sobriety can be sustained. If someone has detoxed outside of a specialist treatment center, they are vulnerable to unexpected medical emergencies, some of which can be fatal and so the importance of seeking professional help cannot be emphasized enough.

Another way in which it is possible to make detox a more comfortable experience is at a luxury rehab center. Set in environments that are usually a world away from what patients are accustomed to, luxury rehab provides them with an opportunity to enjoy the more self-indulgent aspects of addiction treatment. After all, the journey towards recovery is all about the individual traveling the road and luxury rehab offers the high-end, patient-centric facilities for detox as a comfortable environment for what is undeniably a challenging experience.