Addiction is a chronic disease. Drugs latch onto the brain, forcing a physical dependence to the point where the body needs the drug in order to function. Abruptly quitting the drug may result in life threatening withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification safely manages these symptoms.
In many cases, detoxification is the first step toward recovery. With the help of medications, it expels toxins from the body and suppresses withdrawal symptoms. However, detoxification caters only to the physical symptoms. To be fully effective and address psychological issues, patients require follow-up treatment.
A Three-Step Process
The first step acts as a basis to determine further treatment. During evaluation, physicians test for the presence of drugs in the patient’s system and measure their concentration. They also look for co-occurring mental or physical disorders. The individuals also go through an in-depth assessment to ensure that doctors place them in the appropriate level of treatment following detoxification.
Stabilization is the process during which patients discontinue their drug use through medication-assisted treatment. Professionals offer psychological and medical assistance in order to help them achieve a stable and substance-free condition, after which they can receive follow-up treatment. The second stage also focuses on educating patients about their treatment plan and what is expected of them during recovery. Stabilization may also involve the patients’ family and peers.
During preparation, physicians stress the importance of follow-up treatment. Patients need to understand that failing to complete the continuum of care may result in a relapse. Health professionals obtain a written agreement from the patients stating that they are willing to continue treatment after detoxification.
Types of Detoxification
There are two types of detoxification models: medical and social. Medical detoxification involves medications and a professional staff to assist in safe withdrawal. Medical models are for patients who have poor physical health, co-occurring disorders, or severe withdrawal symptoms.
In contrast, social detoxification does not use medications. Instead, it relies on therapy, behavioral counseling, and supervision to ease the patient’s withdrawal symptoms. Social detoxification suits young healthy people with no prior history of withdrawal reactions. Social models are also less expensive than medical models.
In most detoxification facilities, medical professionals use the two models together to provide the best treatment.
Levels of Detoxification
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), there are five levels of detoxification.
The first level, known as ambulatory detoxification without extended onsite monitoring, provides scheduled medically supervised evaluation, detoxification, and referrals. These usually occur in an outpatient setting and aim to ease the patient’s transition into ongoing treatment.
The second level includes similar services; however, nurses monitor patients for several hours on the day they receive treatment.
Clinically managed residential detoxification focuses on peer and social support. This third level of detoxification provides round-the-clock supervision, observation, and assistance to patients. Some facilities allow self-administered medications to manage withdrawals. If the patients require specific treatment, the staff can arrange to move them to an appropriate facility.
The fourth level of detox is medically monitored inpatient detoxification, which provides 24-hour medically supervised inpatient evaluation and withdrawal management. At this level, a professional team of doctors and nurses use physician-approved policies and procedures to help patients overcome severe withdrawal symptoms.
Medically managed intensive inpatient detoxification is the last level of detoxification and provides round-the-clock medically directed evaluation and withdrawal management. This level is for severe and unstable cases of withdrawal that require on-site medical and nursing care services. Treatment is typically offered in hospitals with life-support equipment.
Not a Solution
Detoxification is not enough to keep a patient from resuming drug use. Patients who stop treatment after detoxification rarely maintain long-term sobriety. A continuum of care is necessary to ensure a full recovery.
Therapy sessions and support groups can help patients achieve a substance-free life. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, a therapist will help the patients recognize and curb the negative behaviors that led them to using drugs. Other types of therapy will help patients recognize and avoid triggers that would otherwise cause them to relapse.
Support groups provide a platform for the individuals in recovery to express themselves. These groups also allow them to connect with others sharing similar experiences and act as a support system in difficult times. Individuals can also turn to support groups to hold them accountable for their abstinence.