Overcoming drug addiction opens the door to a new, healthy life filled with wonderful possibilities. However, quitting certain drugs on your own can pose serious health risks. Many addictions require that the individual undergo medically supervised withdrawal to avoid any complications due to the body’s decreased access to the addictive substance.
Types of medically-assisted detox programs
There are two ways to detox from drugs under medical supervision.
Inpatient detox is used for severe addictions. The patient stays in a facility where professionals can monitor their health around the clock. Plus, when detoxing at a facility, the individual faces more obstacles if they want to use drugs than someone detoxing at home.
Outpatient programs require the patient to check in at a treatment center regularly. It’s a program better suited for individuals with less severe addictions. The individual might need to visit the treatment facility for medication, such as methadone, or therapy, such as a weekly meeting.
In the cases of severe addiction, the person will typically start with inpatient therapy before later moving on to outpatient therapy as they progress in their treatment plan.
Now that you understand the different tiers of addiction treatment, here are a few drugs that might require a doctor’s help to quit.
Approximately 10% of men and 5% of women struggle with alcohol addiction, making it one of the most widely abused drugs in the world.
Regular alcohol use causes your central nervous system to become dependent on its presence. If a chronic drinker attempts to stop drinking too quickly, their central nervous system can essentially kick into overdrive, resulting in a variety of withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Anxiety and irritability
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea
Alcohol is one of the few drugs with which the patient risks death if they try to detox too quickly or without medical supervision. Other serious withdrawal symptoms include seizures, hallucinations, and heart issues.
Medical detox for alcohol typically requires a strict tapering schedule. The patient will likely continue to drink for some portion of the detox but in carefully regulated amounts. Additionally, doctors will usually prescribe medications to help handle issues that may arise, such as high blood pressure or an increased heart rate. When it comes to setting down the bottle for good, slow and steady wins the race.
Opioids include Schedule I drugs (no medical use) such as heroin and Schedule II controlled substances like Percocet, OxyContin, and Vicodin. The category also includes Fentanyl, an incredibly potent and deadly synthetic opioid.
Withdrawal from opioids is notoriously uncomfortable. The detoxing person will likely experience intense muscle aches, nausea, insomnia, chills, and mood swings. Generally, symptoms start appearing within twelve hours of the most recent dose.
People addicted to opioids who try to quit on their own almost always end up seeking more drugs, as the withdrawal symptoms simply become too overwhelming. One significant advantage of medically-assisted detox is that patients can undergo a slow, regulated detox schedule that minimizes withdrawal symptoms.
Physicians often prescribe methadone to patients experiencing opioid withdrawal. Methadone is a long-acting opioid that patients take once every twenty-four hours, with the idea that they’ll feel comfortable enough to wean off short-acting opioids like heroin.
Commonly known as benzos, this class of drugs treats anxiety and related issues such as panic attacks. Benzodiazepine can also help control seizures. Classified as central nervous system depressants, the most common types of benzos are Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, and Valium.
Addiction often starts subtly, as these drugs leave users feeling calm and relaxed but relatively functional. However, high tolerance and severe dependency can develop quickly. As with alcohol dependency, someone with a severe benzo addiction should never stop cold turkey, as the effects could be potentially lethal.
Medical detox for benzos involves close monitoring of severe issues such as seizures, as well as management of other symptoms like insomnia and heartbeat irregularities.
Additionally, those withdrawing from benzodiazepines will likely experience headaches, sore muscles, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, and hand tremors.
Stimulants increase the energy and alertness of both the brain and body, often to dangerous levels. Common stimulants include:
- Cocaine (including crack cocaine)
- Amphetamine and methylphenidate (such as Adderall and other ADHD medications)
- Methamphetamines (such as crystal meth)
Withdrawal symptoms have three stages. Within a few hours after using the drug, individuals can experience anxiety, depression, and an intense craving for more. Next, users will likely feel an increase in depression along with physical exhaustion. Finally, users may crash, experiencing severe, even debilitating, lethargy and depression for days or even weeks.
Medical detox primarily focuses on managing psychological symptoms. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are often prescribed once the initial physical withdrawal symptoms have subsided. In severe withdrawal, antipsychotics might be given, as temporary psychosis can occur.
Recovering from drug addictions requires overcoming many challenges, including periods of extreme physical, mental, and emotional discomfort. Fortunately, you can stay safe and remain as comfortable as possible with the supervision and assistance of addiction medicine specialists.