Why Cold Turkey Detox Is Considered Unsafe
If you’ve been using alcohol or drugs for a long period and have developed an addiction, your brain has become used to their effects. Put simply, the brain learns to manage most functions of daily life in the presence of ever-increasing amounts of a toxic substance, and has learned to respond accordingly. Suddenly removing the substance can have profound effects on the way the brain reacts to ordinary stimuli, and this continuous heightened state can cause severe issues.
Symptoms of normal withdrawal can include:
- Shaky hands
- Nausea and vomiting
However, if your addiction is severe, the withdrawal symptoms can be severe as well. Within about 12 to 24 hours of stopping cold turkey, you may experience hallucinations or seizures as the brain attempts to acclimate to life without the substance. More serious seizures, longer lasting hallucinations, confusion, racing heart, increased blood pressure, and fever known as Delirium Tremens can occur after 48 hours without the substance.
Why Should You Detox With Professional Help?
Such rapid, cold turkey detoxification is hard on your brain and body. In fact, choosing to quit cold turkey is so dangerous in the cases of some substances, that it can be fatal. Psychologists as well as other health professionals advise users to never attempt to detox cold turkey from alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opiates.
In addition, the success level of cold turkey, solo detox is low. Withdrawal symptoms often lead detox patients to give in to the urge to use again, simply to relieve the symptoms. Often, those attempting to detox would respond more positively to medication-assisted treatment, or MAT. MAT involves strategic administration of medical-grade substitutes for commonly addictive substances to alleviate symptoms without re-introducing the original addictive substance. However, a medical professional must administer these medications.
What Method Of Detox Is Best?
Most people that find themselves severely physically dependent on a substance should consider detoxing with the supervision of health professionals. Attempting to detox alone creates cravings that lead to relapse all too easily, or causes physical symptoms so severe that they require medical intervention anyway. Symptoms of withdrawal tend to peak about three days from the last dose, and this time is crucial as to whether the patient will experience relapse.
Tapering in medically supervised treatment and the medical administration of therapies to combat the physiological and psychological symptoms of withdrawal are the most effective combination. Access to medical and mental health professionals during the withdrawal stage addresses both aspects of your recovery and ensures care for your physical and emotional needs in a safe, supervised setting.
Where Should Medically Supervised Detox Take Place?
Medically supervised detox often takes place in a residential treatment facility setting. Here, medical and mental health staff is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure you have access to help with physical pain, cravings, depression, and anxiety at any hour of the day. Residential treatment facility staff members have specialized training to deal with the various symptoms, stages, and other aspects of medical detox, and can adequately respond to nearly any crisis that arises.
If you are in need of medication assisted treatment, or MAT, the health professionals at a residential treatment facility can prescribe the correct dosage, and administer the medication without risk of overdose or relapse. Since detox and recovery is a multi-stage, continuous process, staff monitors the efficacy of the medications, and adjusts dosages depending on your needs. In addition to an MAT program, medical staff can address any other symptoms related to your detox with other medications so you can get started on the path to recovery in relative comfort as compared to going cold turkey on your own.
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What Happens After Medically Supervised Detox?
Once the detox process is complete, you can begin addressing the other symptoms of your dependence on a substance; detox does not treat addiction, it only removes the substance from your system. If you’ve chosen to detox at a residential treatment facility, this is where the “tapering in” of medically supervised treatment begins. Professionals are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you address your psychological symptoms as well as any remaining physical symptoms.
The benefit of tapering in medically supervised treatment is that you do not need to attend to the demands of continued treatment until you are physically ready. When the time comes, you will be able to discuss your treatment with licensed counselors, medical professionals, and other individuals as a part of individual and group therapy. In addition, depending on the facility, your therapy may include various forms of holistic therapies. The aim is to arm you with a variety of coping skills to take the place of self-medicating with a substance.