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Don’t Go Cold-Turkey – Detox Is Safer And More Effective When You Taper In Medically Supervised Treatment

It’s no secret that substance abuse can have a variety of negative effects on your mental health as well as your physical health. For that reason alone, you may be considering ceasing use of a substance or substances. However, it is crucial that you approach detox in a manner that is safe for your physical and mental well-being, and detoxing from a substance cold turkey can have serious health implications.

What Is Detox?

Detoxification as it applies to substance abuse refers to the process of slowing and stopping intake of the substance so the body can metabolize the alcohol or drugs in the system. Detoxification removes the toxic influence of the substance from the user’s system. Formal programs or procedures often include managing the symptoms of withdrawal that often occur once the body is no longer experiencing the effects of the substance and beginning substance abuse treatment for the individual.

A substance abuser must approach detox in a safe manner. However, some individuals attempt to complete detox on their own, or at home. Physicians recommend detox programs either in a medically-assisted treatment environment with supervision of mental health and physical health professionals, though detox can also occur in a clinical social setting such as in residential facilities before the individual begins inpatient treatment for substance abuse.

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:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Shaky hands
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating

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.

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.

What Should You Do Now?

If you would like to stop using addictive substances, you’ve made the first important step towards recovery. Approaching detox and treatment in a safe manner is crucial; if you’re feeling severe physical effects of withdrawal or contemplating suicide, call 911 immediately. If you’d like to begin to detox in a safe environment that tapers directly into medically assisted treatment, contact Bright Future Recovery to see how we can help you get on the road to recovery safely.

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