Drug Detox

A drug detox is required when you become addicted to certain types of illicit substances. These illicit substances requiring a medically assisted detox give rise to physical withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to cease taking these drugs. Examples of drugs giving rise to physical withdrawal symptoms and hence requiring a detox include alcohol, opiates and certain prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines and hypnotics. In contrast, drugs that do not give rise to physical withdrawal symptoms and do not require a medically assisted detox include cannabis, cocaine and amphetamines.

If you are addicted to drugs requiring a detox programme, you must chose the environment where you will undergo your detox programme. Generally, you have two broad choices. Firstly, you may choose to undergo your detox programme ‘in the community’. This is also known as a ‘home detox’. Alternatively, you may choose to undergo your treatment at a residential rehab centre. Here, you will be removed from your drug-using environment and you will also benefit from 24/7 medical observation. It’s thus not difficult to state that a residential detox programme is by far the superior option when compared to a home detox programme.

A detox typically takes around 14 days to complete. As a rule of thumb, an opiate detox will take longer than an alcohol detox. Addiction to certain addiction drugs may take up to four weeks to complete. A detox programme treats the physical symptoms of drug addiction. To treat the underlying mental causes of drug addiction, you must generally undertake a rehabilitation programme. This requires around 30 to 90 days to complete.

What happens during a drug detox programme?

A drug detox will always begin with an initial assessment. This assessment aims to capture relevant information about you and your addiction to drugs. The assessment will determine your personal details and any information concerning the drug addiction history. The assessment will ascertain any previous treatment attempts you have made and whether you suffer from dual diagnosed mental health problems.

This initial assessment is typically conducted over the telephone. When you detox programme begins, the information captured during this initial assessment will be sent to a consultant psychiatrist. This psychiatrist will review your assessment notes before carrying out a thorough in-person psychiatric assessment. Following the completion of this assessment, the psychiatrist will decide upon a suitable detox programme for you to follow over the subsequent weeks.

You will be give prescription medications that help to ease otherwise uncontrollable withdrawal symptoms. This prescription will allow the clinical team to increase or decrease the dose of these anti-withdrawal medications as they see fit. Generally, the amount of medication you are given will correspond to the level of withdrawal symptoms you experience during your drug detox programme.

As your detox programme proceeds, your body and your mind will undergo a number of physical changes. Your organism will effectively ‘reset’ itself. Within the brain, neurotransmitters will begin to re-adjust to natural levels. This re-adjustment in the brain’s underlying chemistry is the chief cause of withdrawal symptoms.

Anti-withdrawal medications aim to slow down these changes by mimicking the drug you are addicted to. However, these anti-withdrawal medication will not allow you experience a feeling of ‘being high’ so they thus have a low abuse potential. During the conclusion of your detox programme, anti-withdrawal medications will themselves be reduced and then ceased. At this point, you are said to be ‘fully detoxed’.

If you suffer from dual diagnosed mental health problems, these problems may intensify during your detox. However, the detox clinic may prescribe medications that are legally designed to treat these issues. You will also benefit from therapy sessions that likewise attempt to treat underlying mental causes of drug addiction.

Undergoing a drug detox without a rehab programme

Whilst a drug detox programme may require a week or two to complete, a full rehabilitation programme may require much longer. Typically, a rehabilitation programme may require 4-12 weeks to complete, perhaps costing many thousands of pounds. You may not have access to this time nor the funds to undergo a full rehabilitation programme. In this situation, you may consider undergoing a ‘bare-bones’ detox programme and thus skipping the more comprehensive rehabilitation programme.

Undergoing a detox programme without a full rehabilitation programme means you will keep the cost of undergoing addiction treatment to a minimum. You will also ensure your career, family or business commitments are not significantly disrupted by your treatment needs. If you choose to undergo a detox without undergoing a rehabilitation programme, you may always elect to undergo therapy sessions on an outpatient basis following the completion of your residential drug detox programme.

How long will a drug detox require?

The main factor impacting the duration of your drug detox programme is the specific drug you are addicted to. If you addicted to an opiate such as heroin, expect you detox to last for at least 14 days. If you have experienced opiate addiction for many years, your detox programme may require up to 28 days to complete, although this is rare and you should generally expect your detox to last no longer than 14 days.

Following the completion of your detox-proper, you may nevertheless continue to feel unwell. You are not advised to discharge yourself from the detox clinics care until you feel physically well and energetic.

What happens after my detox programme concludes?

Many people completing a drug detox programme will progress onto a fully rehabilitation programme. This will typically take place at the same treatment clinic where you undertook your detox programme. When you elect to undergo a full rehabilitation programme, you will benefit from a vast range of therapies. This includes 12-step work, traditional psychotherapy and modern cognitive and behavioural therapy. You will also benefit from a number of holistic and complementary therapies.

If you do elect to complete a residential rehabilitation programme, you may instead choose to undergo therapy on an outpatient basis. This outpatient treatment may be offered by the same treatment clinic where you underwent your residential detox programme. Alternatively, the clinic where you underwent your detox may be able to recommend another treatment provider that specialises in outpatient treatment.

Another popular option following the completion of your detox programme is to attend daily mutual support group meetings. These support group meetings are run by organisations such as SMART Recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. These organisations are ubiquitous throughout the United Kingdom, and you will likely locate one of these meeting within a short distance from your home.