You know the feeling when you’re sick with a cold and you can’t seem to remember what it was like to breathe normally? Then, one day you wake up and you can breathe again. A couple days later, you’re back on your daily grind, feeling healthy and great. With addiction, you can’t just wake up one day, decide to stop using, and boom! you’re cured. Recovering from addiction takes time and work. And many substances require a detox program to even safely stop using.
What is Detox?
In brief, detox is the ideal first step in recovering from physical dependence to drugs or alcohol. Many substances, such as alcohol and opiates, will forge physical dependency if used regularly. These substances take a chemical hold on a person’s mind and alter their physiology to the point that they can no longer function properly without that substance. When a user becomes physically dependent on their drug of choice, cessation will trigger withdrawal symptoms as the body struggles to adapt without the drug.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
A detox program is meant to safely guide and support someone recovering from chemical dependency before they transition to a longer residential program. This includes managing withdrawal symptoms as safely and comfortably as possible.
What Features Should I Look for in a Detox Program?
Not every detox program is created equal.
Most common diseases are treated with a linear path. Even a chronic disease like diabetes is treated with insulin management. Addiction is a behavioral disease with nuanced facets and complexities, like physical dependency and co-occurring disorders. Consequently, treatment programs vary as widely as the disease itself. It’s important to look at the key features offered at a detox program in order to set yourself (or your loved one) up for the highest rate of success.
“Does the detox program offer MAT?”
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is highly debated in the recovery world. The opposition is understandable, as MAT essentially means treating an addiction problem with other narcotics. However, as the research grows, it continues to point to the success of MAT. Some studies have even shown that MAT can reduce mortality of recovering addicts by half.
MAT is a maintenance method in which FDA-approved medications are combined with counseling to create a “whole-patient” approach. It’s used to treat opioid addictions and alcoholism. The most common MAT medications are buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone. Because these medications are also opioids, they can be used to ease withdrawal symptoms and manage a user’s cravings for other opioids — like the heroin or prescription painkillers they’re addicted to. A detox program that provides MAT should set up an individualized plan for each client in which the detox medications are administered for a certain length of time before tapering off as the client transitions into long-term recovery.
“Will the detox program customize my treatment plan?”
Addiction treatment is not one-size-fit-all. Although it may be easy to admit patients, collect insurance, and apply the same default treatment plan for each person, long-term success will take a hit. Each person comes with a different story with a variety of aspects to consider, including co-occurring disorders, what their drug of choice is/does, familial responsibilities, and physical health issues. A good detox program should tailor their program to each client’s specific needs in order to set that person up for success in residential or outpatient treatment.
“How will the detox program be supervised?”
During detox, your body is relearning how to survive without addictive substances. The consequential withdrawal symptoms within that detox period can be lethal if not properly managed. The safest detox program does not necessarily need to be a medical detox in a hospital setting (although that may be necessary for specific cases), but it should provide 24/7 support from trained staff to consistently monitor vitals during the withdrawal period.
“What kind of counseling does the detox program provide?”
It’s not enough to simply prescribe a person medications and let them detox for a few days. Counseling is also necessary for a whole, complete approach because a big part of recovery entails evaluating changes and adjusting to life without substances. Many recovering addicts will have to relearn self-care habits, healthy routines, and productive social interaction. It’s a good idea to look for a detox program that offers individual counseling as well as group sessions.
Counseling services should also include guidance for the end of detox. Most recovering addicts will see the best success with a full continuum of care. Counselors and case managers should sit down with clients to discuss the best plan for extended recovery, whether that means giving access to long-term recovery resources or actually setting them up with a residential or outpatient program.
“What other features will make me feel more at ease?”
The above are the basics for successful detox. But there are other amenities you can look for within a detox program that may appeal to your specific needs and provide more potential for success. A change of scenery, for example, can reduce triggers and greatly benefit your recovery. So you may want to look for a detox program that isn’t local to you. Other amenities may include on-site chefs for proper nutrition, outdoor living areas for ample relaxation, and co-ed or single-gender facilities.
You’re not getting over a cold; you’re making a huge lifestyle change. So, it’s important that you find a program that offers the most opportunity for success in your specific recovery journey.