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Detoxification: What is it and how can it help?

We’ve all heard of celebrities ‘drying out’ in detox but what does that actually mean in reality? In this blog, Port of Call explains what detoxification involves, how long it takes, some of the possible side effects and how it can help an addict’s recovery process.

For an alcoholic, or someone struggling with substance addiction, it is vitally important that any period of detoxification is closely monitored by a healthcare professional. Sudden withdrawal can be life-threatening and the recommended gradual withdrawal process can be an extremely intense, and sometimes painful, experience. But, alongside a structured alcohol or drug rehab programme, it can be crucial to recovery.


What is detoxification?

Detoxification is a process that safely and systematically helps people to withdraw from addictive substances, like drugs and alcohol, normally under the supervision of a physician. Persistent drug or alcohol misuse can lead to physical dependence over time. Trying to stop can result in withdrawal symptoms in people with a dependence. So detoxification is designed to treat the immediate physical effects of stopping alcohol or drug use by removing the toxins left in the body.

Where is detoxification carried out?

Detoxification is typically done on an inpatient basis at a local residential treatment centre, addiction clinic or private clinic. Inpatient detoxification has the added safety of professional monitoring, The choice of treatment setting depends on a range of factors, like the type of substance, patient’s age, the history of abuse, psychosocial issues and co-existing medical conditions.

How long does detoxification take?

Detox from alcohol normally lasts from three to fourteen days. However, it depends on the person and the severity of their alcohol abuse. Chlordiazepoxide is a commonly prescribed substitute for detoxification from alcohol. It aids smooth withdrawal and reduces the risk of convulsions. The dose is gradually lowered over the duration of the detox at a safe rate. A drug detox depends on the substance and amount of drugs taken.

What are the possible side effects of detoxification?

Some of the possible side effects of a detoxification programme can include some of the following:

Aggression; agitation; anxiety; blurred vision; confusion; exaggerated emotions; headaches; hyperactivity; insomnia; lethargy; memory loss; muscle cramps; nausea; panic; poor concentration; seizures; shakes; sleepiness; soreness and stiffness; stomach cramps or upset; sweating; and restlessness.

Please don’t be alarmed by this list however because you may not experience any of these symptoms. Even if you do, the clinic staff will monitor your condition closely to ensure that your detox period is as comfortable as possible. This can often include the prescribing of a substitute medication, to help flush the substance from your body.

Make us your first Port of Call. We can help you, or your loved one, to access the right drug addiction help at the right time. Take the first step towards recovery by speaking to one of our advisers today. Please call our free phone line on 08000029010.

About the author: Alex Molyneux

Alex is our admissions team leader. Over the last 5 years he has spoken with more than 10,000 people via our helpline and has organised over 1,000 detox and rehabilitation placements.

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