Getting Help for Addiction

One of the most complicated aspects of Substance Use Disorders (SUD), also commonly referred to as addiction or alcoholism, is the physical dependence one’s body can develop after a prolonged period of abuse. There are individuals who report the feelings of being “hooked” from the very first time they tried a drink or drug, but there are also plenty of others who develop a crippling reliance gradually over the course of many years. There is no one-size-fits all recipe for what causes addiction—even those who don’t appear to have a predisposition for it in their genes are at risk.

If someone does reach the point of full on physical dependence on alcohol or a certain drug (or a combination of both) and is ready to get help, it’s likely he or she will have to go through detox in order to begin the process of healing. While detox is never a very pleasant experience, there are ways to make it safe, relatively comfortable and as painless as possible. Undergoing detox with the supervision of a caring physician and nursing staff, in the setting of a high-end residential treatment facility, is the ideal route for someone ready to take that first step on the road to recovery.

Medications Prescribed During Detox

Though it may seem contradictory to the end goal of the process, oftentimes doctors prescribe certain medications to ease the discomfort of detox. These medicines are designed to alleviate some of the common side effects associated with early withdrawal. Of course, these symptoms can vary depending on the substance. A person coming off an opioid-based drug is going to have a different experience than someone in the early days of abstinence from alcohol, but both typically elicit nausea, muscle soreness, difficulty sleeping and anxiety.

Chronic opiate use can actually permanently damage receptors in the body’s nervous system, causing a pivotal shift in the brain’s pleasure and reward centers. As a result, cravings for opioids can be especially strong during early withdrawal, and satiating them is sometimes necessary. Buprenorphine, known widely in one of its most popular forms, Suboxone, is a form of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) used during opiate detox, and sometimes indefinitely. Buprenorphine can create a similarly euphoric effect as opioid-based drugs but is considered a partial agonist, so while it also activates opioid receptors in the brain, it’s not to as great a degree. So while MAT may be effective in treating opioid withdrawal, some of the medications commonly administered for alcohol withdrawal, may not be. For example, certain benzodiazepines—also referred to as “benzos”—are seen as effective for treating some of the symptoms of alcohol detox, like anxiety and tremors, but not usually recommended for opiate withdrawal.

Alcohol Detox Protocol

Alcohol withdrawal can evoke anxiety, nausea, abdominal pain, high blood pressure and even hallucinations and seizures. Benzos are often utilized because they work as muscle relaxers and anticonvulsants. As such, they can alleviate anxiety. It’s important to note that not all benzos act the same, however. So a doctor overseeing someone’s alcohol detox regimen must take caution in deciding the best course of action.

For instance, when someone is detoxing, the drug lorazepam, commonly known by the brand, Ativan, is a type of benzo that may be appropriate. Ativan can help with both anxiety and depression. However, as is the case with many benzos, Ativan can be addictive in itself. In fact, there are cases in which a person might also be trying to wean off of Ativan when they enter treatment, in which case something else is usually substituted. Phenobarbital is a popular option because it also slows the brain’s nervous system down and helps with relaxation. So it’s safe to assume that if someone is already dependent on Ativan when he or she comes into detox, it won’t be a part of the treatment regimen. Still, doctors in professional treatment settings always make sure the client is comfortable, relaxed and able to sleep. The fear of having to release a reliance on Ativan should not deter people from seeking the help they need.

What Happens After Detox

Medications to help with withdrawal symptoms are just one component of the detox process. A person’s surroundings and caregivers can also make a huge difference. This is why the decision of where to detox, is just as important as the detox itself.

Seeking help for substance abuse at a luxury rehab can guarantee a certain level of comfort, amenities and personalized attention that other facilities cannot always deliver. Details such as high thread count sheets; good quality mattresses and pillows; serene views outside one’s room; and well-prepared, nutritious meals can make a significant impact on one’s overall treatment experience. Treatment facilities like Recovery Malibu excel in ensuring clients are provided these comforts in spades—from detox all the way to the final days of programming. Making sure someone is relaxed during this extremely raw and vulnerable time period is essential for setting the foundation for what will hopefully be long-term recovery.

Detox is just the first phase of care. Once the person is physically stable, he or she then proceeds to the other integral parts of addiction treatment—identifying the root of the problem; addressing the behaviors associated with drug and alcohol abuse; learning new coping skills; and developing tools to prevent relapse and approach conflict more healthfully. Additionally, group and individual therapy, along with holistic therapeutic methods such as massage, yoga, acupuncture and exercise, can all be executed more efficiently if the person is physically restored and in a clear state of mind. A medically guided detox that’s individualized per the client’s unique needs is a crucial building block for the spiritual, mental and emotional work of early recovery in a formalized treatment setting.