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Drug and Alcohol Detoxification

Detox is the First Step in Beating an Addiction

This informational page does not provide a diagnosis of drug abuse, drug dependence, or any other coexisting medical condition. The information provided here cannot substitute for a full evaluation by a certified substance abuse counselor, doctor, or drug rehab facility. It should only be used as a guide to understanding your alcohol use, drug use, and some treatment options that are available if you go to a addiction rehab facility. Information is provided here for harm reduction and educational purposes only.

Detoxification vs. Substance Abuse Treatment

used under the public domain from SAMHSA TIP 45

Detoxification is a set of interventions aimed at managing acute intoxication and withdrawal. Supervised detoxification may prevent potentially life-threatening complications that might appear if the patient was left untreated. At the same time, detoxification is a form of palliative care (reducing the intensity of a disorder) for those who want to become abstinent or who must observe mandatory abstinence as a result of hospitalization or legal involvement. Finally, for some patients it represents a point of first contact with the treatment system and the first step to recovery.

Treatment/rehabilitationon the other hand, involves a constellation of ongoing therapeutic services ultimately intended to promote recovery for substance abuse patients.

Alcohol Detoxification

Alcohol detoxification is a process by which a heavy drinker’s system is brought back to normal after being used to having alcohol in the body on a continual basis. Serious alcohol addiction results in a decrease in production of GABA neuro-inhibitor because alcohol acts to replace it. Precipitous withdrawal from long-term alcohol addiction without medical management can cause severe health problems and can be fatal.

Alcohol detox is not meant to treat the addiction. Instead, it is an early step in long term treatment. After detoxification, other therapeutic services must be undergone to deal with the underlying addiction that caused the alcohol use.

Drug Detoxification

Drug detoxification is used to reduce or relieve withdrawal symptoms while helping the addicted individual adjust to living without drug use; drug detoxification is not meant to treat addiction but rather an early step in long-term treatment. Detoxification may be achieved drug free or may use medications as an aspect of treatment. Often drug detoxification and treatment will occur in a community program that lasts several months and takes place in a residential rather than medical center.

Drug detoxification varies depending on the location of treatment, but most detox centers provide treatment to avoid the symptoms of physical withdrawal to alcohol and other drugs. Most also incorporate counseling and therapy during detox to help with the consequences of withdrawal.

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