Detox refers to the process used to wean individuals addicted to drugs or alcohol off their drug of choice. In a clinical setting, the detox process is also known as medically supervised detox or withdrawal. The process involves using medications to help patients withdraw safely and with minimal discomfort. In most cases, the addict can be safely weaned from drugs or alcohol over a period of seven days, though in some cases, a longer, slower taper period may be required. Benefits of Medically Supervised Detox
Patients that undergo medically supervised detox can begin withdrawing from drugs or alcohol while avoiding the unpleasantness of withdrawal symptoms. In order to accomplish this, doctors will prescribe substitute medications to help control the withdrawal symptoms. In many cases the substitute drug is buprenorphine or a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. The substitute medications are designed to provide the body with a controlled dosage of a similar substance as the original drug, tapering with time, in order to reduce the discomfort associated with abrupt withdrawal.
The main reason that many addicts continue to use drugs is a fear of withdrawing. The symptoms vary by individual and drug of choice, however most include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, and chills. By allowing addicts to undergo withdrawal through the use of medically supervised detox, more individuals are likely to seek treatment and get off drugs for good. Risks of Medically Supervised Detox
While medically supervised detox has many benefits, there are some risks associated with withdrawing from drugs and alcohol using this method. Relapse is the most significant concern when someone is undergoing medically supervised detox, which can sometimes lead to overdose. The implications of relapse and possible risk of overdose and death should be carefully explained to patients who are preparing to undergo medically supervised detox. Clinical Guidelines
In most cases, patients looking to undergo medically supervised detox should expect to be enrolled in an inpatient treatment program. The reason for this is because patients undergoing this process need to be monitored closely and provided support in the form of counseling and offered medical treatment in the event complications arise.
While there is no written guidelines on how long medically supervised detox should last, in most cases, the process is completed within a week: 3 days for induction and 4 days for tapering. However, depending on the level of addiction and the drugs used, this schedule can be adjusted to accommodate a longer or shorter timeframe. The goal of medically supervised detox is to safely wean addicts off drugs and avoid the unpleasantness of withdrawal. Extended timelines may be required for patients with severe addictions and those with opioid dependence as these require a slower taper to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
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