The first step to recovery is detoxification or detox for short. When a person consumes large quantities of drugs or alcohol, their body becomes dependent upon the substance. Neurotransmitters in the brain (especially dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine), adapt to working with the chemicals in the body. When these chemicals are no longer present, the body begins to go through withdrawal. Withdrawal can be unpleasant, and it makes it more difficult to overcome addiction because a person will often return to the substance to appease their symptoms. Drug and alcohol detox is the process of overcoming the chemical dependence and associated withdrawals. Having professional support during detoxification can help a person avoid relapsing during this difficult time. At Pax House, we are licensed to provide sub-acute support for clients experiencing withdrawal. It is crucial for substances to be out of the system in order for a client to be fully empowered to work on overcoming the addiction. Detoxification needs to be completed before a client will be in the right state of mind to be able to listen, absorb, and comprehend our addiction treatment program.
Withdrawal symptoms differ depending on the substance. However, there are common withdrawal symptoms for most addictive substances, which include nausea, vomiting, shaking, tremors, chills, sweating, anxiety or depression, problems sleeping, and headaches. For the most part, withdrawal is not life threatening. However, a person can become significantly dehydrated, especially if he or she experiences severe vomiting. Dehydration can lead to serious medical complications. Alcohol detox can also be life threatening, especially in heavy drinkers or long-time alcoholics. One of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, delirium tremens, can cause seizures and other life-threatening problems. That is why it is always essential to undergo alcohol detox under the supervision of medical professionals, especially for alcoholics at risk of delirium tremens.
There are several types of detox treatments available. Most withdrawal symptoms are merely unpleasant and last between 24 and 72 hours. At a detox facility, a person may be given some medication to appease the symptoms and will be monitored to ensure there are no life-threatening medical complications. There is also medically-assisted detox. This includes using specialized medication to wean a person off a substance. This is most commonly used with opiate withdrawal. Suboxone and methadone are the most common medication used for opiate withdrawal. They act similarly to opioid drugs but have a longer half-life, meaning they do not require as many doses as the other drugs. The dosage is lowered over time so that a person does not experience withdrawal. There are also drugs that assist tapering off alcohol addiction.
When clients enter Pax House, they undergo detox treatment, if they have not already received it elsewhere. Our Clinicians assess the client and provide the appropriate detox treatment. Clients are monitored to ensure that there are no adverse effects of the withdrawal, especially for those at risk of problems. Once a client has completed detox services they will start the structured and comprehensive treatment program like our inpatient rehab program. If a client is healthy enough to begin while still undergoing detox, they might start participating in some aspects of the treatment program concurrently. We want to ensure that our clients are stabilized and healthy enough to participate in our program at a level where they will be able to concentrate fully on learning about their disease, understanding the underlying issues that led to its development, and gaining the skills and the strength necessary to overcome it. The length of the detox program will depend on the situation, but we ensure that each client has the appropriate level of detox necessary for the first step in their journey to recovery.