When an addict admits that they have a problem with substance use and decides to go into a detox center, it can be stressful and scary for them, especially if they have a severe addiction. Detox is the process of ridding the body of all toxins and traces of drugs to prepare the body for recovery, and withdrawal symptoms can become extremely unpleasant.
Detox programs should not cause stress or fear for addicts; they should inspire hope. For every addict, detox is the first step of recovery – it is the very first step toward their future sobriety. While the recovery process is not easy, it is a fundamental and fulfilling process that guides an addict to sobriety by helping them realize their own worth and strength.
Five realities about being in a detox center are:
- The withdrawal doesn’t last forever.
- Detox may not be enough.
- You will have to put in work.
- You may end up in a detox program again…and again.
- Recovery is possible.
If you are entering into a detox program, it is important to understand the journey you are embarking on.
#1 – The Withdrawal Doesn’t Last Forever.
When you are in a detox program and experiencing peak withdrawal symptoms, time can literally stop. It can feel like there is no end to the pain you are feeling, and you can become extremely anxious or start doubting your ability to get sober. At the point of your highest pain, you may just want to give up and start using again just to stop it.
But withdrawal symptoms do not last forever, and it does get better. The peak of withdrawal is the worst part of a detox program, and it typically only lasts a day or two (even though it may feel like much longer).
Average withdrawal times for commonly abused drugs are:
- Heroin – symptoms begin within 12 hours of your last dose and peak within 24-48 hours; they last about a week
- Prescription opiates – symptoms begin within 8-12 hours of your last dose and peak within 12-48 hours; they last between 5 and 10 days
- Benzodiazepines – symptoms begin within 1-4 days of your last dose and peak within the first 2 weeks; they last up to a few weeks
- Cocaine – symptoms begin within hours of your last dose and peak within the first 3 days; they usually last a week or two
- Alcohol – symptoms begin within 8 hours of your last drink and peak within 24-72 hours; they last a few weeks
As you can see, withdrawal symptoms are temporary. It is important to note that long-term severe addictions may take longer to detox from. However, a detox program is equipped to make you as comfortable as possible during your detox.
Some ways that detox programs can ease the difficulty of your withdrawal are:
- For heroin withdrawal, opioid replacement medications like methadone can be used to lessen the symptoms.
- For prescription opiates, medication can be given to lessen the psychological symptoms and to help treat the nausea and vomiting that is experienced.
- For benzodiazepines, medical personnel can supervise a tapering schedule to help ween you off of the drugs, so withdrawal is not dangerous.
- For cocaine and alcohol, medications can be given to treat the symptoms.
Even though the thought of withdrawal is nerve-wrecking, there are many ways that a detox program can make you as comfortable as possible during your detox. The entire point of detox is to help you succeed in sobriety. Remember, this is the first step to recovery, it does not last forever, and it lays the foundation for a successful journey to sobriety.
#2 – Detox May Not Be Enough.
Some people enter into a detox program and consider themselves recovered. This is absolutely untrue. To begin with, there is no cure for addiction. Consuming drugs on a regular basis literally rewires and changes the brain of a person. These brain changes cannot be reversed. This is how your body develops a physical dependency on drugs. Detox can rid your body of toxins and traces of drugs, but it cannot and will not rewire your brain to its normal settings.
Addictions are classified as mild, moderate, or severe according to how many of the diagnostic criteria defined by experts are met. The following characteristics of addiction are measured:
- Hazardous drug use – you use the drug in dangerous ways – like driving under the influence, overdosing, and blacking out
- Social or interpersonal problems related to use – your drug use has caused issues in your social life, maybe ending friendships
- Neglected major roles to use – your drug use has caused you to neglect work, school, and family
- Withdrawal – you experience withdrawal symptoms if you don’t do the drug
- Tolerance – you have built up a tolerance to the drug, needing much more to get the same effect
- Repeated attempts to control use or quit – you have tried to stop using the drug or use less of it multiple times and each time you have not been able to stay away from it
- Much time spent using – a large portion of your time is spent using the drug, recovering from the drug, and even obtaining the drug
- Physical or psychological problems related to use – you are experiencing various physical and mental health issues because of your drug use
- Activities given up to use – you’ve stopped doing the things you used to love doing in exchange for doing the drug
- Craving – you crave the drug when you do not have it
Your addiction severity is determined by the number of these characteristics that you have shown for a period of 12 months or more. If you have a mild addiction, a detox program could be all that you need – you could follow up your detox program with support groups like AA or addiction counseling. However, moderate and severe addictions need more than just a detox program. They need a guided recovery to give you the best chance at staying sober.
That said, rehabilitation centers and sober living facilities offer an amazing opportunity for all recovering addicts. Living in or attending these programs can absolutely change your mindset and lay the foundation for the lifestyle changes you need to make to stay sober.
#3 – You Will Have to Put in Work.
Addiction recovery takes work. To be successful in achieving sobriety, you have to be open-minded and determined to succeed. Detox programs and rehabs are not magic – they cannot cure your addiction within a couple of days. There are specific therapies, support meetings, education, and planning involved in these programs. Each patient in a detox program or rehab gets an individualized treatment plan that is catered to their personal needs.
Some of the methods of rehabilitation that are used in addiction recovery at a facility like The Hills include:
- Individual therapy (like cognitive behavioral therapy) or contingency management
- Group counseling
- Peer support meetings
- Family therapy sessions
- Additional activities like yoga, exercise, nutritional counseling, meditation and mindfulness education, acupuncture, or even spa treatment
- Medication management
- Relapse prevention education
- After-rehab planning
During your recovery, you will encounter any number or combination of these methods, and you may even be offered recovery methods not mentioned in the list. Having multiple treatment methods is the key to being able to individualize your treatment method. Your intake evaluation or assessment is another way that your treatment method is personalized to you.
When you enter into a detox program or rehab facility, an addiction counselor or medical professional will gather the following information from you:
- Your patterns of substance abuse (what drug/drugs do you use, how often, length of time)
- Your medical history
- Your mental status (mental illness must be revealed at this step because it greatly affects treatment)
- Physical problems or conditions
- Vital signs
- Any past detox or rehab experiences
- Your living conditions, financial situation, and legal status
- If you are a suicide risk or violent
- Any cognitive, sensory, or physical disabilities
Once your treatment plan is set in motion, it is up to you to put in the work needed to succeed. In detox programs and rehabs, you have an abundance of support – emotionally, mentally, and physically. Take advantage of it! This level of support is invaluable. In fact, the assistance and encouragement given in these programs is quite possibly the best and most helpful part in getting you sober.
#4 – You May End Up in a Detox Program Again…and Again.
This may seem like a dismal reality, but it is not meant to discourage your recovery. This reality is meant to let you know that, if you relapse and end up in a detox program multiple times as you navigate along your road to recovery, you are not alone.
Recovering from addiction is incredibly difficult because addiction is a legitimate disease. Addiction is particularly hard to beat because it changes the brain. The substance used by the addict disturbs the brain’s reward system, and these changes in the reward circuit of the brain impact the ability of the brain to function correctly. This brain damage affects the areas of the brain that make decisions, learn, remember, and control behavior, specifically.
Knowing that addiction is a disease is important to a recovering addict because:
- They learn that recovery isn’t achieved with willpower alone.
- They learn that detox programs and rehab centers can provide effective treatment.
- They learn that relapse is normal and manageable – and, surprisingly, expected.
Do not look at this detox reality as failure or defeat. When you leave your detox program or rehab center to return to your normal daily life, you are introduced to many triggers and stresses that you were not experiencing during your time in your treatment programs. The introduction of these temptations puts pressure on your newfound sobriety, and some people will relapse – no matter how hard they are trying to stay sober.
Find comfort in the fact that detox programs will accept you no matter how many times you relapse. They will care for you and offer you everything you need to regain your sobriety. There are thousands of specialized substance abuse treatment facilities in the United States that provide a wide variety of care options, including counseling, behavioral therapy, medication, case management, and other forms of care.” You are basically guaranteed to find one that works for you!
Recovery from addiction is possible – but it requires a determination to maintain your sobriety and participation in aftercare treatment. Detox programs and rehab centers address the first two steps of recovery – detoxification and rehabilitation. However, the third step, maintenance, is not planned entirely by your medical team; you will participate in finding your aftercare solutions and deciding which one is best for you.
The different treatment options for addiction deliver the following success rates:
- Inpatient treatment – 73% of patients complete it; 21% of patients remain sober after 5 years
- Residential treatment – 51% of patients complete it; 21% of patients remain sober after 5 years
- Detox Program – 33% of patients complete it; 17% of patients remain sober after 5 years
- Outpatient treatment – 43% of patients complete it; 18% of patients remain sober after 5 years
Looking at the numbers, recovery treatment plans that involve the addict living in a sober, rehab facility have the highest success rates. The numbers also show that a detox program alone has the lowest success rate. While the success rates themselves are not very hopeful, you have to factor in your own strength and dedication to sobriety into your recovery because that is what makes you successful.
Developing a strict aftercare plan is crucial to maintaining your sobriety. By definition, aftercare is “a plan to support someone in their early recovery, prevent relapse, and help them as they work toward their life goals.” Every person’s aftercare plan will be based on their own needs and can include many different activities, interventions, and resources.
Some aftercare plan options are:
- Joining the alumni program at your treatment center
- Living in a sober living home in between rehab and returning to daily life
- Finding and attending 12-step meetings like AA or NA or other recovery meetings
- Finding a sponsor and building a “sober support system”
- Going to individual or group counseling sessions (or both)
Any of these options would be a great addition to your own personal aftercare plan. Begin planning for aftercare while you are still in a rehab center, so you can have the help of a medical professional or counselor in making sure that your aftercare plan fits your sobriety needs.
Detox programs, rehab facilities, and proper aftercare are incredibly important in maintaining sobriety. The realities of detox programs show that the recovery experience is not all stress, withdrawals, and failure – they are support, encouragement, and hope. Recovery programs allow addicts a safe place to fight their addictions, and it is imperative to remember that your mindset during your recovery directly affects your recovery success rate. Stay positive!
The Hills is located in Los Angeles, California. Our residential treatment facility is staffed by people who know just how difficult the road to recovery can be. We’ll make sure that you get the most out of every single minute of your rehabilitation in our facility.