Medical detox is the process and experience of a withdrawal syndrome, with medications often used to manage and alleviate symptoms during recovery. The drugs used during medical detox depend greatly on the substance of addiction, with some patients requiring extensive medication along with medical support. Medical detox programs are available from drug treatment centers across the United States, with residential programs allowing people to withdraw from drugs in a safe and secure medical setting.
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The process of medical detox helps patients to stop using drugs and get on the road to recovery. While detox does not necessarily address the underlying causes of drug addiction, it does help patients to get clean and provides them with an opportunity to seek further treatment.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, there are three phases involved in the drug detoxification process. The first step is evaluation, with doctors and medical staff analyzing patients and performing tests to see which substances are in the patient’s system.
The second step is stabilization, with patients often given medications to support the recovery process. While drugs are not always used during detox, they do help alleviate withdrawal symptoms in many cases. The third step involves guiding the patient into further treatment, with clinicians enrolling patients in drug rehabilitation programs and telling them what to expect from the rest of the recovery process.
Each of these steps is integral to drug detox, with medications and the support of medical staff playing an important role in the process.
Cocaine is a powerful central nervous system (CNS) stimulant commonly taken recreationally for the euphoria it provides. Cocaine dependence or addiction is a psychological state characterized by an intense desire to use the drug on a regular basis. While cocaine is not physically addictive in the same way as opioids like heroin, medical detox is required in many cases.
Common symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include depression, anxiety, pain, compulsive craving, and physical weakness. Mood swings and irritability are also common, with some users also reporting a crawling sensation on the skin known as formication or “coke bugs”. While medications are not always used during cocaine detox, acetylcysteine, modafinil, baclofen, bupropion, vanoxerine and vigabatrin have all been investigated to treat cocaine withdrawal.
Heroin is an opioid analgesic drug with a severe withdrawal syndrome. Unlike cocaine withdrawal, heroin users experience a range of acute physical symptoms when they stop using the drug, with medications normally taken to manage the withdrawal process.
Typical withdrawal symptoms include sweating, anxiety, depression, muscle aches, insomnia, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and cramps. Common medications used during detox are methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone and LAAM, with heroin itself also used as a maintenance therapy in some European nations.
Medications are used for pain relief during withdrawal, with some drugs also taken in the context of opiate replacement therapy to reduce or eliminate the use of illegal opiates. After detox, recovering heroin addicts will generally be guided into further treatment, with behavioral therapy programs and support groups helping patients to make different life choices once they leave the treatment environment.