Drug Detox: What To Expect

We will be honest: Starting down the road to recovery can be daunting, especially for those who have long lived with drug or alcohol addiction. Often, the most unnerving part of the process is its very beginning—drug and alcohol detox. The conventional wisdom is that detox is both physically painful and emotionally jarring—but while the journey can certainly be challenging, there are also plenty of ways to mitigate the pain and keep detox as comfortable as possible.

The first step is education—simply wrapping your head around everything that drug and alcohol detox encompasses. It is likely a completely new experience for you, so here are some things to expect:

  • Your treatment will depend on whether you choose an outpatient or inpatient facility. To ensure that you are receiving medical care, attention, pain management and general encouragement throughout the process, inpatient is often recommended.
  • Upon arrival at the detox facility, you will be processed, which essentially means you will be asked some questions about your history with addiction. The purpose of this is to ensure that the treatment professionals can help you down the road to recovery as quickly and as painlessly as possible, so answer honestly. No one is going to judge you!
  • You will be shown to the room you will be staying in and a behavioral health technician (BHT) will help you unpack your personal belongings. Mind you that your bags may be checked for contraband substances, which can obviously pose risks to your detox process.
  • You will very likely receive a physical examination, intended to check for any additional symptoms or physical signs of your addiction; addiction can sometimes cause malnutrition and dehydration, and if that is the case then your treatment must reflect it.
  • The detox process can take a few days or even a few weeks, simply depending on the nature of your addiction. It may at times bring about physical pain, but there is typically non-addictive medication that can be administered to help mitigate this pain. Expect some discomfort during the process, but do not let it frighten you from seeking the help you need: Detox specialists will do everything they can to keep you be healthy and comfortable.
  • Physical withdrawal symptoms will usually start within 12 hours or so of your last dose, and may include muscle aches, headaches, nausea, vomiting, fever and insomnia. Be sure to communicate specific symptoms to your counselors in order to get the help you need.
  • Once you regain some physical strength you will be encouraged to participate in therapies, support groups or other physical activities—all of which can encourage and distract you during the remainder of the detox process.

Detox is not an easy thing, but it is a necessary first step—and when you have the proper expectations, it can be something you face with hopefulness and courage.

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