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What Happens During a Drug or Alcohol Detox

Drug and alcohol abuse is dangerous and has serious consequences for your long-term health. Sadly, many people with substance abuse disorders struggle to stop the abuse once it has started because the detox stage can be very difficult. But if you are prepared and motivated to reach a full recovery from an addiction, you’ll be able to get through the detox stage.

What is a detox?

Detox or detoxification is the process your body goes through when adjusting to a decreasing intake of drugs or alcohol. During detox, your body rids itself of the chemicals it has been used to having in its system.

Detox can cause withdrawal if you’ve formed an addiction or dependence on drugs or alcohol. Depending on the level of dependency, withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant or difficult to manage on your own. Unfortunately, it’s very common for people to become dependent on drugs or alcohol when these substances are abused.

Alcohol and other drugs are addictive because they affect the brain’s reward center. These substances cause the brain to release dopamine, a chemical that causes pleasure and motivation, or endorphins, which causes increased feelings of happiness and decreased feelings of pain. Your body usually produces this chemical when participating in healthy activities like eating, sleeping, exercising, and socializing.

However, alcohol and drugs produce a stronger reaction in the reward center, and frequent use can flood the brain with dopamine. This causes the brain to adjust and produce less of its own dopamine. When this happens, you may struggle to feel happiness or motivation around the things that used to bring you joy. Instead, you will rely on the substances to feel good.

Opioids can cause especially harmful levels of dependency because your body becomes tolerant of the substance very quickly. Many people require increasing doses of opioids just to feel normal. Because opioids block pain receptors, when you become dependent on opioids, your body may feel extra levels of pain while detoxing.

What are the benefits of a drug and alcohol detox?

Some people choose to continue using drugs or alcohol because they’re unaware of how much the benefits are worth going through the short-term difficulty of withdrawal. The first benefit is breaking your addiction, which will allow you to live more authentically, connect better with the people who are important to you, and be more in control of your life. But the physical benefits are also numerous. The impact to your mental and cognitive health is significant, meaning your mood, memory, and focus will all improve. You’ll be able to sleep better, which impacts your emotional well-being as well as your immune system.

The list of benefits from giving drugs and alcohol could go on nearly endlessly. It’s important to remember that the short-term challenge of breaking your addiction will bring tons of benefits down the road.

Common Symptoms of Withdrawal

Symptoms of withdrawal during the detox stage can vary depending on which substances your body has built a dependence to. Symptoms of withdrawal can be the most extreme when a person quits using alcohol or drugs all at once (commonly referred to as “cold turkey”).

There are many substances that people can become dependent on and require a detox period to get off of them. Alcohol and opioids are two of the most common substances people become dependent on. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include vomiting, confusion, rapid heart rate, and in severe cases, seizures. These symptoms usually only last a few days.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be some of the most difficult to manage. These symptoms can start showing up within twelve hours of your last dose. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks and tend to look similar to symptoms of the flu. You may experience any combination of the following symptoms:

  • Body aches
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Insomnia
  • Shaking
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Coping with Symptoms of Withdrawal

Detoxification after giving up a substance can be challenging, but there are many strategies you can use to ease the difficulty.

Eating nutritiously is important while going through detox because substance abuse often leads to malnutrition. Alcohol abuse depletes the body of important vitamins and nutrients. Many drugs cause cravings for unhealthy foods. While detoxing, it’s essential to begin building your health back up. Staying properly hydrated is also essential during detox. When properly hydrated, your body can use the fluids to flush the toxic chemicals away.

Mindfulness and deep breathing exercises can also help ease the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms. Breathing exercises can calm your body, bring your attention away from your discomfort, and provide extra oxygen to your body as it works to remove all the chemicals.

Other mindfulness exercises such as meditation can also help you take your focus away from unpleasant symptoms. In fact, researchers have found meditation to be an effective strategy for reducing pain. It can help your body bypass the opioid receptors, allowing you to experience less stress from symptoms like body aches, stomach cramps, and other difficult symptoms.

Medically Assisted Detox

If you’ve been struggling with substance abuse for a long time, medically assisted detox can help you manage the withdrawal symptoms and get through the detox stage without relapsing. Medical providers will offer the support you need to ease the pain of your physical symptoms and help you manage your mental health as well.

Don’t let the difficulty of detoxing from a drug deter you from beginning the process of breaking your addiction and advancing on your road to recovery. Detox will allow you to live your life to the fullest and be healthier and happier.

If you or someone you know could use support while detoxing from drugs or alcohol, a rehab center can help. Not only will the trained professionals at a rehab center help you through the detox stage, but they will also help you build strategies to avoid substance abuse issues in the future.

Jackson House Recovery Centers can help you detox as you begin recovery from an addiction. Reach out for more information about our services or to consult with our team. Our staff will work with you to determine your needs and the best treatment options for you.

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