Detoxification (detox) is the first step, and one of the most crucial in the addiction treatment process.
Prolonged use of addictive substances such as illicit drugs and alcohol have altered the brain’s natural chemistry altering its ability to function normally. Because of the brain’s connectivity to, and control of the body, abuse of substances also causes physiological changes to occur throughout the body.
Detoxification and the Dangers of Withdrawal Symptoms
Addiction changes the way the body carries out its daily processes. Prolonged substance abuse, causes the body to expect the physiologic changes to remain constant, adapting them as part of its system. The adaptation to the body’s system causes the user to have to increase usage of the substance by volume, or by frequency, in order to receive the desired effect. Unfortunately this causes a situation where, if the consumption of a substance is not increased, the body attempts to repair itself. In doing so, the user will begin to develop symptoms of withdrawal. In certain situations where the addiction was mild, the symptoms may also be mild and bearable by the user. Some of the more mild symptoms include: irritability, nausea, vomiting, muscle fatigue, headaches, and loss of appetite.
Unfortunately, those with a severe addiction may experience withdrawal symptoms that could also become life-threatening. Some extreme physiological symptoms include: respiratory depression, seizures, coma, fluid imbalances, and cardiac arrhythmias. Along with physiological symptoms, individuals may experience serious psychiatric mental health manifestations as well. Schizophrenia, delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations, are all mental manifestations that an individual in detox may experience.
There are two major categories for detox treatments, medically-managed (acute) treatment and medically-assisted (sub-acute) treatment. Severe withdrawal is categorized as medically-managed withdrawal that comes with an array of complications, thus it is a very closely monitored process. Less severe withdrawals can be handled at a medically- assisted facility, and often are able to begin treatment while in detox.
Medically-assisted (sub-acute) detox treatments are for those whose addictions do not pose a threat to the safety of the individual. Monitoring is carried out by skilled facility personnel instead of medical professionals. In order to help the detox process, certain medications are administered. These medications help alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with the addictive substance. Sub-acute facilities may either be a residential or an outpatient program.
The aim of both methods is to highlight nutritionally-assisted detox. Addiction impairs the reward center in the brain causing individuals to lack the motivation to eat. While having a suppressed appetite nutrients are not absorbed into the body, and nutritional deficiencies are formed. Focusing on nutritionally-assisted detox is extremely important because, the nutrients lacking are the exact nutrients needed to help with detox. Providing the body with nutrients speeds the process along, helps repair the body’s cells, and replenishes vitality in the individual.