The first step in the recovery process of addiction is medical detox. Detox, or medical detoxification, is the process through which your body purges itself of addictive substances and enters withdrawal. Medical detox is not a pleasant process.
Addiction is where the brain and body are fully dependent on an addictive substance and can no longer function without it, suffering cravings, pains, depressive episodes, and extreme agitation when deprived of their chosen substance.
Medical detox exposes you to this process intentionally, sometimes with dangerous results. It is for this reason that you should seek out a good detox program where you can receive professional help as you undergo the first stage of getting clean and healthy.
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Withdrawal from any substance is generally characterized by cravings, nausea, and agitation, though there are a few symptoms that are more unique to specific kinds of withdrawal. Methamphetamine, for instance, prompts intense feelings of depression and lethargy in recovering addicts, and some patients even report hallucinations, such as the feeling of insects crawling under the skin. Oxycodone withdrawal brings flu or cold-like symptoms - runny noses, goosebumps, insomnia, and dilated pupils are all common symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal brings fevers, tremors, and insomnia. Symptoms tend to vary from person to person, so no two detoxes are exactly the same, but detox clinics are more than equipped to help with even the most extreme cases of addiction and withdrawal.
Experts strongly recommend you do not attempt to detox at home, and especially not without help. Addiction cannot be fought with willpower, it is an irrational disease wherein your brain is reprogrammed to seek its drug or alcohol fix without regard to other necessities like food, hygiene, or even safety. Addicts sometimes report hallucinations or vivid nightmares while undergoing detox, while the more advanced cases can even experience violent outbursts as their withdrawal symptoms intensify.
Patients undergoing detox also experience vomiting and gastrointestinal distress, which can spread germs, and sometimes organ failure can occur as the body becomes shocked by its sudden deprivation of the substance it's been addicted to for so long. A good detox program can monitor all of these developments and alleviate the symptoms as they appear.
Medical detox programs are generally residential in nature, meaning you are required to live at the drug rehab facility for the first few days while you undergo withdrawal. During this period, you will receive a series of medical tests checking your body's recovery process, as well as certain medications that can alleviate the worst symptoms.
Some common detox medications include methadone, which helps trick the body into feeling it is receiving opiates and thus can help wean addicts of the drug, and Vicodin or anti-depressants are sometimes prescribed to help deal with the worst aspects of alcohol withdrawal. Doctors can also provide their patients with a good, nutritional meal plan while in residence at a detox clinic, helping to fuel the body while it runs through the worst of its symptoms.
One of the biggest risks facing anyone who wishes to detox and get clean is relapse. As mentioned, addiction is a chronic and ongoing struggle, and anywhere from 50% to 90% of addicts end up relapsing at some point. For many, withdrawal is simply too difficult to go through, and they seek solace in the addiction they are trying to kick.
This is a disheartening fact to learn, but it is also important to remember that many addicts do not have a fully formed plan for medical detox, rehab, or sober living when they first try to kick their habit. With the help and support of a good medical detox program, you can beat the withdrawal symptoms and achieve a healthier, happier life.