What to Expect: Alcohol & Drug Detox

Detox is often one of the big hurdles to overcome when searching for a point of entry into recovery. Hollywood does not by help portraying people in agony as some kind of atonement for their sin. Fear of detox is one thing that can keep people using but what is the reality of the detox process? There have been advancements made to make the whole thing less painful, that does not mean pain free.

  1. Expect to be uncomfortable. It’s OK; discomfort is a part of life and it will certainly be part of one’s new life as they give up abusing alcohol or other drugs. Addicted people inherently don’t like their feelings, changing their feelings is partly why they may take drugs and/or alcohol. Enter into the detox experience expecting that it is not going to be a day at the beach. Also expect that it will pass.
  2. Do not do it alone. One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking they can “gut it out”. The rate of success for this method is negotiable at best. Depending on the substance, it is not safe and may even be lethal. DO NOT DO THIS! You wouldn’t put in your own stitches, set your own bones, or operate on yourself so do not attempt your own detox.
  3. An alcohol detox can kill you! While the cultural wisdom is “heroin detox is the worst” the truth is, a heroin detox is not lethal, an alcohol detox is. People can seize, go into cardiac arrest, and there are a whole myriad of other things that can occur and result in death. If you are looking to detox from alcohol, consult a doctor immediately.
  4. Pacing is important. This is a very individual decision. Some people feel that as quickly as possible is best, others prefer a slow and steady pace. Be honest with yourself, it is not a race. It doesn’t matter how quickly you cross the finish line, what matters is that you do.
  5. The good news is, most insurance plans will cover a medical detox. The bad news is, detox isn’t the first chapter, it’s the preface and the work to stay off drugs or alcohol is chapter 1. A good time to make a plan with this in mind is in detox. The providers of detox can maybe provide ideas about treatment for the next stage.
  6. There are instances where people can see a doctor and detox on an outpatient basis. This would involve the doctor consulting with you on your case, and monitoring the medications. This is effective with some of the more simple detoxes, like cocaine. Amphetamines are fast acting and don’t stay in the system long.
  7. Other drugs are more complex and would require an inpatient experience in a 24/7 medically monitored setting.
  8. Choose the right plan for you. You can consult with your doctor, research your insurance, and decide what the best course of action is.