Two common words and themes within the addiction recovery process from a substance are detox and withdrawal, and it’s important for anyone in this position not to confuse these. There are important differences between the two, from the expectations you should have of them to whether they’re even desirable.
At Moonlight Mountain Recovery, we’re here to help in both these areas. Our medical detox programs are the best around, and we help those dealing with withdrawal symptoms to manage and move past them as efficiently as possible. Here’s a primer on what both these terms mean, their important differences, and how to think about them if you or a loved one is entering any kind of substance abuse recovery program.
Detox Basics and Types
When you hear the term detox used in addiction recovery settings, it’s referring to the process of ridding the body of harmful substances. This can be done in a number of ways, but most detoxes will involve some kind of professional setting and medical supervision.
Detox is often recommended due to the major impact drugs or alcohol can have on the body. These substances change the way important systems function, from the brain to the digestive system. Going through detox can help your body recover some of its lost functions and begin working in a healthier way again.
There are different types of detox available, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Here are some of the most common:
- Inpatient detox: You’ll live on-site at a facility during inpatient detox. This can be a hospital, private clinic, or dedicated detox center. You’ll have 24/7 access to care and will be able to detox under professional supervision.
- Outpatient detox: Outpatient detox is less intensive than inpatient and allows you to live at home while you detox. You’ll visit a facility for treatments and check-ins but will otherwise be free to go about your life.
- Medical detox: Medical detox programs, like those we sometimes utilize at Moonlight Mountain Recovery, are designed to make the detox process as comfortable and safe as possible. You’ll have access to medication and other treatments to help you through withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
There are other formats here as well, but these are some of the most common.
The Detox Process — Which Often Includes Withdrawal
Detoxification from a substance can be a demanding process, both physically and mentally. It will involve either a full cold-turkey stoppage of the substance, or in other cases a gradual weening that takes place over some period of time.
In many cases, people experience symptoms due to this stoppage of their substance use — broadly speaking, this is what’s being referred to when we talk about withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal can be difficult, and in some cases dangerous, but professional care can help you through it to the other side.
Symptoms of withdrawal can vary significantly, from nausea and fatigue to insomnia, anxiety, and more. They can also vary in intensity, from mild to severe. In some cases, people experienceonly mild symptoms that are more of an annoyance than anything else. In others, the symptoms can be so severe that they’re life-threatening.
Withdrawal occurs because your body has become used to functioning with the presence of drugs or alcohol. When you suddenly remove these substances, your body isn’t quite sure how to function. The symptoms of withdrawal are your body’s way of trying to cope with this change.
Typical Detox/Withdrawal Timeline
Generally speaking, this is how most detox situations will work, plus when you can typically expect to see withdrawal symptoms:
- Initial 12 hours: For the first 12 hours or so after you stop using, you might not experience any symptoms at all.
- 12-24 hours: After 12-24 hours have passed, that’s when most people will start to feel the first effects of withdrawal. These are usually relatively mild and include things like anxiety, insomnia, and nausea, though some people do begin to feel severe symptoms fairly quickly.
- 24-48 hours: The next day or two are often when withdrawal symptoms peak. You’ll likely feel fatigue, aches and pains, and strong cravings during this time.
- 3-5 days: After a few days have passed, most people will start to feel better. The worst of the symptoms will have passed, though you might still feel some residual effects.
- 5-7 days: By the end of a week, most people will be feeling back to their old selves again. The detox process is typically complete at this point, though some people may still feel lingering effects for a while longer.
Withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks or even months in some cases, but they will eventually go away. It’s important to remember that detox is just the first step on the road to recovery, and it’s often best to detox under professional supervision.
Risks of Unsupervised Withdrawal
While some people with minor substance abuse issues are able to detox on their own without any problems, it’s generally not recommended.
There are a number of risks associated with unsupervised withdrawal, including:
- Dehydration: Dehydration is one of the most common risks associated with detoxing from substances. When you’re going through withdrawal, you might not feel like eating or drinking, and this can lead to dehydration.
- Exacerbation of mental health issues: If you have any underlying mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, detoxing without professional supervision can make these problems worse.
- Risk of relapse: One of the most common risks of unsupervised withdrawal is that you’ll relapse back into substance abuse. This is especially true if you’re trying to detox from a substance that’s highly addictive.
If you’re considering detoxing from drugs or alcohol, it’s important to talk to a professional first. They can help you understand the risks and make sure that you detox in a safe and effective way.
For more on this, or to learn about our safe, effective detox programs and other addiction recovery services, speak to the staff at Moonlight Mountain Recovery today.