For many who are recovering from any kind of substance abuse addiction issue, one of the first steps in this process involved detoxing. Detoxing refers to clearing the body of whichever substances in question are causing the concerns, and it can be a difficult situation for many who are entering it — and a risky one if it’s attempted without professional assistance.
At Moonlight Mountain Recovery, we’re happy to offer quality medical drug and alcohol detox programs for patients throughout Boise and other parts of Idaho, helping them move through the detoxification process in safe, supervised ways. Because of some of the risks involved in this process, we typically do not recommend attempting it at home or without the assistance of professionals — here are some of the reasons why, including a full understanding of what takes place during detox.
As we noted above, detox (or detoxification) is the process of clearing the body of any chemicals and substances that may be causing problems in the body. This process involves the body undergoing some changes, often significant ones, based on slowly removing its dependence on a substance. Such dependence may be present in two forms:
- Physical dependence: The body relies on a substance to function normally, and when this is absent, withdrawal symptoms will appear.
- Psychological dependence: The brain becomes used to the presence of a drug or other material, and it craves the continued presence of this chemical in order to feel normal. When there’s no such presence, anxiety may set in.
In many cases, both these elements of physical and psychological dependence may be present simultaneously.
Symptoms of Withdrawal During Detox
As many who have gone through it are well aware, detox often involves withdrawal symptoms as the body begins to adjust to changes and absence of the chemical in question. The experience of detox will be different for everyone but common symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramping or diarrhea
- Anxiety or depression
- Drug cravings
- Extreme fatigue, drowsiness or lack of energy
The presence of these symptoms will typically depend on the type of chemical dependency being treated. In many cases, those who have gone through detox may not be able to tell what symptoms are present as a result of withdrawal from a specific substance and which ones are due to other causes.
And as we’ll go over in our next couple sections, there are a few reasons — including these possible withdrawal symptoms — why at-home detox isn’t typically recommended, and may carry some significant risks.
Risks of Unsupervised Drug Detox
While engaging in abstinence is the top method of treating a drug-related addiction issue, it’s very difficult for many people to do this alone, or without the supervision of experienced professionals. Some of the key risks that arise include:
- Risk of relapse and overdose: Because an at-home detox process is not supervised and does not have the assistance of professionals, there’s a significant risk of relapse during the procedure. Those attempting to detox on their own may struggle to manage the most common symptoms being experienced, which could lead to an attempt at self-treatment that ends up being irreversible with tragic results. Experienced professionals, however, have tactics to address these symptoms appropriately during the procedure, helping to keep their patients safe.
- Risk of serious medical complications: Those who are undergoing a medical detox procedure typically have access to medications that can help counteract some of the most severe withdrawal symptoms, including seizures and hallucinations. Once again, lack of professional assistance increases the odds that someone will try to self-treat and that this could lead to confusion, potentially hazardous effects and perhaps an increased risk of overdose. With the right professional supervision, on the other hand, these risks can be significantly reduced.
- Issues of mental well-being: Furthermore, attempting to detox alone or without supervision can lead to feelings of isolation, which could then increase the risk of mental health concerns. With this isolation, there’s also a heightened chance that other issues may be present before someone fully realizes what’s going on and addresses them — which again increases the odds that at-home detox will not be successful, or put the individual in an even more precarious situation.
Risks of Unsupervised Alcohol Detox
While some of the withdrawal symptoms and other difficulties of alcohol detox will be similar or even identical to drug detox, there are certain other elements that can vary somewhat. Here are a few of the risks of unsupervised alcohol detox attempts:
- Delirium Tremens: Some of the most serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms include delirium tremens (DTs), which can be fatal or at least very damaging to the individual’s physical and mental well-being. DTs typically occur after a few days and include visual hallucinations, severe confusion and an increased risk of seizures. Depending on the severity, these symptoms may be serious enough to require hospitalization — and if there is no professional assistance to address them, they can be fatal.
- Vitamin depletion: Severe alcohol withdrawal may also lead to other issues, including rapid heart rate, low blood pressure and even impaired consciousness. This can lead to other concerns as well, including irregular heartbeat, nerve damage and malnutrition (vitamin deficiency). Again, with the right professional assistance, these risks can be mitigated, minimizing the potential for serious medical complications.
- Escalating symptoms: Finally, in many cases of alcohol withdrawal, symptoms may seem relatively minor in the early stages — but these may escalate quickly, leading to life-threatening issues. This means that gauge of when it’s time to seek professional assistance is crucial.
For more on the significant risks involved with unsupervised drug or alcohol detox attempts, or to learn about any of our medical detox or other addiction recovery in Boise or other parts of Idaho, contact the caring staff at Moonlight Mountain Recovery today.