Detoxification or “detox” is the process of removing substances from the body in a safe way. Detoxification from substances such as alcohol, barbiturates and sedatives can be life threatening and should be medically supervised. Addicts have become physically dependent on powerful substances that they use to feel normal. Removing those substances can cause painful and sometimes dangerous side effects. Medically supervised detox can help make the process tolerable physically. The emotional and mental aspects may require additional treatment modalities.
After months or years of taking chemicals to feel normal, the depression and discomfort that goes along with even brief periods of abstinence is so objectionable that quitting “cold turkey” is next to impossible and often ill advised. Detoxification can be a good way to start the recovery process. The detox process is usually brief and it is just the beginning. Detox alone does not provide the structure or tools to maintain lasting sobriety.
Some people resist detox and rehabilitation because of the shame and stigma that is frequently associated with it. Many feel that by admitting to others that they have a problem and need help, they are acknowledging failure. It is important to help them accept their shortcomings while recognizing that failure is giving up on themselves not in working a program. They are only acknowledging that they are powerless over the drugs or alcohol. They are not powerless to do something with their lives.
Because detox does not address the psychological, social, and behavioral aspects of recovery it is normally only the initial step in an integrated approach. Therapy, family counseling and clean and sober social networking is included in the treatment plan.
Some people use alone, but more frequently they use within a family or social system. Family dynamics often perpetuate the abuse cycle and a good therapist who is familiar with addiction processes can help untwist some of the patterns and realign the structure of the family so some sense of order and peace can be put into place. Al-anon and Narc-anon are self-help family support groups for family members of the alcoholic or addict. The group can guide relatives and model the limit and boundary setting that is required to maintain sanity and peace within their lives and in the home.
Depression and anxiety can result from the substance abuse or they may already be there before the abuse. Individual therapy and medical interventions are often employed together to maintain a stable mood, so that the work can be started quicker and the inertia can begin to move. Low self-worth is often at the heart of substance abuse and it is extremely important for the recovering individual to have something of value to do.. It could be a job or volunteer work, as long as it is purposeful and valuable to them.
Social networks that were founded on substance abuse exacerbate the using behavior and are extremely powerful influences. It is important to develop new relationships with clean and sober people. Inpatient detox allows an individual to be away from using friends without explaining why they aren't using. Too many people have said, “ My friends won't use around me” or “ My friends use, but they won't let me use.” This is part of the illusion that addicts and alcoholics indulge in because it provides temporary comfort and buys a little more time to use.
It also puts the responsibility on their friends. Using friends are invested in using not helping the addict recover.
Detox is a good start, but the best treatment plan may require incorporating a variety of disciplines.