The first step in any form of drug treatment is detoxification. The physical strain drugs place on the individual’s body is most evident during the period of withdrawal, because it adapts to suit the chemicals that are pumped into it. When these chemicals are withdrawn, the adapted body struggles to maintain ordinary functioning, and the process causes a number of physical symptoms which can require medical treatment. Safe drug detox is absolutely essential to treatment because it removes the physical dependence on the substance, but for full recovery to take place the psychological scars also have to be addressed.
Understanding the physical changes that occur in the brains of substance-abusing people helps you understand why drug detox is necessary. The brain adapts readily in order to protect its functioning and therefore contribute to its survival. It communicates using neurotransmitters – or chemical messengers – which bind to specific receptors like a jigsaw piece slotting into place on a puzzle. Drugs provoke intense reactions because they mimic these natural substances and hijack the receptors.
This is the mechanism by which drug abuse causes problems for the brain. The receptors are activated more often than they should be, and the natural neurotransmitters only contribute to the problem. The euphoric “high” created by drugs generally comes from them mimicking dopamine, the chemical reward our brain uses to make us continue to do things like eat and have sex which are essential to our existence. To deal with the excess of the substance, the brain reduces the number of receptors and doesn’t make as much dopamine. These changes are the reason drug detox is required for people who regularly take a substance.
When the specific drug is removed, the now-altered brain isn’t prepared to function without its regular dopamine fix. It has to revert to its normal functioning, and this process takes time and causes a number of adverse reactions. The most common drug withdrawal symptoms are things like depression, anxiety, irritability, tremors, nausea, diarrhoea, sweating and rapid heartbeat. It’s worth noting that drug rehabilitation clinics should address both the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.
Some substances require more intensive drug detoxification than others. Tranquilizers are generally the most dangerous drugs for withdrawal (alongside alcohol), but other drugs such as heroin can also cause serious problems. The severity of the substance abuse contributes notably, and things like seizures, heart attacks and strokes can occur in extreme cases. The psychological effects can also create problems, with some drugs carrying more risks than just depression and irritability. For example, steroid addiction can often lead to suicidal behaviour during withdrawal.
Drug rehab centres generally offer medications to ease the physical symptoms of withdrawal and psychological support or counselling for the emotional ones. This is conducted either on an outpatient basis or as a supervised inpatient. Some cases of withdrawal require more gradual reduction of the substance, and centres may suggest this approach if it could be beneficial. Once the process of drug detox is complete, additional psychological counselling is required to avoid relapse.
If you or your loved one is struggling with substance abuse, you should carefully consider your options for drug detox. It’s important to ensure that both sides of addiction are addressed and you receive the support you need. We have a comprehensive knowledge of the different drug rehabs across the country, and we’ll help you determine your requirements and find the right treatment. This advice is completely free, so get in touch with us and see how we can help you!