Detox: Step one in Addictions Treatment

March 10th, 2011

Addictions treatment has become a priority for public health policy in the past few decades.  Alcoholism and drug addiction are associated with crime, loss of productive members of society, and burdens on the legal and health systems. The many problems associated with alcoholism and drug addiction have prompted action both in government and in the private sector.
Through research into drug addiction we now have highly effective treatment programmes.  The European Association for the Treatment of Addiction, a research and education body, has shown conclusively that treatment works.  The combined experience of people around the globe who are recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction confirms this.
An addiction treatment centre will usually start with a formal detoxification (“detox”) phase.  This will be followed by other phases of treatment that provide counselling, planning for discharge, and aftercare.  Of course this is a very gross simplification of the process and an actual therapeutic process will be far more nuanced than this.
So detoxification relates to addictions treatment in that it is the first medical phase and precedes actual counselling and therapy.
Why detox before receiving addictions counselling?
Drug addiction and alcoholism have been described in research as being ‘brain diseases’.  You’ll find articles about this on this website, but let’s summarize the details here as well.  Long-term abuse of drugs and alcohol leads to the brain being ‘hijacked’.  This extends beyond the effect of the drug, in other words even if the person is no longer directly under the influence of the drug or alcohol, their brain has changed.
Your brain is responsible for creating and controlling your behaviour, thoughts, and attitudes.  And these are responsible for your quality of life, and so are the focus of addictions counselling.
Addictions counselling examines the behaviours and thought patterns that support drug addiction or alcoholism (e.g.: dishonesty, denial, a sense of entitlement) and seeks to change them.
So unraveling the tangled cord of addiction involves beginning with the mind-altering effect the drugs have on the brain.  It is not possible to recover from alcoholism or addiction without a full detoxification.
One might argue that you are not likely to benefit much from psychotherapy if you’re under the influence of a mind-altering substance.  Whatever message you hear is likely to be filtered by the drug and your thought process will be distorted.
Why medically supervised detox before addictions counselling?
Apart from having behavioural symptoms related to continued compulsive drug use despite ongoing negative consequences drug addiction also has physical symptoms.  One of these is the presence of withdrawal symptoms which arise as a result of physical dependence which can develop through the use of certain drugs, including alcohol.
These withdrawal symptoms occur during detoxification and are a harrowing experience to go through.  They can be dangerous or even fatal, in the case of benzodiazepine or alcohol withdrawal.  Many people who try to quit drugs or dry out from alcohol by themselves find themselves unable to cope with the withdrawal symptoms and revert to their substance just to “medicate” the withdrawal symptoms and return themselves to a level of functioning.
A medically supervised detox will involve doctors and nurses who will provide medication to alleviate the symptoms and reduce the risk of the dangerous symptoms.  They will monitor you and be able to respond to an emergency should one arise.
Having a medically supervised detox means that you are more likely to successfully join the addictions treatment programme.  It is also safer and more comfortable.
Addicts and alcoholics deserve treatment and can return to society as productive and useful members.  If you or a loved one feel that you want a chance at living life then please contact us.  The European Association for the Treatment of Addiction has shown that entering the correct type of treatment helps addicts receive better therapeutic outcomes.  Our intake coordinators can help you find the treatment centre that best meets your needs.

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