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What is Detox?

What is Detoxing?

What is detox? Many individuals coming to treatment need to detox prior to attending treatment. Quite simply, it may be because they are unable to stop using in any manner unless they are in a structured environment. Treatment Centres (ours is no exception) require individuals to be detoxed prior to attending for obvious reasons addressed later. 

The process of detoxing is going through the withdrawal process of your drug of choice. For some substances such as Alcohol, Benzodiazepines, and Opiates, a medical detox is preferred. Alcohol and Benzo detoxes can be dangerous, so protocol meds are administered to assist in the process that addresses the physical needs of the body, not necessarily the mental. Opiate withdrawal feels like it can be fatal to the addict (it’s not!), however the psychological impact from opiate withdrawal can be quite severe. In addition to protocol meds for Opiate withdrawal, clients may be offered Opiate Replacement Therapy, such as Methadone or Suboxone. There are obviously Pros and Cons to the Replacement Therapy, and that decision differs from individual to individual.

How long Does Detoxing Take?

There is no clear-cut time guideline to detoxing. Each individual detoxes differently based on multiple factors: frequency of using, amount used, length of time of addictive using, body type, health, age, gender, race, genetics, stress, motivation, frequency/amount of protocol medications (yes, this can slow down the detox process), mental health concerns, coping mechanisms, and even trauma and traumatic responses can play a part in this process.

What Does Detoxing Feel Like?

We wouldn’t lie…Detoxing isn’t fun. That’s why many of us avoid it. Many people coming to treatment have been using just to survive from their fear of detoxing. The shakes in the morning, the physical cravings, the mental obsessions, and compulsive behaviors, the fatigue, the mood swings. That’s why it’s better to detox in a structured environment with people trained to know what it looks like and how to deal with it. A place where you can receive the care, nutrition and support that is needed to help you through a difficult time. Detox doesn’t have to be scary! It may be painful and uncomfortable for a couple of days, but in a safe environment it happens much more easily and successfully than attempting to do it on your own.

Why Detox?

Detox is a first step in a process to move on to a better life, plain and simple. Hopefully, it is the beginning of one’s recovery process, with at least a partial cleansing of their body of the substance they are trying to leave behind. I say a partial cleansing because of two reasons. One is that some substances and the psychological effect they have are still in play in the neurochemistry of the brain. You may pass a urinalysis but that doesn’t mean your entire body is free from the chemical or the damage it did to the brain. Secondly, the substance may be eliminated, however the trained responses to everyday life are still a factor. This will need to be addressed. That’s why we have something called recovery. It’s a process of changing many things. Example: new ways to deal with anxiety, depression, socializing, perhaps family.  Detox is a good first step, but undertaking intensive treatment is the best way to address the issues underlying addiction and make the necessary permanent changes for recovery.

Why Detox Before Treatment?

From a treatment perspective, an individual is best served when they are detoxed. They are able to participate and absorb what is happening to them in their environment. Their psychological need to “drug-seek” is lessened and their focus can be geared towards their purpose in attending treatment. A person who is detoxed is more inclined to participate in the therapeutic community of their peers while in treatment, and in that participation come to learn from their peers and realize that they are not so alone. They now become a deeply engaged participant in their own recovery and a support to others in recovery as well.

Is Detox the Start of Recovery?

Detoxes should be geared to help assimilate individuals into a treatment and/or recovery routine, to help prepare the person for what comes next now that they are detoxed from the chemical(s). Bottom line is this, the best way to NOT return to what led you to detox is to take proactive action to move forward in your life. Stagnation, assumption, doing the same things over and over…these things lead straight to relapse. But being proactive in your own recovery plan – which might include treatment, and/or 12 Step, and/or counselling, etc. – has significant impact on not returning to your substance.  

Detox at Top of the World is a Great First Step

That is why Top of the World Ranch’s Detox Centre offers not only 24/7 medically supervised detoxification, but also an introduction to treatment and recovery programming.  While the body is cleansing itself from substances, clients are introduced to aspects of early treatment and the basics of developing a recovery plan for themselves. Most clients then choose to enter residential treatment where they are experience a tremendous journey of self discovery, take the necessary time to learn and establish new life patterns, and build a solid plan of recovery that will support them going forward.


by: Pat Mandryk

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