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Overview of Prescription Drug Detox

Nobody ever intends to become addicted to alcohol or drugs. One would assume that the prospect of addiction would put people of the idea of substance abuse, but the reality is that many people let their curiosities get the better of them. Or they think that there’s something intriguing or mysterious about substance abuse and the type of lifestyle associated with it. Alternately, there are many people who turn to alcohol and drugs out of desperation, perhaps because of some prior trauma or as a means of coping with day-to-day life or stress. No matter what brings a person to substance abuse, the intent is never to become addicted. In fact, most people assume that their awareness of the possibility of addiction will allow them to maintain control of their alcohol or drug use, essentially safeguarding them from addiction. According to the epidemic-level rates of addiction seen today, that has not been the case.

While there are a number of substances that pose a major threat to our society today, one of the most unexpectedly problematic has been prescription drugs. Years ago, medicine was viewed as being for the sole purpose of alleviating symptoms and treating illnesses, but as more medications began offering some level of altered cognition, these substances began being used for purposes other than for illnesses and symptoms. However, despite there being a number of people who seek various types of prescription drugs for the express purpose of abuse, there are also a number of people whose addictions take them by surprise. They were prescribed these substances for legitimate conditions and, after taking their medications as directed for an extended period of time, find themselves experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they try to go a period of time without the medication.

There are many circumstances that can lead to prescription drug addiction, but there are also many resources available to help prescription drug addicts get their lives back. And although the focus of recovery is often on the treatments one receives as part of a recovery program, the essential first step of the recovery process is prescription drug detox.

Click below for detailed Prescription Drug detox guides

How detoxing from Prescription Drugs Works

When a person becomes addicted to prescription drugs, he or she cannot embark on the recovery process without a prescription drug detox. Detoxing from prescription drugs — whether one’s prescription drug of choice is an opiate painkiller, benzodiazepine, depressant, or stimulant — addresses the physical component of addiction so that a person to progress to phases of recovery that address the mental and emotional phases of treatment. However, in order to understand how important detoxification treatment is to prescription drug addiction detox, it’s important to understand the differences between different types of prescription medications, how they affect the body, and why prescription drug detox treatment is necessary for recovery.

The most notorious type of prescription drug is the family of opioids, which is also the type of drug that most people think of when they think of prescription drugs. As the name would suggest, opioids are prescription drugs that offer effects very similar to that of opium and are used for the treatment of pain. These drugs are require prescription drug detox treatment because of the level of physiological dependence that develops, causing intense withdrawal in the absence of opioid drugs. Additionally, benzodiazepines are another substance that require prescription drug detoxification because, due to the effects of the drug, detoxing without medical supervision is extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening.

Beyond opioids and benzodiazepines, there are also stimulants and depressants. Stimulants could be compared to street drugs like cocaine and crystal methamphetamine due to their effects, which include essentially speeding up bodily presses, increasing temperature and blood pressure, and other similar effects. Therefore, it’s recommended that individuals addicted to stimulant medications receive prescription drug detoxification treatment rather than abruptly ceasing intake on their own. Depressants are likewise dangerous, but their effects are the opposite of stimulants, slowing down the body and causing respiratory depression that could result in death. No matter which type of prescription drug a person is addicted to, it’s unwise to detox without medical supervision. Prescription drug detox treatment provides a safe environment and continuous medical care in which prescription drug addicts can be comfortable and safe during detoxification.

What does the Prescription Drug Detox Process look like?

Addiction is a very complicated and enigmatic disease. There’s not one particular treatment that can alleviate its effects. Instead, the disease is broken down into its most basic parts: it’s physical, psychological, and spiritual effects. The treatments and therapies that are most often associated with the recovery process address the psychological and spiritual effects of addiction, which are important in and of themselves. In fact, it’s by addressing those aspects of addiction that a person in recovery can attain the skills and strategies needed to remain sober for the long-term. However, success in the treatment phase of recovery is directly dependent on one’s ability to complete a medical detox program.

From one detox facility to the next, there are many variations in the prescription drug detox programs that are available. For instance, some facilities offer more luxury treatments while others offer more holistic treatments. However, no matter what type of facility a person chooses, the prescription drug detox process typically begins with intake. During intake, the incoming patient meets with the intake coordinator at the facility, who will give him or her an assessment. The purpose of the assessment is to determine the level and severity of the individual’s prescription drug addiction in order to get a rough estimate of the length of detoxification and specific forms of care that may be required to help the new patient break his or her physical dependence on prescription drugs. Once the intake process is completed, the patient is escorted to his or her accommodations, which will be his or her private residential environment during the process of a medical, inpatient prescription drug detoxification.

One of the main reasons that so few addicts are getting sober is because they’re not seeking detox treatment. When you think about why an addict spends each and every day of his or her life seeking alcohol or drugs, it’s not merely due to being addicted; it’s more than that. Once physical dependence has developed, the person experiences withdrawal symptoms during even brief periods without his or her substance of choice. Therefore, one of the main reasons that addicts aren’t seeking treatment is because they view recovery as essentially inviting the withdrawal symptoms back. In reality, the purpose of a detox program such as our prescription drug detox treatment is to make patients as comfortable, relaxed, and pain-free as possible during the detoxification process.

By the end of the first day at one’s detox treatment, it’s likely that the withdrawal symptoms have begun to manifest. Or more accurately, the withdrawal symptoms should have manifested. However, the purpose of detox treatment is to help a person overcome the physical aspects of prescription drug addiction free from danger and pain. So where there would normally be withdrawal symptoms, the individual is able to simply relax, focus on recovery, and perhaps even take medications that are intended to alleviate the intensity or severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Prescription Drug Detox Withdrawals

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When a person begins abusing alcohol or drugs, the body isn’t sure how to respond to their effects. However, as the substance abuser continues his or her intake of the substance, the body begins to adapt. In particular, it’s the changes in the brain to which the brain must adjust. Depending on the effects of the prescription drug of abuse, this might include either increasing or decreasing certain natural neurological functions, particularly with regard to the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. As the prescription drugs trigger a surge of certain neurochemicals or evoke other functions, the brain compensates; with the continuous intake of those substances, the compensation becomes routine.

But this assumes that the addict is able to consistently maintain his or her intake of prescription drugs, which is very unlikely. No matter the substance to which a person becomes addicted, the continuous substance abuse will inevitably cause strain: Financial strain, strain on relationships, and perhaps the loss of one’s job — and, therefore, the loss of income altogether — can make it all but impossible for an addict to obtain his or her substance of choice. Therefore, addicts are bound to experiences somewhat frequent instances during which withdrawal symptoms inevitably occur, contributing to the desperation many addicts have that cause them to resort to extremes in order to obtain their substances of choice. However, in the brain the absence of prescription drugs has a pretty specific effect; when the individual goes without prescription drugs, the brain experiences a deficit.

As mentioned previously, there are a number of different types of prescription drugs such as opioid painkillers, benzodiazepines, depressants, and stimulants. Despite the different effects for which each type of prescription drug is known, there are a number of withdrawal symptoms that occur regardless of the type of drug to which the individual is addiction. For instance, there’s often a physical discomfort or pain-like sensation in places like the joints and muscles, which is likely due to not having the pain-killing function of the medication. Moreover, the discomfort is often accompanied by symptoms like sweating, twitching or shaking, sneezing, yawning, watery eyes, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, depression, anxiety, and a number of other, similar symptoms. However, each of these symptoms are addressed over the course of the prescription drug detox program.

What are Prescription Drug Detox Symptoms?

Clearly, it’s understandable why addicts would have a fear of recovery due to the discomfort of withdrawal and fear they have of experiencing it. The only time they experience withdrawal symptoms with at their full intensity without any type of treatment to alleviate them. What most addicts don’t realize is the fact that overcoming addiction doesn’t have to involve that level of pain and discomfort. Receiving treatment in a prescription drug detox program prevents the individual from much of the unpleasantness of the recovery by making detoxification a very smooth process. And that begins on the very first day with the intake process, at which point the individual is separated from the outside world and from the home environment where he or she first became addicted, which means that the people, places, things, and situations that first contributed to his or her becoming an addict cannot interfere with the detoxification process.

The most basic goal of any prescription drug detox program is to cleanse and stabilize the body, allowing it to return to a state of health while eliminating all drugs, toxins, and other chemicals that might be present. Severing the physical bond with prescription drugs will allow the individual to reach a state of no longer requiring prescription drugs to function, which is essential before moving into the treatment phase of recovery. Therefore, the withdrawal symptoms of prescription drug addiction must be addressed and alleviated before the start of treatment.

Outside of a prescription drug detox program, the first few days — and up to the end of the first week — are known the be the most severe, which is why this is the period during which a patient’s withdrawal symptoms are treated most proactively. One thing that’s often part of this treatment is diet and nutrition. Having likely developed a number of nutritional deficits over the course of active prescription drug addiction, ensuring that the body is adequately nourished is one of the first steps to prescription drug detox. Additionally, patients are encouraged to hydrate while staying relaxed and rested. Meanwhile, a team of detox technicians continue to monitor one’s progress through prescription drug detox and assess the severity or magnitude of withdrawal symptoms. If the discomfort becomes pronounced, a patient may be able to participate in things like massage therapy, including acupuncture, massage therapy, and other such offerings. Additionally, patients who exhibit more intense withdrawal symptoms are provided with one of a number of so-called “comfort medications”, which can be such medications as muscle relaxants, mild benzodiazepines, or even hypnotics. These medications can help with things like physical discomfort, insomnia, anxiety, and other such potential symptoms of prescription drug withdrawal. In short, the combined treatments offered by one’s team of prescription drug detox team makes withdrawal much less unpleasant and, instead, gives patients significantly greater chances for success.

Can You Detox From Prescription Drugs at Home?

A prescription drug can offer several different types of effects, but regardless of which type of pharmaceutical one is abusing, they’re all incredibly dangerous and highly addictive. In fact, the disease of addiction, in and of itself, is a complex and dangerous condition, which is one of the many reasons why people are so often encouraged to seek actual treatment from professionals rather than taking it upon themselves to get sober. Often referred to as “going cold turkey”, the sudden cessation of substance abuse without medical supervision or any level of treatment. Instead, the individual simple stops his or her intake of prescription drugs and tries to remain sober on his or her own at home. However, this has shown to be an incredibly ineffective way of seeking recovery for a number of reasons.

As mentioned previously, attempting a prescription drug detox on one’s own means that the individual will experience the full intensity of withdrawal symptoms. Not only is this unpleasant, but the experience is why so many people are unable to remain sober on their own; moreover, this could cause people to see detox as being something that’s not attainable or achievable due to their previous experience with untreated withdrawals. Worst of all, there are some instances in which withdrawal can escalate to the point of becoming dangerous and putting an individual’s life in jeopardy. Without a team of prescription drug detox specialists to ensure continuous safety throughout the process, an individual may experience withdrawal symptoms of such a high level of severity as to put his or her health in jeopardy or even become life-threatening. Therefore, people in need of prescription drug detoxification should only detox in a monitored environment, which will ensure their safety while also maximizing their potential for success during the recovery process.

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How Long Does It Take to Detox From Prescription Drugs?

The experience of developing an addiction and being in the throes of active addiction differ for everyone. Some people might become prescription drug addicts because of their social group or seeing prescription drug abuse in their own homes while other might become addicted inadvertently. And in much the same way, the prescription drug detoxification process differs from one person to the next, too, which makes it difficult to say with any certainty exactly how long prescription drug detoxification can take.

During the intake process, the severity of a patient’s prescription drug addiction is assessed so that a rough estimate can be made of the time required to complete detoxification. Generally, a prescription drug detox program will last between one and two weeks with most people needing at least ten days; however, there are still many people who will detox in much more or much less time. This makes it important to handle detox on a case-by-case basis rather than to try to shoehorn people into the forms of treatment that have worked for others, but wouldn’t work as effectively for them.

  • In 2016, only 16 percent of the American population believed that progress was being made to reduce rates of prescription drug abuse
  • More than half of all teens believe prescriptions drugs are significantly safer than street drugs
  • Close to 9 out of 10 deaths from poisoning occur due to the misuse of prescription drugs
  • However, according to a 2015 survey at least 15 million Americans abuse prescription drugs today
  • Of the 8.76 million Americans who regularly abused prescription drugs in 2010, 5.1 million abused painkillers, 2.2 million abused tranquilizers, and 1.1 million abused stimulants
  • At least 52 million Americans over the age of 12 have used prescription drugs at least once