3 MIN READ | Clinical Psychology

Tommy Williamson

6 Things to Expect from an Inpatient Drug or Alcohol Detox

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Tommy Williamson, (2021, January 20). 6 Things to Expect from an Inpatient Drug or Alcohol Detox. Psychreg on Clinical Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/drug-alcohol-detox/
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Before someone with a substance use disorder can start modifying negative behaviours through counselling and therapy, attending clinicians have to make sure that their condition is stable. In most cases, this means that the patient will have to undergo a ‘medical detox’ or, more accurately, a withdrawal management programme.

Most rehab centers in Dallas offer access to some kind of withdrawal management programme, with some tailored for specific types of substance use disorder. While every treatment centre is different, the principles of withdrawal management remain largely the same.

If you or someone you know is about to undergo withdrawal management for alcohol or drug use, here are a few things you might expect:

24/7 monitoring at an inpatient facility

People with a substance use disorder will often undergo extremely uncomfortable withdrawal reactions. During this period, they may have very strong cravings for their drug of choice. For this reason, most addiction treatment specialists will recommend that the individual stay at an inpatient rehab facility or a hospital room where they could be monitored and prevented from finding more drugs. 

It’s also worth noting that, while there are outpatient withdrawal management programmes, inpatient programmes will almost always be recommended for severe substance use disorders.

Replacement therapy

In some cases, withdrawal management is simply a matter of keeping the individual comfortable, making sure they don’t harm themselves or others, and waiting things out until their body has successfully expelled chemical traces of the drug. 

However, it’s not always that easy. Withdrawal from some widely misused substances such as alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines requires replacement or substitution therapy, where the individual’s drug of choice is replaced with a similar drug that has less euphoric qualities. Quitting these drugs ‘cold turkey’ can raise the risk of a fatal withdrawal reaction.

In recent years, rehab centres in North Texas have seen a sharp uptick in cases that require this type of treatment. This is mostly in part to the growing misuse of illicit opioids and prescription medications in the general population.

Other medical intervention

Individuals that have been using drugs or alcohol for a very long time tend to have a host of physical and psychiatric health issues. Many also have developed unhealthy eating habits and have malnutrition. In most withdrawal management programmes, these different issues are addressed at the same time to further improve the patient’s health as well as their long-term prospects for recovery.

Highly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawal management is almost always an uncomfortable process. Even in cases where no harmful reactions could be expected from withdrawal, such as in the case of methamphetamine use disorders, individuals are likely to experience a wide range of physically and psychologically uncomfortable symptoms.

Physical withdrawal symptoms from commonly misused drugs may include:

  • Extreme body temperature fluctuations
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • Muscles spasms (especially around the abdomen)
  • Joint and bone pain
  • Fatigue
  • Vivid nightmares
  • Shivering
  • Excessive sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Intense headaches    
  • Delirium
  • Seizures

Psychological withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Personality changes
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Hypersomnia
  • Agitation
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Intense cravings
  • Hallucinations

In most facilities, clinicians will help recovering individuals become more comfortable during this process by treating these symptoms as needed.

Withdrawal management programmes may take anywhere from a week to several months

If replacement therapy isn’t included, the whole process of withdrawal management is fairly quick for most, at only about 7-10 days, depending on the patient’s progress and the severity of their substance use disorder. By this point, most individuals will have expelled enough of the drug so that it no longer has an immediate effect on their system.

If replacement therapy is included, withdrawal management can take significantly longer, with 12 months minimum being the expected time for methadone maintenance therapy, though most of this will be done on an outpatient basis. However, despite this long period, this type of therapy may still be deemed necessary by clinicians.

Detox is not enough

Withdrawal management is only the first phase of recovery from a substance use disorder. Lasting recovery is a long process that may sometimes take the rest of a person’s life. This is because addictive drugs alter the brain’s pathways so that the individual does not feel normal without the drug. These effects on the brain remain long after all physical traces of the drug have been expelled from the body.

For this reason, three months of individualised therapy in rehab is considered by mainstream addiction treatment specialists to be the absolute minimum to significantly reduce the chances of a relapse. Even longer periods are recommended to further improve an individual’s chance of a complete recovery.

Conclusion

Drug rehabilitation has to be tailored to each individual and the approach to withdrawal management is no different. How this initial phase of recovery is handled can make a major impact on whether a person relapses or recovers later on. This means it’s important to find the detox and recovery programmes that best suit your specific needs. 

Talking to a qualified clinician should, for that reason, be your first step to choosing the right withdrawal management programme. Thankfully, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro has a large selection of treatment programmes that might make finding the right one a bit easier.


Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.


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