If you have finally decided that you want to give up alcohol or drugs, then the first step on the road to recovery is detoxification. This is the process by which you will stop drinking or taking drugs and then wait for all traces of the chemical to leave your body. Detoxification can be very unpleasant due to withdrawal symptoms, but if you are fully prepared, then it can be more comfortable.
Before You Quit
You are probably more aware than most of the consequences of excessive drinking or taking drugs, but did you know that it can be very dangerous to suddenly stop if you have a physical dependence on either of these substances?
Most experts advise those who want to recover from a drug or alcohol addiction to undergo a programme of detoxification in a supervised facility, but some people prefer to stay at home. It is important to get advice before you attempt to quit harmful substances such as drugs or alcohol, and if you are going to detox at home, you must have someone with you at all times; preferably someone who is aware of what the process is like and who knows what to do in the event of an emergency.
What Happens During Detoxification?
The detoxification process is similar for most chemical substances, but it will vary slightly depending on the particular substance to which you were addicted. Most people will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking or taking drugs. This is usually the result of the body trying to get back to normal after the many years of substance abuse that caused chemical ups and downs.
Drugs and alcohol have a mood-altering effect on the body. Some drugs cause the body to slow down and others cause it to speed up (stimulants and depressants) while alcohol is a known depressant, so has the effect of slowing bodily functions down. Each time a person takes a specific drug or drinks alcohol, the body reacts by trying to resist the changes caused by the chemical substance.
Cravings during Detox
However, after a while, the body becomes used to the effects of the drugs or alcohol. It will begin to expect the substances; when it does not arrive, the individual will experience cravings. These intense cravings result in the person being compelled to drink or take drugs. Before long, he or she will have no control over the urges.
When the person then begins the process of detoxification, the supply of chemicals will be completely cut off. This will throw the body completely out of sync, and it will fight to get back to normal once more. This results in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that can vary in severity. There is no way to know what symptoms a person will experience before beginning the process of detoxification, which is why most experts agree that detox should take place in a supervised facility where there is access to medical care if necessary.
Detoxing at Home
Although the consensus is that it is safer to detox from alcohol or drugs within a supervised facility, some individuals will still choose to complete their detoxification at home. For a safe detox, it is essential that you have someone with you at all times. Detoxing alone is never advised, under any circumstances.
It is vital that you have another person with you until all withdrawal symptoms have subsided. Failure to do this could result in severe complications and, in extreme cases, loss of life. When choosing an attendant, it is important to make sure that this person fully supports you and knows what to do in the event of an emergency.
You may want to ask a family member or friend, but you need to remember that having someone sit with you through detox is a major responsibility. It may be safer to ask a sponsor or sober companion, who will have experience of addiction and the detoxification process.
Preparing for Your Detox
Before you attempt to detox at home, you should make sure you are checked thoroughly by a doctor or nurse who has experience of addiction. In many instances, health problems can exacerbate withdrawal symptoms, and those with chronic health concerns are never advised to detox at home. It is also inadvisable for those with severe depression to detox from alcohol or drugs away from the safety of a supervised detox facility.
Since the process of detoxification can take a number of days, it may be advisable to ask a couple of people to share the attendants duties. If you have several individuals willing to sit with you while the drugs or alcohol leave your body, there will be less risk of fatigue.
Make sure you have a list of emergency contacts that you can give to your attendants. In most cases, there will be no need to use this list, but some people do experience hallucinations or paranoid delusions that can make them aggressive or violent. It is important that your attendant has someone to call in case this happens.
During the Detox
Detox can be unpleasant; there is no doubting that fact. However, there are things that you can do to make your environment more comfortable. Soft music in the background can help to relax you, and you may want to use lamps instead of bright overhead lights. Ensure that you have a comfortable place to sit and sleep. You may also want to have plenty of food in case you get hungry, and if you are feeling agitated or restless, then a movie or television programme may help to take your mind off what is happening.