Medical detoxification is the first stage in he treatment of addiction and alcoholism, and due to the dangers of withdrawal, it is often the most important. Depending on the substance in question, withdrawal may lead to serious damage or even death if it is not managed properly. For this reason, it must be managed within the confines of a professional medical detox facility.
Withdrawal & Medical Detoxification
Chronic abuse of many addictive substances causes physical dependence (as well as mental addiction). This means that the body depends on the substance in order to function and survive. Any prolonged period without it will lead to withdrawal. It is necessary to go through withdrawal in order to free the body of this dependence, but withdrawal must also be strictly controlled. Otherwise, the addict risks his or her own health and life.
The Dangers of Withdrawal
Withdrawal can be both mental (e.g. depression) and physical (e.g. seizures). Mental withdrawal is part of any addiction, and physical withdrawal is a part of alcohol, benzodiazepines, and heroin and other opiates. Depending on the substance they are dependent on, an addict will go through a handful of the following symptoms when they withdraw.
- Delirium tremens
- High or low blood pressure
- Cold sweats
- Flu or flu-like symptoms
- Panic attacks
- Confusion & disorientation
- Moderate to severe hallucinations
- Violent withdrawal
- Suicidal behavior
Medical Detoxification vs. “Cold Turkey”
Detoxification (or “detox” for short) is the process of aiding an addict throughout the withdrawal process. At professional treatment facilities, they are placed in a tightly controlled and supervised environment. Treatment is literally moments away in order to treat any seizures, convulsions, or other symptoms that appear suddenly and without warning. Medication and consultation are also available 24/7.
Some addicts are either not aware of or choose to ignore the dangers of withdrawal, so they opt to withdraw “cold turkey.” This term is informal for “without preparation” (as a turkey that has not been seasoned or cooked). Going without medical treatment almost always proves far too dangerous to handle. Both the mental and physical symptoms of withdrawal can be equally dangerous if untreated, and some may even be deadly. For instance, over 1 in 3 alcoholics going through delirium tremens died from them before medical detoxification was available.
Recovery is too important to take chances such as these. Overcoming addiction offers addicts a new chance at life, and people rarely get second chances such as these. Don’t risk your life right before you are about to get it back — it’s far too important!