Detoxification is the first step an addict undergoes in the recovery process before entering an alcohol rehab treatment facility. Alcohol rehab centers offer the support and medical attention necessary to recover and maintain sobriety. The WHO describes detoxification as a natural process by which the body tries to get rid of waste products and toxins from the system.
Types of Detox
There are generally three types of detox:
A. Medical Detox
Medical detox may or may not involve medications in helping patients cope with withdrawal symptoms. A medical detox facility is staffed with doctors and nurses dedicated to reducing the severity of withdrawal symptoms that can be unpleasant and life-threatening without proper medical care.
B. Inpatient Detox
Inpatient detox requires patients to reside at a facility where they are kept under constant supervision. This is regarded as the safest way to detox and is likely to be the most successful setting. Each patient has its course of treatment specially selected by the medical team depending on how severe the addiction is.
C. Outpatient Detox
In outpatient detox, patients undergo the detox process from the comfort of their homes. However, studies show that patients who do not live at a facility where detox is administered usually have the highest relapse rate.
Phases in the Detox Process
Detoxification is a step-by-step process, with each step building upon the previous one. The main protocols observed during the detox process are:
1. Alcohol Dependence Assessment
Before commencing detox, an evaluation is carried out to gather preliminary information regarding:
– Medical history
– Mental status
– Patterns of alcohol abuse
– Previous detox/rehab experiences (if any)
– Cognitive, sensory or physical disabilities
– Living conditions, financial situation/payment information
– Drug allergies
– Vital signs including blood pressure
This information is used in creating a personalized treatment plan to suit the patient’s needs
2. Supportive Care
The most recent clinical guides to the management of alcohol withdrawal assert that non-pharmacological interventions are the first – and sometimes only – approach needed. The term typically refers to measures taken to relieve patients after their symptoms have been assessed, and these are actively used to guide the treatment plan. General supportive care treats dehydration, hypoglycaemia and electrolyte imbalance. Common treatments include vitamin supplementation and hydration.
3. Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment
It is not advisable to detox on your own as some withdrawal symptoms are potentially fatal, hence medical supervision of patients is highly recommended. Delirium tremens – which is the most serious form of alcohol withdrawal – can trigger harsh symptoms such as agitation, instability, seizures (which can actually cause death), hallucinations, and so on. Others include anxiety, headaches, sweating, high blood pressure, fever, heart palpitations and nausea.
Many treatment plans exist for alcohol detox but the most common include:
– Medication-assisted therapy using drugs like Benzodiazepines, Acamprosate, Disulfiram, Clonidine, Naloxone, Methadone, Alpha2-agonists, beta-blockers and neuroleptics, etc.
– Individual therapy
– Group counselling
– Family therapy sessions
– Relapse prevention education
– Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
– Peer support meetings.
Recovering from alcohol addiction is gradual but a well-executed detoxification process ensures success.