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Drug Information : Drug Detox

What is drug detox?

Detox refers to a process of cleansing the body from toxins. In the case of addictive drug use, medicated detox is essential both to relieve the discomfort of drug withdrawal and to prevent the occurrence of life-threatening problems that can arise during withdrawal. Physical addiction to drugs is associated with the occurrence of drug withdrawal symptoms such as shakes, sweats, nausea, vomiting and delirium. Typically these symptoms will resolve by themselves after four days or so without detox. However, in the meantime serious complications such as epileptic fits, permanent severe memory damage and death may occur. Detox both minimizes the risk of such complications occurring, allows the patient to cease drug use comfortably, and prevents relapse to drug use during these vital first few days.

What does detox involve?

Detox for alcohol misuse involves the prescription of medication to replace the effect of drugs on the brain or body. The medication prescribed is sedative medication, although this does not mean the patient is sent to sleep. Usually, the patient is fully awake during detox, although may be a little drowsy. Other medication is also prescribed during detox to control drug withdrawal symptoms as they occur, to help with sleep and to replace vitamin deficiencies which have built up over the years of taking drugs.

Does detox work?

Detox is not a cure for drug addiction. Detox merely allows a person with a drug problem to cease drugs use safely and comfortably. After completion of detox, the person must start to learn the skills to avoid relapse to drug use. Learning these skills involves psychological treatment, which can be delivered either as an inpatient (rehab) or as an outpatient (counseling). Essentially, detox is about stopping drug use and rehab or counseling is all about ‘staying stopped’.

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