Addiction is a disease. There are many stigmas associated with addiction, too much in fact that most addicts are ashamed to ever admit it to those around. This forces them deeper into the pit of drug abuse, running away from shaming labels. So even when an addict decides to get over it and try to take control again, it’s difficult to find the much-needed support. And in case they actually start taking steps, the road to relapse is much closer and easier than the one to recovery.
Addiction is a disease, as much any of the other physical or mental diseases. Some drugs need only be used once to get the body dependent on them. Addiction changes the chemicals of the brain, interferes with the functions of many systems of the body, causes a lot of mental and emotional disturbances that could develop into disorders. So no matter what forces the person who was just “trying” drugs to try them in the first place, no matter that they’ve become addicted to the substances they’re using, they’ll need all of the help they could get to kick the addiction out of their lives.
Drug and substance abuse interferes with the way the human brain functions, in such a way that the brain stops producing the chemicals it’s been producing naturally. It becomes dependent on those drugs to provide them instead. So when the brain waits on drugs to produce those needed chemicals but doesn’t get the dose, it reacts by producing an overwhelming amount of adrenaline that surges through the body, resulting in what’s known as “withdrawal symptoms”.
Withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the substance abused, some being physical symptoms and others are emotional. Some drugs result in physical dependence, like alcohol, opiates (like heroin, morphine, and codeine) and tranquilizers. Physical withdrawal symptoms are severe, manifesting as:
- Chest tightness/shortness of breath
- Unstable heartbeats, palpitations
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, indigestion/stomach aches
- Muscle twitches, tremors
- Excessive sweating, tingling of the skin
- Extreme withdrawal symptoms with no medical guidance can result in convulsions, strokes, heart attacks, hallucinations, and delirium.
Physical withdrawal symptoms are the first to hit, in what’s known as “acute withdrawal phase”. That’s also the detox phase. This phase usually lasts for a few weeks.
This is the “post-acute withdrawal phase”, and it can last up to two years with on-and-off periods in between. Almost all drugs addiction result in emotional withdrawal symptoms. These can be noticed as:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Depression, social isolation, apathy, poor appetite
- Insomnia and sleep disturbances
- Poor concentration, memory, and overall cognitive function
The Detox Process
The goal of detoxification is to slowly help your body regain all of the control it lost to drugs. The detox process is the first step in the treatment plan, and it helps rid the body of all the toxins that built up during substance abuse. Some addicts will opt for home-based rehab, following home alcohol detox or other natural detox guides. Other with more severe dependence will need medical staff to help them with a medical detox.
Natural Detox Process
Approaching detox in a more natural way involves giving your body what it needs from high-quality vitamins and nutrients, meanwhile abstaining from all substance use. To get rid of the built-up toxins and give your body what it needs to start rebuilding, you’ll need to integrate the following into a strict diet schedule:
- Vitamin C rich fruits, like lemon, lime, and orange
- Leafy greens, like spinach, parsley, and kale
- Seeds and nuts
- Omega-3 oils (found in fish and salmon) and healthy fats
- Coconut and olive oils
- Lean protein, found in fish, turkey and chicken breast
- Green supplements, like spirulina, wheatgrass, and blue-green algae
In addition to a strict healthy diet, taking up any form of exercise is as crucial as it is difficult for your body to get back on track. Getting therapy will also go a long way in taking care of your mental health, giving you more strength and reason to not fall back into relapse.
Medical Detox Process
In the cases where natural detox is just not enough, seeking medical detox is the better option. A medical detox under the guidance and supervision of certified medical professionals will help with the initial phase of withdrawal and detox. While the natural approach will focus on diet and supplements, the medical detox will include some form of medication to ease down the severity of the withdrawal symptoms gradually.
Depending on the substance abused, level, frequency, and duration of usage, it might be very unsafe to try a detox at home. People recovering from alcohol, opiates or tranquilizer addiction need to find proper professional help to go through the phase safely, otherwise, it’s too dangerous to attempt to detox on their own. Others addicted to less severe drugs (like cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy) suffer more emotional than physical withdrawal. If you’re attempting to detox at home, make sure you have a proper support system of family and friends, and to know in advance what’s lying ahead of them... Otherwise, if they’re hit with an episode that they didn’t expect, they might easily fall back into relapse.