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Medical Detox for Addiction


Medical detox is the first stage of treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. During this process the alcohol or drugs are gradually cut down and then stopped, and medications are prescribed to reduce the uncomfortable effects of the detoxification process. Medical detox is carried out either in a dedicated medical detox center or in rehab, and many options are available in Ohio.

Why is Medical Detox Needed?

The body must be allowed to detoxify from the effects of the drugs or alcohol before it can begin to heal, since the presence of the substance of abuse changes the brain chemistry and masks any associated mental health disorders.

The body can detox naturally if the drug or alcohol use is simply stopped, but in cases of serious addiction, the withdrawal effects can be extremely uncomfortable, distressing, and even life-threatening. In medical detox, medications are prescribed to reduce the cravings for the substance and treat any withdrawal symptoms that may occur, such as nausea, sleep disturbances, and seizures.

Medical detox breaks the physical dependence on the drug or alcohol, but it is important that this process is carried out slowly rather than rapidly, because the effects of a sudden withdrawal are distressing and uncomfortable. The shock of withdrawal is often enough to drive the addict back to their substance of abuse, rather than continue with the detoxification.

Withdrawal Symptoms

The withdrawal symptoms that appear during the detox process depend on the drug of abuse, and factors such as the length and severity of the addiction. Withdrawal from alcohol addiction is potentially deadly, with possible severe seizures and delirium tremens, which is a medical emergency that can be fatal. Other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are anxiety, rapid heartbeat, headache, tremors, nausea, vomiting, profuse sweating, and confusion.

Withdrawal from methamphetamines can produce shaking and tremors, flu-like symptoms, high blood pressure, and respiratory failure. Heroin withdrawal symptoms may include similar symptoms, along with body aches and pains, an overproduction of bodily fluids such as sweat, tears, or a runny nose, diarrhea with accompanying stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, and fever.

Medical Detox Medications

A number of medications may be prescribed during detoxification, but the medical detox protocol must be tailored to each individual. Typical medications include Antabuse, Suboxone, Methadone, Neurontin, and Bupropion, along with prescription medicines to treat generalized symptoms such as headache, nausea, and diarrhea.

Antabuse (disulfiram) is often prescribed for alcohol detox because it blocks the processing of alcohol in the body, and therefore it produces unpleasant effects if alcohol is consumed even as long as two weeks after the last dose of Antabuse. If alcohol is consumed, the effects include nausea, flushing of the face, chest pain, blurred vision, and mental confusion. Alcohol addiction may also be treated with Neurontin (gabapentin), which is an anticonvulsant drug prescribed to prevent seizures.

Methadone is prescribed for opioid and opiate detoxification, and its use may continue for many months after the detoxification period is over. Methadone reduces the withdrawal symptoms, but does not produce the “rush” heroin and other narcotics addicts seek from their drug use. Another drug prescribed for opioid addiction is Suboxone, which is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone and also reduces cravings without producing a “high.”

Bupropion may be prescribed for withdrawal from many types of substance addiction since it treats depression, which is a common withdrawal symptom in addiction detox. Bupropion also reduces cravings for drugs and alcohol.

At least 18 medical detox programs are located in Ohio, and there are facilities specializing in women only, hearing impaired, senior citizens, gay and lesbians, offenders, and several other special interest groups. The cost of medical detox in Ohio varies enormously, and therefore it is worth doing research before deciding on a center. For more information about the benefits of medical detox, contact an addiction specialist today.