What is drug detox?
In a simplistic sense, it’s just ridding the body of all traces of a certain drug. However, due to the complexities of the human body, these processes can vary on a wide spectrum.
For example if one cuts out coffee from their daily life, the detoxing process for that substance will be infinitely milder than someone suffering through alcohol detoxification. Although both created a dramatic change in the chemical makeup of their body, one is clearly understood as having a significantly different impact on the individual. The different substances create different effects by their nature. The effects will also differ depending on the person taking it.
To further get an understanding about what drug detoxing actually is, we must first get a thorough understanding about what drugs do to the body in the first place.
Why we Detox
A clear and concise definition about what drugs are is best explained as: “a mind altering substance”. By this definition we can safely categorize nearly all drugs within that definition. This applies to both legal (if not more so legal drug, such as prescription drugs and alcohol) and illegal substances.
Once a certain drug is absorbed by the body and into its system, through routine or average usage, many times the body will grow dependent on it. Mainly when it comes to routine usage of drugs, the human brain itself will create different neural networks, connecting that drug being used into its understanding of the world around. The human brain is unable to tell what it needs for itself. Addiction confuses the brain into thinking that whatever substance it’s abusing is vital to its existence.
An example would be how the brain will send different signals to the stomach to signify that it needs more energy, which is why we eat. When we grow addicted to certain drugs, the brain is unable to differentiate from the necessity of something like food from heroin. It considers the drug vital to its existence and the withdrawal process is the body trying to understand the lack of a component it deemed important for its survival.
Once that certain substance is cut off from the body, that is when the withdrawal process will begin. It must be understood that the entirety of the withdrawal process is the changing of the entire body as it tries to understand and fill in a massive void it believes for itself. The body’s chemical makeup has been altered.
It’s in this time where the term detoxing comes in.
If one looks about in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it describe detox (or the proper use of the term: detoxification) as “To free… from an intoxicating or addictive substance in the body or from dependence on or addiction to such a substance.” However, this process varies widely on a spectrum from the individual detoxing to the substance detoxing from and everything in between.
In addition it must also be acknowledged that the detox process also doesn’t negate the long term damages caused by whatever substance was being used. Although not widely common, it does happen that during an individual’s use of a certain drug, they cause irreversible damage to their organs such as the liver, stomach, heart, and sometimes even damages to the brain. Those different remnants of substance abuse can’t always be altered or reversed.
Detoxing is something that needs to happen for the body to be thoroughly cleansed from all the after effects of whatever substance played a role in the body.
A problem that arises though, is the misunderstanding about how the process of detoxification is to be conducted.
If one were to simply go about listening to the media when comes to detoxing from certain drugs, one would get the idea that the process is excruciatingly painful and life altering. Take for example the original television show House, where the main character, an opium addict, decides to detox himself from the drug. In his process, he falls into a coma, wakes up from the coma only to then pass the next several days in a catatonic stage.
Fortunately in reality, drug detoxing is hardly the same.
In modern times, most people suffering through the detox phase are typically medicated and treated to lessen the effects of whatever drug they are detoxing from.
For example, for those suffering through alcoholism in its later stages, or also binge drinking, the type of withdrawal suffered there is “delirium tremens”. Also known as the DT’s, this is a final stage for those suffering through the withdrawal phase. During this phase, if treated properly with medical attention and medication, it can greatly reduce the serious and sometimes deadly process of this type of withdrawal. The more difficult times of this withdrawal under treatment is mostly spent asleep, but for those who never receive treatment in the first place, this may seem more like something played out through hollywood.
It’s why there has to always be an emphasis on treatment.
Treatment will make the difference between something unbearable both physically and mentally to something relatively benign.
It must also be thoroughly understood that detoxing should never be conducted by anyone but professionals. Such is the case of this woman in Volusia County, Florida, who was left untreated to battle through heroin withdrawal in a jail, which eventually led to her death.
Another similar case is of the suspected death of Amy Winehouse. Many of her own family members believe it was in her quitting alcohol cold turkey that eventually led to her death. In a country with over 15 million people suffering from some sort of alcohol addiction, the problem of alcoholism is largely overlooked and massively under reported. Whether it’s because it’s a legal substance or whatever the case may be, the damage it causes as a societal whole is largely undeniable.
By far the most addictive substance known to America and much of the rest of the world is alcohol. Even heroin that comes in as second most addictive substance in America, isn’t even coming at a close number than that of alcohol. Alcohol largely dominates the field when it comes to addicts, and sadly leads in the number of deaths from trying to detox, only because the process is so poorly understood.
Too many times these death happens from both the individual fighting through addiction and their families having misinformation and not understanding that detox is a process best medically supervised. What’s worse behind these different deaths, is the sheer needlessness of it all. Not only can serious complications such as death be avoided, but so can the harshness of the experience of it all through medication.
It’s unfortunate that those who suffer through substance addiction, if they want help must have to undergo detoxification, but with modern technology, we can largely pass that phase quickly and help with the more pertinent issue of treatment. In treatment, we can help prepare those suffering into a new life, one untainted with the barrels of despair that is addiction.
The Importance of Detox and Help
Detoxing has gained a following in the last few years where it has been portrayed as a simple holistic process, when in reality that is detrimentally wrong. Most holistic drugs and treatments do have a medicinal quality to it, but many times it deals with more of an emotional part of the medical aspect. In reality detoxing is more a medical issue than anything else, with far reaching complications.