When Medical Detox is the Best Choice
When considering detoxing from either drugs or alcohol, there are two main paths one can choose from: an at-home (or do-it-yourself rapid detox), or a medical detox center. The decision isn’t a simple one as every individual, situation and addiction is unique in nature. There are, however, criteria that can be used to determine which path will likely be the right one.
Do Drug and Alcohol Rehab Programs Always Require Detox?
The simple answer is no. While detoxification is often a component of a drug or rehab program it is not always a component of care.
At-home detox is a do-it-yourself, or DIY detox, approach. The drug addict or alcoholic takes the detoxification process into their own hands, attempting to rid their body of drugs or alcohol. This approach can, and has, worked for a percentage of addicts, generally when detoxing from less disruptive drugs. As expected, there are also shortcomings, including dangerous ones, to be aware of.
When considering an at-home detox, the common benefits that are drawn to include the lack of a need for health insurance, support from loved ones, and the ability to maintain a job or other societal demands. The shortcomings of an at-home detox that can derail the detoxification process include easy access to the drug one is detoxing from, social pressure from known drug users, and the stress of balancing the demands of a job or family with the intensity of the detoxification process.
At-Home Detox: Physiological/Medical Perspective
The commonly cited trade-offs above speak to the sociological and financial side of detoxification. What often isn’t as much of a consideration is the physiological and medical perspective on at-home detoxification.
When detoxing in a DIY fashion, the addicted lacks access to medical professionals in the event of a medical emergency during the detox process. Further, an at-home detox lacks access to medications that could be used to lessen the effects of withdrawal. Finally, and most often overlooked, is a professional approach to dealing with co-existing conditions that amplify or drive the core addiction an individual is attempting to overcome.
The life-threatening aspects of detoxification are the most frightening. Any drug, including alcohol, has the capacity to have life-threatening effects driven by withdrawal during detoxification. Specific dangers depend on the specific drug one is detoxing from.
Medical Detox Centers
Medical detox centers are detoxification facilities that have medical staff to help patients cope with the effects of withdrawal. In contrast to the at-home detox method above, the obvious differences include the presence of medical professionals, access to detox medications to curb the challenges of early withdrawal, and a change of venue, which can often be the difference in a successful and unsuccessful detox.
From a benefits perspective, of the most compelling argument for a medical detox center is the 24-hour professional medical attention, a structured approach to treatment and living, and change of one’s environment. The change of environment shouldn’t only be considered as an absence of access and influencers, but also for what it does offer: a focus on recovery and the presence of others facing similar challenges. The common shortcomings are the most apparent ones: cost, lack of access to loved ones and lost income.
Medical Detox Center: When it is the Best Choice
Medical detox is likely worth serious consideration if one or more of the following are true:
- Discomfort – If withdrawing would introduce a high degree of discomfort
- Health Risk – If detoxification has the potential to put the addicted into any kind of medical risk
- Physical Addiction – If the addicted has a physical addiction to drugs or alcohol
The decision between a medical detox and any other option is ultimately a complicated one. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please seek treatment. The Recovery Village offers medical detox as a part of our treatment programs.
Hayashida, M, M.D., Sc.D. (1998). An Overview of Outpatient and Inpatient Detoxification. Alcohol Health & Research World: 44-46.
DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction. Updated September, 2009. Accessed December 28, 2015.