Drug detox is the process during which toxins from drug use exit one’s body. During this period, users may experience mild to severe withdrawal symptoms, depending on the type of drug they were taking. Detoxification is the first step in a long rehabilitation process.
What are the options for drug detox?
There are three drug detox options to choose from:
- “Cold turkey” — users suddenly stop using the drug without any medications.
- Short-term medication — a doctor prescribes medication that will relieve withdrawal symptoms.
- Long-term medication — opioid users need long-term medications to maintain sobriety.
Detox medications are prescribed medications, which are necessary to treat opioid-related withdrawal symptoms. Their main purpose is to ease pain and various other withdrawal symptoms; detox drugs can even mimic the effects that certain drugs have on one’s brain and psychological well-being.
Opioid Detox Medications
Methadone is a medication prescribed to opioid addicts. Methadone is a potential substance of abuse, so users have to go to a special methadone clinic to get this drug. Some of the benefits of methadone include:
- Relief from withdrawal symptoms
- Suppressed drug cravings
The downside of methadone is that it can cause side effects similar to opioids, such as nausea and vomiting, and it can easily be abused.
Subutex is a medication that prevents withdrawal symptoms in opioid users by binding to the receptors in one’s brain. It can cause nausea, vomiting, digestive problems, headaches, etc. This medication should only be taken if prescribed by a doctor as a part of the drug rehabilitation process.
Suboxone is a medication which two main ingredients are buprenorphine and naloxone. The combination of these two drugs help relieve the withdrawal symptoms in opioid users. Suboxone is a highly addictive substance, even if taken as prescribed. It can also cause headaches, stomach ache, nausea, fatigue, chills, etc.
Alcohol Detox Medications
Acamprosate is a medication most commonly prescribed to alcohol abusers who have problems with prolonged withdrawal symptoms. This is a safe medication that can be prescribed to people with liver problems. However, acamprosate can cause a few mild side effects such as abdominal pain, nausea, headache, etc.
Disulfiram is a medication prescribed to alcoholics who have problems with maintaining sobriety. This medicine may cause several negative effects when combined with alcohol. Some of these effects are:
- Breathing problems
Naltrexone is a medication that binds opioid receptors in one’s brain and therefore helps with cravings. It is very effective in the alcohol detoxification process. This medicine can prevent relapse, and it is available in the form of injection that has prolonged effects.
The downside of naltrexone is that it is not suitable for people with liver problems, and it can cause unpleasant side effects such as muscle pain, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.
Benzodiazepines are the most commonly used medications when it comes to alcohol detoxification and withdrawal symptoms. They can ease withdrawal symptoms, help with seizures and delirium prevention. Benzodiazepines can cause sleepiness, drowsiness, headaches, cognitive issues, and hypotension.
Anticonvulsants are the drug of choice when it comes to seizure prevention in patients who are struggling with alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Those medications also inhibit alcohol cravings. Anticonvulsants also can cause nausea, tremor, rash, fatigue, dizziness, etc.
Anti-nausea medications are used by alcohol addicts to help them with nausea during the detoxification process. These medications also act as serotonin regulators which help with alcohol cravings.
Anti-nausea medications can cause digestive problems, nausea, headache, and fatigue.
Stimulant Detox Medications
Modafinil is a stimulant similar to methamphetamine. It is most commonly prescribed to cocaine addicts to help them maintain sobriety and reduce drug cravings. When it comes to side effects, Modafinil can cause vomiting, headache, rash, fever, and blistering.
Antipsychotics are very important during the cocaine withdrawal period because users can suffer from hallucinations, paranoia, and psychosis. Antipsychotics can cause dry mouth, muscle pain, spasms, tremor, vision problems.
Sedative Detox Medications
Diazepam (short-acting sedative) is used as a substitute for long-active benzodiazepines. This is a process that eventually leads to sobriety. On the other hand, even short-acting sedatives are addictive. Diazepam can also cause memory problems, fatigue, vertigo, vision problems, nausea, etc.
Flumazenil is a medication that can prevent some of the benzodiazepine’s withdrawal symptoms; it can also prevent adverse reactions. Flumazenil can cause nausea, vomiting, vision problems, and sweating.
Drug detox is only the first step in the rehabilitation process. Once the ex-drug user leaves the rehab facility, the real struggle begins. Nonetheless, we should not overlook the importance of the detox period, because that is the timespan during which most of the relapses occur.