Addiction Detox: This is Why Addiction Detox Hurts

September 22, 2020

The addiction detox process is not an easy, painless process, and many people struggle to get through it, especially if they are doing it solo. 

Undergoing an addiction rehab program can be difficult to endure without a support system, and many require the expertise of medical professionals to have the proper medical and emotional support to succeed.

Detoxing is painful because it elicits symptoms that are opposite to the drug or substance that is being abused. Withdrawing from drugs that make you feel relaxed and calm, you will often feel anxious, shaky, and agitated. Withdrawal from painkillers, like opioids, can cause extreme pain, both physical and emotional.

Because of how intense the sensation of pain and anxiety can be with undergoing detox, it is often a complicated process to undergo alone. Without someone trained to help, a person trying to stop an abusive relationship with a drug or substance might quickly return to the drug because the withdrawal symptoms may feel like too much to bear. 

To find out more about exactly why a detox program can cause painful symptoms of withdrawal and what can be done to ease these symptoms, read on below.

Reasons Why Addiction Detox Can Hurt

The National Institute on Drug Abuse classifies addiction as a chronic disease, meaning that treatment often is ongoing and requires lifelong management, rather than having a simple cure. Treatment of addiction involves confronting the drug’s effect on the brain and body, which can be physically and mentally disruptive.

Addiction can result in a shifting of your priorities as it alters the chemistry of your brain. Activities that you once enjoyed, such as time with friends, certain foods, or particular experiences, no longer release the same pleasure-inducing chemicals in the brain. However, the drugs tend to give the brain a much higher dose of the stimulating chemicals that bring pleasure, so some people fall into a cycle of use to feel good.

Sometimes, as someone becomes more addicted to a substance, they will require larger and larger quantities to feel the same rewarding effect. This is known as tolerance, and it can drive people to take dangerous amounts of drugs to avoid the symptoms of withdrawal and to continue to feel high. 

When you attempt to stop these drugs completely, the brain can have an adverse reaction. When your body has become addicted, your brain will do everything it can to convince you that you still need that drug. It will release chemicals that make you feel pain, nausea, anxiety, and other negative symptoms. These symptoms are the body’s attempts to make you return to the drug or substance.

It is important to recognize that addiction is a medical illness. Drugs will change the way organs function, including the brain, and cause the harmful symptoms of withdrawal that make undergoing a detox program so painful. While there are medications that can help ease symptoms, it is complicated to eliminate the pain associated with a detox. For this reason, it is important to involve qualified health professionals in the process.

What is an Addiction Detox Program?

Detox programs are designed to help someone stop a process that causes self-harm. During detox, all traces of drugs and alcohol are eliminated from a person’s body. Often, medical detox programs are needed to end an abusive cycle of addiction to drugs or other substances. Many medical detox programs are divided into three main steps:

  • Evaluation
  • Stabilization
  • Preparation

During the evaluation step, a person will be evaluated on both a physical and a psychological scale. This can include blood tests, a physical examination, and an evaluation of potential mental health disorders. It is also important to determine whether a person has a social support system available to aid in the detox process.

At the stabilization stage, the drug or substance is discontinued entirely. This is when many people undergo withdrawal symptoms until the body has completely purged its dependence upon the drug. Often, medical professionals will administer medication to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal or assist in a more gradual taper of the abused substance. 

The preparation stage is essential for helping those undergoing detox to realize that the process is ongoing. Additional therapy and treatment may be necessary even after the drug has been cleared from the patient’s system. Often it’s critical to have prepared a robust network of support or for the patient to enroll in a program to help continue his or her sobriety after the conclusion of the detox program.

Undergoing a detox program can be stressful and painful. It is not easy to end addiction by yourself. Because of this, detox programs are often coordinated by skilled health professionals with the resources available to assure the best chance of a successful detox and end the harmful cycle of drug and substance abuse.

Common Symptoms of Withdrawal in Addiction Detox Programs

For those with addiction looking to undergo a detox program, symptoms of withdrawal are inevitable. The severity of those symptoms might vary, and every detox can elicit a different response. The symptoms will often depend on factors such as:

  • How long a person has been addicted
  • What they are addicted to
  • How much of the drug or substance they regularly consume
  • If the person has any other underlying health conditions

Withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and psychological. Some people may only experience a few symptoms, while others may experience a much heavier burden. Medication can help reduce these symptoms, but it is impossible to alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal completely. Occasionally, severe symptoms such as seizures, hallucinations, and delirium can occur. 

Some common physical withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Shivering
  • Tremors
  • Chills
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Increased blood pressure

Some common psychological withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Lack of focus
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Intense cravings for the addiction substance
  • Irritability

These withdrawal symptoms can make it very difficult for someone to endure a detox program on their own. Occasionally, the more severe symptoms, such as seizures, can be life-threatening. Because of this, it is important to seek out a detox program with qualified health professionals who can help provide medication to ease symptoms as well as support to ensure the detox program is successful.

How Long Does the Addiction Detox Period Take?

Detox programs can vary in length and will need to be tailored to fit each individual. The range will often depend upon factors such as how long the person has been addicted and how much of the drug or substance they were regularly consuming.

Those who experience more extreme withdrawal symptoms may need a longer time to taper off the substance, which will increase the length. If the person also has any concurrent mental or physical ailments, this may be another reason to extend the program’s duration.

According to Steps Recovery Center, a detox period generally lasts less than two weeks.

Undergoing a Detox at Home is Not the Best Choice

For some, enrolling in a detox program at a treatment center is unappealing, and they instead prefer to detox privately at home. While this method is possible, it usually is more complicated and often has a lower success rate.

Detoxing at home robs the patient of access to helpful medical staff, so the process can be more dangerous and painful. Medical professionals trained in addiction recovery have the experience necessary to know how to help patients navigate a detox, both physically and emotionally. Those trying to detox alone will be missing out on this valuable resource.

Those who try to detox on their own often need firm resolve and the ability to isolate themselves away from temptation. If the person cannot build up a strong support system of friends and family, it can be easy to relapse. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, those who attempt to detox without additional treatment are more likely to relapse.

By attempting a detox alone, a person also eliminates the possibility of receiving medication to relieve the symptoms of withdrawal. While some minor symptoms may be tolerable, often withdrawal can be painful and potentially dangerous, so it is safer to collaborate with trained medical professionals when detoxing. 

Remember: A Detox Program is Only One Step in the Path to Recovery

Some may mistakenly believe that after undergoing an addiction detox program, the struggle of addiction has ended, and the process is complete; however, this simply is not the case. While a detox program is a critical stage in the rehabilitation process from substance or drug abuse, it alone is often not enough to ensure a complete end to the addiction.

After participating in a detox program, a person is then ready to enroll in a rehab program that will offer the strong psychological support system a person needs to stay sober. These rehab programs provide therapy that helps reduce someone’s risk of a relapse.

Many rehabilitation programs are at inpatient treatment centers. This means that the person undergoing the therapy will be in a safe environment, away from temptations that may come at home or from people they know. At these treatment centers, the person is surrounded by supportive staff and others who are undergoing treatment. This fosters a healthy, encouraging environment where people can develop the skills necessary to overcome an addiction.

Steps Recovery Centers Can Help You With Recovery

Undergoing a detox program is a big step forward to overcoming an addiction. The process can be painful and may feel insurmountable, but with the right help and motivation, it can be accomplished. Once a detox has been completed, a person can move on with their treatment and live one step further away from a harmful dependency on drugs. Contact Steps Recovery Centers to start your recovery journey. We have locations in Salt Lake City, St. George, and Utah County, Utah. 

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