One of the major signs of addiction is the appearance of withdrawal symptoms if the drug use is stopped. These can include irritability, nausea, cravings, headaches, hallucinations, and seizures. The symptoms depend on the type of drug and severity of addiction, but they are always uncomfortable, and in extreme cases, can be life-threatening.
The liver and kidneys remove toxins such as drugs in a process called detoxification or detox. When this occurs in a drug treatment center or rehabilitation center, it is medically assisted and known as medical detox.
The withdrawal period can last from several days to weeks, and in medical detox, medications are prescribed during this time to reduce cravings and the severity of other symptoms. The medical detox experts at Drug Rehab Brooklyn have the knowledge and experienced required to treat your symptoms of withdrawal in a safe and comfortable manner.
It can be extremely dangerous to try to detox at home because of symptoms such as seizures, and medical detox, along with constant supervision, is the safest option. Trying to detox without medical help is also likely to result in relapse because the withdrawal symptoms can be so severe.
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The medications used during detox depend on the drug of addiction, but some examples include methadone, naltrexone, antabuse, and neurontin.
Addiction to heroin and other opiates is often treated with methadone. This is also an opiate, but is less addictive than the street drugs and provides less euphoria or the “high” craved by the addicted person. Methadone may be continued for many months after the detox period, and the recovering addict is gradually weaned off this drug.
Naltrexone blocks the action of opiates and is one of the most effective drugs used in detox centers for heroin addiction. It reduces the cravings for heroin and other withdrawal symptoms and cuts the rate of relapse. It is available in pill form and as an implant. In many cases the implant is more effective because it is impossible to forget to take the drug and the patient is constantly aware of the presence of the implanted pellet, which gives them confidence they are protected from a return to their addiction.
People recovering from addiction to alcohol are often prescribed antabuse (disulfiram), which reduces the withdrawal symptoms and cravings for alcohol. It is often continued for long periods after detox because it causes unpleasant side effects such as severe nausea and vomiting if alcohol is drunk even up to two weeks after the last dose of antabuse. These effects make it much less likely that the recovering alcohol addict will relapse and return to drinking, which gives them the time they need to learn to cope with life without alcohol.
Neurontin (gabapentin) is a relatively new drug being tested for use in withdrawal from opiate painkillers such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, which are often prescribed for pain but can be extremely addictive. Neurontin slows down pain signals in the brain so the person feels less pain. It also mimics some of the effects of opiates, and this reduces the worst withdrawal effects. Neurontin has not been shown to work for everyone, and for those needing a larger dose to give them pain relief, the effects may fade after some time. One of the reasons neurontin looks promising for treating opiate withdrawal in medical detox is its addiction potential is low.
The detox period is important, but is only the beginning of treatment. Ongoing therapies must be used to prevent the addict from relapsing. Patients need to be treated for the psychological effects of addiction, as well as for any underlying or associated mental health conditions such as depression, and anxiety.