Have you ever heard an addict or alcoholic say they wish they were sober but they physically can’t quit drinking or using? It’s not just another lie. After prolonged periods of drinking and using drugs, the human body can become physically dependent on the substances—toxic is the new normal. To quit cold turkey can be life threatening. This is where a medically supervised detox like the program offered at the world-renowned Cliffside Malibu comes in. In addition to protecting people from the various life-threatening medical issues they could encounter during untreated withdrawal, a medical detox program can also facilitate a comfortable transition into rehab. This is because medically supervised detox, though beneficial and almost always necessary, is not the end of addiction treatment. It’s just the beginning.
So, what is a medically supervised detox? It is a clinical setting with doctors and nurses available around the clock to monitor a person’s withdrawal from drugs and/or alcohol. Sometimes detox includes administering medication, but the specifics vary widely according to the individual and the substances used. There is never a guarantee that a person will be safe or comfortable during detox, it is often a painful process. However, there are therapies available to treat or prevent the worst symptoms of withdrawal. Under a physician’s care, individuals are monitored for signs of hallucinations, scevere anxiety and cardiovascular distress. A whole range of medications may be used to manage symptoms like high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting or anxiety. Anticonvulsants might also be provided, depending on personal history.
Why is it necessary to detox under a physicians care? Withdrawal is one of the most dangerous times in a person’s recovery. In addition to the physical illness and confusion, there is often an emotional element of fear and desperation as a person comes to grips with the physical reality of their addiction and the necessity of getting sober. Treatment should always start with medically supervised detox or the professional treatment of withdrawal symptoms and be followed by a structured plan of therapy to treat the underlying causes of addiction.
Alcohol, opiate, prescription drug and stimulant withdrawal can all cause symptoms that may be life threatening. Side effects associated with opioids, hallucinogens and marijuana abuse can lead to mental health problems and relapse as a result of severe symptoms. No matter what the substance, the
withdrawal process is unpredictable. According to the National Library of Medicine, delirium tremens, or DTs, the severe and life-threatening form of alcohol withdrawal, “involves sudden and severe mental or nervous system changes” that often cannot be predicted in time for the individual to reach the appropriate detox program, if they are not already in it.
Withdrawal can also create severe and lasting effects that require long-term psychological and medical care. For many types of substance abuse, depression is a severe symptom of detox and can sometimes accompany other mental disorders, like anxiety, paranoia and OCD that will require long-term treatment. Whether these issues were present before the substance abuse started or they are a result of withdrawal, treating these disorders is an essential part of the healing process and can reduce the risk of relapse.
It is much safer for someone to go through medically supervised detox than to try and detox at home. Aside from the many dangers associated with drug withdrawal and its different symptoms, relapse is another possible complication that can even become deadly. If a person relapses back to drug abuse during or after withdrawal, their tolerance usually isn’t the same as it once was. This can lead them to miscalculate the amount of drugs they need to take and puts them at significant risk for an overdose.
What is the first 72 hours of detox like? Detox symptoms vary person to person and depend on the type of drugs used. In general, withdrawal brings troubled sleep, irritability, anxiety, headaches, cravings, sweating, chills, a depressive state and insomnia. Even if they are not life threatening, these symptoms can be disruptive enough that the individual may have a difficult time being fully functional for several days.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the withdrawal timeline typically begins one day after the last intake of the drug. The most difficult withdrawal symptoms will occur on the second and third days and may include headaches, cravings, sweating, chills and gastrointestinal distress. The withdrawal timeline will continue for up to two weeks while the symptoms slowly fade.
On day one of detox, the first symptoms appear immediately after the active molecules of the substances have been processed. The body expects another dose, having learned to rely on a regular supply. Not receiving the drugs, the body’s expected chemical balance is disrupted. At this point, the individual will often begin to experience troubled sleep. The most common symptom of withdrawal is insomnia. Insomnia can manifest itself as restlessness and difficulty falling asleep, a complete failure to sleep or waking up regularly during the night. During the early stages of detox, people may also experience very vivid dreams or nightmares, which can make relaxation and recovery at night very difficult.
The lack of proper sleep and relaxation can make people prone to lose control over their emotions. Irritation is common, as exhaustion takes over, but the detox makes them unable to sleep. At this point, it is common to begin to feel a range of previously suppressed aggressive emotions. Some may feel just mild irritation, while others experience outbursts or episodes of rage. Another byproduct of the constant fatigue is the loss of concentration, difficulty learning and some level of memory loss. It is quite common for individuals at the beginning of withdrawal to experience anxiety attacks. The soothing effects of the drugs or alcohol are no longer active, so the people react the opposite way, and feel uneasy and anxious.
In addition to emotional reactions, chronic substance abusers in that early stage of detox will likely face some unpleasant physical consequences. Headaches are common during the detox stage, usually during the first three days. They usually weaken over time and ultimately fade away. Many also suffer from night sweats and chills during this time, which should fade after a few days. The irregular temperature and uncontrollable sweating is usually the body attempting to rid itself of toxins.
Finally, as if all of this wasn’t already uncomfortable enough, most people suffer from a loss of appetite during withdrawal, which can sometimes cause mild weight loss. Others reported digestive issues such as stomach cramps and nausea. Despite the fact that the body is in turmoil, this is a critical point in the recovery process because of the high risk of relapse. The discomfort and cravings are strong relapse triggers. After the initial shock of withdrawal, almost every substance abuser will begin to crave the drug. This is why it is so important to detox in a safe and structured environment, away from the temptations of using. Having a transition plan for further treatment is imperative as detox progresses.
Despite marijuana’s reputation as a harmless drug, many people develop a dependence on it. Some may even become physically addicted to marijuana and require a medically supervised detox from THC, the psychotropic element found in pot. Withdrawal from marijuana can be just as painful and difficult as any other type of detox and professional support is recommended.
Many factors can impact the duration and the intensity of the withdrawal phase. Not every person will necessarily experience all the same symptoms as others. The longer you use marijuana, the more it builds up in your body. How much marijuana were you or your loved one using? People that developed a greater physical dependency on marijuana will need to expect more intense withdrawal symptoms. Other factors that affect marijuana withdrawal symptoms include the frequency and length of the use, the amount of cannabis typically consumed, the tolerance level developed, the individual’s emotional and physical vulnerability, general health and metabolism and amount of body fat.
According to the NIH, studies have also shown that emotional and physical vulnerability also play a part in the THC detox process. People with high stress personalities that are less able to handle stress will likely experience more severe withdrawal symptoms from cannabis. The healthier the person and the better the metabolism, the quicker the person will get rid of toxins like THC and end unpleasant withdrawal sensations. Fat tissues store THC molecules and so, the more fat a person has on their body, the more storage space provided for toxic cannabis molecules. Most women naturally have more fat, and are therefore likely to retain more THC in their bodies than men.
Many people who are considering a detox from marijuana wonder, how long does marijuana stay in your system? Although conventional wisdom says at least 30 days, the answer is not straightforward. The recent legalization of medicinal and recreational pot has made it more likely that regular pot users consume several different kinds of marijuana products, which have varying levels of potency and time periods the cannabis will stay in a person’s system. Meanwhile, wide-ranging patterns of usage as well as a unique biology for each individual make the calculation even more complex.
During the week after detox, most symptoms usually start to fade gradually, but some may persist, such as a continuous depressive state. The brain’s chemistry is undergoing changes trying to adapt and function without THC. Mood swings and emotional issues are not uncommon and are a sign of the brain reestablishing a healthy chemical balance. Cravings will persist in almost all of former marijuana users on detox. Cravings are a natural consequence of the body adapting to the absence of THC.
After two weeks, most of the withdrawal symptoms should disappear. However, some may continue for several months until they fully dissipate. That is especially the case for severe addicts. After two weeks, people may begin coughing up phlegm. This is a result of the body attempting to clear the lungs after extended abuse. Insomnia usually stops after two weeks to a month. But it can take up to two months until heavy pot users return to a regular sleep cycle. Depression and anxiety usually go on for several months. This is often the user has an underlying mental issue, and should see a therapist. For this reason, at least 30 days of treatment post detox is recommended to build a foundation for ongoing recovery and mental health.
So, if you or a loved one needs help, you may be wondering what should I look for to find the best THC detox centers? Here are a few things to consider when looking for a marijuana rehab program.
Find out whether your loved one has insurance and contact the insurance company. Find out what insurance will cover and make sure the treatment program you are considering takes the type of insurance. Look at low-cost programs or payment plans if the person doesn’t have insurance—there are plenty available. It is also important to find a program that will cover dual diagnosis support if an individual is dealing with a mental health issue. Also, check to make sure the rehabilitation facility can set you up with a good aftercare plan when you leave. For example, the detox programs at Cliffside Malibu offer the opportunity to transition seamlessly from the medical detox phase of treatment to residential care. This provides clients with the best possible shot at staying sober and learning coping skills to maintain long-term recovery.
Several treatment options are available to overcome an addiction to marijuana. Inpatient and outpatient recovery programs can involve medication, behavioral therapy, group and individual therapy and counseling services. These programs vary in time, level of supervision, types of therapy included, cost and commitment level.
No matter what the substance, detox should always take place in a professional facility where you can have access to healthcare professionals, medical care for any physical or psychological symptoms and a clear path to addiction treatment following your withdrawal. Programs like Cliffside Malibu offer the safest, most beneficial treatment options available today and caring professionals that can answer any other questions about detox or rehab.