Treatment After Detox – Why Drug Detox Is Only the First Step
There’s no doubt that addiction is a difficult condition to overcome, no matter what substance is the source of the problem. Many Americans think of detoxing as synonymous with recovery, but
that isn’t the case. Detoxing is only the first step to overcoming a drug addiction – and stopping there can create dangers for patients. With 142 people dying from drug overdoses every day, building an understanding of what steps really make a successful recovery will be an important step to overcoming this epidemic.
What Is Detox?
Detox (derived from detoxification) refers to the process of stabilizing a patient suffering from drug dependence. There are both inpatient and outpatient methods for detoxing, which involve cutting oneself off or reducing the use of the addictive substance. Many people attempt to go through an at-home detox by quitting cold turkey, but an inpatient detox will allow for supervision of withdrawal symptoms and medical treatment when needed.
No matter which type of detox a patient attempts, there are three main goals:
- Ease the discomfort of drug withdrawal
- Address any medical complications during the process
- Provide emotional support necessary for recovery
While these are important steps to overcoming addiction, treatment cannot stop there. Detoxing is only the first step on the road to recovery.
Why Do Patients Need More Than Detox?
Detox helps stabilize the body from withdrawal symptoms, which may seem like the most unbearable part of the process. Depending on the substance a patient is addicted to and their level of use, the exact symptoms will vary. However, they are often very difficult to overcome, especially when it seems like relapsing will solve the problem.
Even so, when a patient has successfully completed detox, they’ve overcome a barrier in their way to recovery. Unfortunately, detoxing only helps to overcome the initial physical symptoms of addiction. Because of the many complex factors involved in substance dependence, more treatment is necessary to help patients recover.
Besides physical cravings for drugs, those who suffer from addiction also face many psychological factors that influence their dependence. It’s necessary to counter the reasons that led to their drug use in the first place, as well as develop new habits to move toward living a healthy life.
What Does Treatment After Detox Look Like?
Once a patient has completed detox, it’s best that they enter the next stage of treatment. The road to recovery looks different for everyone, so patients have a variety of options when it comes to finding their best next step moving forward. Some potential treatments include:
- Personal therapy. For many who suffer from drug addiction, something led to their use and dependence in the first place. Frequently, stress is a factor. Meeting with a therapist and working on these issues can help reduce the chance of relapsing.
- Medical services. Some addictions stem from chronic illnesses and co-occurring disorders, which lead to self-medication and other unhealthy coping methods. With proper medical treatment for their conditions, patients don't need to resume self-medicating.
- Relapse prevention. When patients set up relapse prevention, they form a plan of what to do when faced with the temptation to use again. Having steps in place makes it easier to follow through on avoiding relapse.
- Family therapy. Much like personal therapy helps identify and face the underlying issues of addiction, family therapy works to understand any problems at home. It also serves to increase the effectiveness of the family as a support system.
- Educational classes. Learning how drugs affect the brain and body can help avoid relapse, and understanding addiction can make overcoming the condition seem more achievable.
- Life skills classes. Improper coping methods are the foundation for many addictions, and having a dependence on drugs can lead to struggling with normal responsibilities. With classes, recovering patients can feel more in control of their circumstances.
- Support groups. The people a patient has in his or her life provide the cornerstone of support when recovering from addiction. Support groups provide additional people to discuss problems with, and the similar struggles allow everyone to empathize with each other in ways others in the patient’s life may not be able to.
- Sober living homes. These residences have the same level of support that groups allow, while also providing a drug- and alcohol-free living environment.
By engaging in one (or likely several) of these treatment options, patients can continue to receive the support needed for recovery, as well as build better life habits. When you combine those effects, there is a lower chance of relapse, which is vital for moving past an addiction.
Benefits of Post-Detox Treatment
Continuing treatment after detoxing can help provide the emotional and medical help a recovering patient needs to avoid relapse. Many of the treatments above focus on educating and supporting patients so that they can make the right decisions moving forward.
Some of the difficulties that arise after detox can take the form of psychological effects. Patients may experience emotional swings, sleep disturbances, and hypersensitivity to stress, which can all take a toll. Often, these and other symptoms are known as post-acute withdrawal and can lead to relapse. Post-detox treatment helps reduce that risk.
It’s also critical to understand that addiction doesn’t just affect the person suffering from it, but those around them as well. Detox is a personal battle that doesn’t address any of the surrounding issues. With further treatment, both patients and those around them can heal together.
Detoxing is the critical first step to overcoming drug addiction. However, that’s all it is: a first step. Patients need to continue with further treatment to reduce the risk of relapse and have a successful recovery. Not doing so can lead to continued dependence and unattended medical complications, which can be life-threatening for some people.
The current societal emphasis on detox may ultimately do more harm than good. More attention on proper follow-up treatment is essential for successful drug and alcohol addiction treatment. Detox and long-term care together are what make it possible for those suffering from drug dependence to get back in control of their lives.