What is Detox?
Sometimes when people use and abuse substances intensely or for long periods of time, they can build up a tolerance to these substances.
In fact, not only do they build up a tolerance but their bodies can become reliant on those substances in order to function, so even though the substance(s) may be harmful to them, the body develops a physical need for them. This is physiological dependence. If the substance is removed, or withdrawn, the physiological dependence leads to a condition known as withdrawal.
Withdrawal symptoms can vary from mild to life threatening.
Detoxificiation, or detox, is the process of the body removing and eliminating the toxic, or harmful, substance. Detox is also used to refer to the process by which we as healthcare providers supervise a treatment program designed to support our patients through this process of detoxification.
Detox is, therefore, how we help our patients get through getting rid of substances to which they have become addicted.
You may never be involved in the actual oversight of alcohol or opiate detoxification, but it may be helpful to understand the process for a number of reasons. Treatment for substance dependence often begins (but certainly doesn’t end) with detoxification. It may be done as an inpatient or outpatient process and the most likely substances involved are opiods and alcohol.