In order to beat a serious drug or alcohol addiction, it is often necessary to undergo a detox. This is usually the first step in tackling addiction and it deals with only the physical aspect of addiction. That is to remove the substance from your body, deal with any withdrawal symptoms and end up in a place where you are not physically dependent on the substance.
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The Detox Process
Going through a detox process allows your body and brain to get used to the reduction of certain chemicals that they have become reliant on. While this can cause a range of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, a medically assisted detox can make it a more comfortable process. Attempting to detox without specialist medical help is rarely successful and can be quite dangerous, especially if a person decided to quit ‘cold turkey’. You can choose to detox as part of an inpatient or outpatient rehab programme, if you’re unsure where to start try contacting your healthcare professional.
While detox is a crucial part of beating addiction, it’s worth noting that it is not the only part. After detox, most people will need to deal with the underlying psychological aspects of their addiction too, if they are going to make long-term, meaningful changes and avoid swapping one addiction for another.
What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms
When a patient enters detox, the amount of alcohol or substance in their system will reduce. The exact protocol for how this is achieved will depend on a number of factors including what substance you’re addicted to, how long you’ve been addicted and your personal medical history.
Once the level of substance starts to go down in your body, it’s likely you will experience some withdrawal symptoms. Whether you are detoxing from alcohol or drugs, often withdrawal systems can be similar.
However, it’s normal, even among people who are detoxing from the same substance, to have a different experience of detox. Various factors can influence your withdrawal experience including how long you have been addicted and any existing health conditions.
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Although everyone will have a different experience with detox, there are some common physical symptoms you might incur.
- Feeling sick
- Throwing up
- Stomach problems
- Muscle aches
- High temperature
- Flu-like symptoms
- Increased heart rate
- Increase blood pressure
Along with physical withdrawal symptoms, you could face some psychological withdrawal symptoms as well, such as:
- Mood swings
You will also likely experience intense cravings for the substance you are detoxing from and in severe cases, you might experience seizures, delirium and hallucinations.
What Happens After Detox?
You’ve made it through detox! That is a huge milestone and the first step towards recovery and a life of sobriety. But if you’re going to avoid a relapse, it’s not as simple as getting through detox and then returning to life as before. While it can seem a daunting realisation, detox is just the beginning when it comes to beating your addiction.
Depending on how you have detoxed, you should be assessed and given an ongoing treatment plan which will help you to maintain sobriety. Such a plan might include details of any medication you may be advised to take, therapy treatments such as 12 Step based therapy, CBT or group therapy, referrals to support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and training such as relapse prevention or life skills.
This plan will be designed to help you unpack the underlying causes that contributed to your addiction forming in the first place. Without addressing those, you will remain vulnerable to addiction for the foreseeable.
For more information about the residential treatment programme at Smarmore Castle, visit our Addiction Treatment pages.
What Happens if You Drink After Detox
If you have been diagnosed with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), you probably know that the advice is once you stop drinking don’t start again. Because people with AUD are unable to have a healthy relationship with alcohol, it is advised that they remain sober.
Other than causing you to relapse and possibly spiral into addiction again, having a drink after rehab and detox can be dangerous. This is because once you have successfully gone through a detox, your body will no longer be able to tolerate alcohol in the same way or at the same amount. In extreme cases, people who have abstained from alcohol and then binge drank have ended up dying from alcohol poisoning.
What Else Should I Avoid After Detox?
Once you have successfully detoxed and are entering into recovery, you will want to avoid anything that could cause you to relapse. Go through your life and audit it for any potential triggers, you may find it helpful to do this with a friend or professional.
Some of the obvious places to start include certain environments, such as certain pubs or venues where you used to engage in substance abuse. You might also need to look at the people you choose to spend time with, being friends with people who are abusing drugs or alcohol is very difficult when you are trying to remain sober. Even looking at your social media accounts and removing any accounts you find triggering can be worthwhile.
Steps To Take After Drug and Alcohol Detox
1. Take stock
It’s easy to move on to the next part of tackling your addiction after detox, but first, take a moment to appreciate how far you have come. Going through a detox and overcoming the withdrawal symptoms that entails is no small thing. Take a bit of time to internalise this achievement.
2. Find a support network
If you’re going to remain sober, your best bet is to find a support network. One of the best routes here is to start attending a regular self-help group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Here you’ll meet like-minded people who know where you’ve been and can not only empathise, but can truly understand.
This is especially important if prior to detoxing you hung out with other people who abused alcohol and drugs. Finding a new, sober support network can help normalise your new life choices and help keep you on the road to recovery.
3. Remove triggers from your life
Make a list of things that could trigger you to relapse and come up with an action plan to deal with them. How this looks will depend on your life circumstances but it could, for example, include distancing yourself from certain social circles, taking a different route home from work to avoid a certain pub or even moving locations altogether.
4. Prioritise your recovery plan
Following your recovery plan is one of the best ways you can avoid relapsing. It might include CBT, group therapy or classes where you build up certain coping or life skills to help you better navigate life. Make these appointments a priority in your life.
5. Take care of yourself
When the demands of life come at us, it’s easy for the basics to slip. But things like eating enough nutrients, getting adequate sleep and staying hydrated are some of the most foundational aspects of life. Not meeting these basic needs has a negative knock-on effect and makes life harder to cope with all around. So work out which areas you need to focus on and commit yourself to yourself.
Outpatient Rehab for Alcohol and Drugs
If you are unable to attend an inpatient rehab program, an outpatient rehab programme could be a good choice. This style of rehab is useful for people who already have a safe and supportive home environment, can’t afford inpatient treatment or have commitments which make inpatient impossible (e.g. childcare, work).
During outpatient treatment, you remain based at home but attend regular appointments at the rehabilitation centre. Because this is a less intensive approach, it usually lasts for longer, often several months and up to a year.
What To Expect From Outpatient Rehab Programme
The tools and methods used during an outpatient rehab programme are similar to an inpatient rehab programme, the difference is you do not remain onsite overnight.
During an outpatient rehab programme, you will likely attend regular appointments for treatment. These could include meetings with addiction treatment specialists, one-on-one therapy, group therapy and skill sessions.
Like inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment cannot cure you of your addiction. That is fundamentally up to you. But it can equip you with the tools necessary to tackle your addiction and achieve sobriety.
Signs of Relapse
It’s easy to think of relapse as one moment, but in truth, it usually consists of a series of pivotal moments.
It often starts with a lapse into a negative emotion, whether that’s depression and anxiety or irritability and anger. This can often lead to a slip of basic care, perhaps getting enough sleep is no longer a priority and you are no longer making time to eat three meals a day. This in turn can lead to a lack of enthusiasm for recovery, perhaps pulling away from several support networks.
From this place, an internal struggle often begins. Part of you wants to stay on the path to sobriety, and another part of you feels compelled to drink or abuse your substance of choice again. From here, it’s difficult to come back and many people end up relapsing.
To avoid relapsing, it’s crucial you remain vigilant for warning signs and seek extra help and support as soon as you spot any of them:
- Looking back at your alcohol or drug abuse through rose-tinted glasses
- Sudden behavioural changes
- Distancing themselves from support networks
- Avoiding new hobbies
- Lack of basic self-care
If you do relapse, try not to spiral. It doesn’t mean you have failed at recovery and are destined to remain addicted forever. You have to come to review it as part of the process and another challenge which you need to tackle. The key issue with a relapse is to avoid it spiralling into a full-blown addiction again.
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