Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Drug Detox
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We all need oxygen to function. This is particularly important when dealing with an illness or recovering, as is the case in addiction treatment.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing in 100% pure oxygen in a pressurised chamber, which means more oxygen gets into the bloodstream where it can start repairing damaged tissues and cells. HBOT is used to treat a range of conditions from carbon monoxide poisoning to chronic infection – but is hyperbaric oxygen therapy for addiction an effective treatment? In this article we’ll find out!
We’ll take a look at what exactly this therapy is and what you can expect during treatment. We’ll explore why increased oxygen can be helpful in addiction detox, and look at how it can possibly help alcohol related brain damage. We’ll review some of the existing studies on hyperbaric oxygen therapy for addiction and finish up by walking you through how we use it to facilitate addiction recovery at Smarmore Castle.
What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Ireland?
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is an effective and non-invasive treatment with minimal side effects suitable for a range of conditions, including addiction. Our body and its cells need oxygen to function. This is particularly true when you are facing recovery, such as the kind experienced during detox. HBOT can help during this process by boosting the amount of oxygen available to your body.
HBOT was first used in the U.S. in the early 20th century, it gained popularity in the 1940s to treat deep-sea divers with decompression sickness (also known as the bends). Since then, it has rapidly gained a reputation for treating all manner of maladies including, but not limited to, carbon monoxide poisoning, gas gangrene, bone infections, diabetic wounds and crush injuries.
But what exactly is it? Put simply, it involves breathing in high concentrations of oxygen at increased pressure. The oxygen, combined with increased pressure in the atmosphere, increases the oxygen levels in the bloodstream which can in turn stimulate the repair of damaged organs and tissues, including the liver and brain cells.
What Happens During Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
At Smarmore Castle, this treatment takes place in a single-person pressurised chamber. Inside the chamber, you will then put on a mask which will deliver pure oxygen to your body.
While the normal air you breathe in is 21% oxygen, the air you breathe in during this treatment will be 100% pure oxygen. The pressure inside the chamber is also higher than what you would typically encounter. This helps the body and lungs to take up more oxygen. Treatment usually lasts for about an hour and can be repeated throughout your stay at Smarmore Castle.
The Benefits of Increased Oxygen in Addiction Detox
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for addiction works on a number of levels. Below are some of the major benefits you can expect from HBOT during your addiction detox:
- Improve detoxification by clearing toxins from the body
- Lower the symptoms associated with drug and alcohol withdrawal
- Decrease Inflammation
- Improve circulation
- Regenerate damaged tissue
- Improve quality and quantity of sleep
- Stimulate appetite
HBOT for Brain Damage Related to Alcoholism
Alcohol addiction impacts the entire body, including the brain. Those who regularly drink over the recommended daily amount of alcohol can damage their brain, which can cause their memory and general cognitive function to worsen over time.
This is known as alcohol-related brain damage. It may just result in mild cognitive impairment, or it could lead to a more serious condition. For example, Wernicke-Korsakoff, sometimes referred to as alcohol-related ‘dementia’, can impact a person’s ability to handle basic day-to-day tasks.
Some people believe that HBOT may be able to improve or provide relief to some of the symptoms associated with alcohol-related brain damage, and there are certainly promising studies in relevant areas.
One study from Israel found that people suffering from mild cognitive impairment enjoyed improved memory and cognitive function following regular 90-minute sessions in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. The research team thought the treatment worked as it changed the structure of vessels in the brain, allowing more blood to get through.
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The Efficacy of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (Hbot) In Addiction Treatment
It sounds promising, but just how much evidence is there for hyperbaric oxygen therapy for addiction?
A 2016 study looking into the impact of HBOT on opiate detox found that it could halve severe withdrawal symptoms, like jumping and shaking, in morphine-dependent mice. The study found that such symptoms were ‘significantly reduced’ when an HBOT session was provided before an injection of naloxone.
There are promising human studies too. A Russian study from 1995 looked at the impact of hyperbaric oxygenation on a range of patients, including 223 alcoholics. Compared with a control group of patients who were administered drug therapy alone, those who had exposure to hyperbaric oxygenation ‘had a favourable effect on the patient’s status during sessions and persisted for some time after them’. The reason cited for this improvement was ‘the antihypoxic detoxifying and bioenergetic effects’ of hyperbaric oxygen. The researchers concluded that the treatment group enjoyed an approximately twofold decrease in treatment duration, and they also experienced fewer complications.
A more recent study published last year was designed to test opioid withdrawal symptom relief (relative to a sham condition) after two consecutive days of HBOT, for adults prescribed daily methadone for opioid use disorder. The results? All measurements improved more, on average, for those receiving the HBOT treatment (except for clinically observed withdrawal symptoms). This was particularly noticeable when it came to measurements of pain intensity and drug cravings.
Another study, also published last year, looked at the effect of various oxygen therapies (including Hyperbaric Oxygenation) combined with standardised drug therapy on alcohol withdrawal syndrome. While the study didn’t note an improvement in alcohol withdrawal symptoms, it did find that the combination of oxygen therapy with standardised drug therapy allowed for ‘faster and more efficient correction of the markers of the metabolic alkalosis’, compared with drug therapy alone.
What Are the Most Common Types of Addiction Treatment?
There are a range of different addiction treatments, some of the most common types include:
- Detoxification: If you are suffering from a substance-based addiction, detoxification is the first step towards recovery. During this treatment, the patient is stabilised as they withdraw from the substance or alcohol. Once the body is no longer physically dependent on the substance, it can move on to further treatment.
- Inpatient rehab: Inpatient rehab is useful for people battling moderate to severe addictions or people who feel particularly prone to triggers for relapse in their normal, everyday life. This structured form of rehab involves moving into a centre, where a bespoke treatment plan will be administered without outside distractions. This could last from a few weeks to months.
- Outpatient rehab: For those who do not feel an inpatient stay is necessary, or it is not practical, an outpatient rehab can be a useful alternative. During this treatment you remain based at home, visiting the facility for scheduled treatments and appointments. Because of the nature of this style of treatment, it usually extends over a longer timeframe than inpatient rehab.
- Therapy: Individual, group and family therapy can all be useful when overcoming and treatment addiction. Within that, there are plenty of different styles of therapy, including cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing.
- 12 Step Model: 12-step peer groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, are a popular and free tool for many people in recovery.
How Can HBOT Help Patients with Alcohol and Drug Addiction?
Putting your body in a pressurised atmosphere of 100% oxygen helps your body to take more oxygen in. This in turn allows the oxygen to reach areas of the body, including the brain, which have been damaged by substance or alcohol abuse. The extra oxygen can not only help those damaged tissues and cells but facilitate detoxification too.
Not only does HBOT have the capacity to help your body and brain heal itself from substance and alcohol abuse, but is a simple, non-invasive and low-risk intervention.
HBOT at Smarmore Castle
Here at Smarmore Castle, we are proud to be the first alcohol and drug addiction clinic in Ireland to offer this therapy to its patients. At our private rehab, we have a single-person pressurised chamber, in which you breathe pure oxygen in through a mask. Each session is supervised by a qualified technician, and your comfort is our priority throughout the treatment.
If you’d like to learn more about the addiction treatment, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy, on offer at Smarmore Castle, please give our friendly team a call at 041 214 5111
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Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Help Detox?
Several studies looking at hyperbaric oxygen and its role in detox have shown promising results in terms of both reducing the amount of time spent in detox, as well as making it a more comfortable experience overall.
Can You Do Too Much Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Only engage in HBOT under the care of a trained technician. Prolonged exposure to increased levels of oxygen could result in difficulty breathing or chest pain. These side effects are not expected during a routine course of treatment.
What Is the Downside of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Some of the most common side effects of HBOT are claustrophobia, lightheadedness and ear pain or pressure. These should resolve shortly after leaving the chamber.
Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Good for the Brain?
HBOT supplies the body with more oxygen than in normal circumstances. Cells need oxygen in order to heal, so it makes sense that providing your body and brain with more oxygen will facilitate increased healing and repair.