Why is it important to get detox before treatment?
When an individual is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol the body develops a physical dependence to the substance and there are chemical changes that occur within the brain. Because of these physical and chemical changes that occur as a result of substance abuse, any attempts to cease use by quitting cold turkey often fails and can pose significant health risks for the addict. In order to minimize the physical and psychological symptoms that can occur with withdrawal in a safe manner, it is important that medical detox is considered as an essential cornerstone of the recovery game plan.
The importance of detox in regards to the recovery process from addiction came to the forefront in the 1970’s with the emergence of the medical model. Prior to the 1970’s, the patterns and behaviors associated with addiction were commonly dealt with as a criminal offense. People were often arrested and held in places like “drunk tanks” and other similar holding places where people went through withdrawals without medical supervision. As society started embracing more humane and constructive ways in dealing with individuals with substance abuse issues, methods of detoxification started to evolve.
The Purpose of Detox and its’ Importance Before Treatment
The importance of detox in the treatment process, as stated above, is to help rid the body of the toxins that are the result of either intoxication or dependence on a substance or substances. Another purpose of detoxification, again as stated earlier, is to minimize both the physical and psychological symptoms associated with withdrawal. In the Quick Guide for Clinicians booklet created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) regarding medical detoxification, detox in of itself is not seen as a sufficient treatment option.
The main feature of detox, as noted in this guide, and its’ importance in the recovery picture is that it serves as the start of the intervention process. The detox process needs to take place in a medical facility or other licensed and accredited environment in which the detox services are performed by certified personnel. There are three main components that entail the detoxification process:
- Evaluation—consists of testing for the presence of substances in an individual’s bloodstream as well as screening for any co-occurring mental and physical conditions. There are also comprehensive assessments of an individual’s medical, psychological and social functioning and situations.
- Stabilization—assisting the individual through the medical, psychological and social processes of withdrawal and getting them to a state in which they are stable medically and free of substances.
- Entry into Treatment—prepares the individual for entry into a comprehensive treatment program.
In summary, detoxification is not treatment in itself, but it is the start of the overall treatment and recovery process. Besides its’ stabilizing effects, the importance of detox is to assess the individual across a wide spectrum of factors and establish a treatment game plan that best fits that individual. In the detoxification process, the addict is given the message that recovery from substance abuse is possible and there is hope for recovery. Starting with the detox process, those who are struggling with substance abuse understand that addiction lies within the brain and is not solely the result of moral failings. Ultimately, the importance of detox is the start of being proactive in regards to treatment where family and other support networks are involved in the treatment process.