Is Detoxing from Drugs and Alcohol Always Painful?

Is detoxing from drugs and alcohol always painful? The answer to this question is no. In fact, with modern detox protocols, withdrawal from almost any substance should involve only minimal discomfort, if that. Everyone is different, so if you’re in detox treatment and still experiencing pain or other troubling symptoms, let staff know how you feel. Your medications can always be adjusted. This is equally true whether you’re in a home detox program or attending one at a facility. It’s the detox facility’s job to get you through withdrawal as safely and as comfortably as possible. While in detox, you should be able to eat, sit still comfortably, have little to no pain and be able to sleep. If you can’t, let a detox staff member know immediately.

Medications for Opioid Withdrawal

The two main medications used for opioid withdrawal are Suboxone and methadone. Both are synthetic narcotics, and both will alleviate withdrawal symptoms and help keep drug cravings at bay. Suboxone is the first-line drug of choice. That’s because it’s not a full narcotic and is considered to be safer than methadone. However, not all opioid addicts will get sufficient relief from Suboxone alone. In this case, detox staff may decide to treat you with methadone and slowly reduce the dose down over time. Outside of detox and rehab, methadone can also be taken indefinitely at special clinics, where it’s dispensed dose by dose on a daily basis. Suboxone may also be prescribed by specially licensed physicians and filled at any pharmacy that stocks it. Some recovering opioid addicts need this pharmaceutical support to stay clean from their opioid drug of choice. When used under medical supervision, both Suboxone and methadone are considered safe and effective.

Other medications that may be used in opioid detox include:

  • Clonidine
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Antidepressants

Withdrawal from Alcohol

Withdrawal from alcohol, benzodiazepines and hypnotics is very dangerous without medical supervision. Although lower-level withdrawal from these types of drugs may sometimes be safely done at home, this decision must be made by a substance abuse treatment professional. Drugs in this class can cause serious seizures that can be life-threatening. It’s also possible for lung aspiration to occur. This happens when stomach contents are inhaled into the lungs while someone is unconscious. It can occur during a seizure and is life-threatening as well.

Someone addicted to alcohol has severely deranged brain function. In other words, the brain can no longer function without the presence of alcohol. Withdrawal from alcohol is typically treated with benzodiazepines given at a very slowly reduced dose over time. Since benzodiazepines and alcohol both work in similar ways in the brain, this treatment allows the brain to slowly adjust to the absence of alcohol.

Withdrawal from Stimulants

Withdrawal from stimulant drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, methylphenidate and mixed amphetamine salts can produce severe symptoms and should never be attempted without medical supervision. Typically, the abuser in withdrawal will first experience a crash. This is a two or three day period when the person does nothing but sleep. When they finally wake up, they will be in full withdrawal and may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Depression
  • Slow heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Hallucinations
  • Vivid dreams
  • Increased appetite
  • Backache
  • Insomnia

These are all symptoms of a highly disturbed brain function and will persist until the brain can balance itself. During this time, medications will usually help to alleviate symptoms. These medications may include clonidine, propranolol, benzodiazepines and antidepressants, especially ones in the drug class called SSRI. SSRIs help to balance the severe depletion of brain chemicals that stimulant abuse can cause. People recovering from stimulant abuse are at high risk for severe depression.

Do you Need Help?

If you’re concerned about your own drug use or that of a loved one, we can help. We’re a highly trained group of drug counselors available to assist you 24 hours a day. Just call us at 833-497-3812 anytime, and we will be able to guide you to the best drug treatment facility for your needs.