All detoxification processes involve some withdrawal symptoms, but the withdrawal signs can and should be managed and monitored for the comfort and safety of the patient. The symptoms vary by the type of drug the person used.
Withdrawal from alcohol can cause the patient to experience:
- Profuse sweating
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sensitivity to sound and light
- Agitation, anxiety, disorientation, and irritability
- High fevers that cause seizures. These seizures can be fatal.
Withdrawal from opiates, like heroin, can be like a severe case of the flu, only many times worse. The signs can include:
- Deep bone pain
- Muscle spasms
- Aches and cramps
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Suicidal ideation
These drugs, which include Valium, Librium, Xanax, and many other prescription medications), can cause these withdrawal symptoms:
- Seizures, which can be fatal
- Irrational rage
- Panic attacks
- Stomach pain and cramps
- The painful sensation of electrical shocks or burning
- Aching joints
- A feeling of being detached from your body
- A sense that you do not exist
- Strange fears
- Depression and apathy
- Suicidal thoughts
The process of your body adjusting to the absence of meth after long-term usage can involve:
- An abnormal heartbeat
- Weakness and extreme fatigue
- Depression, irritability, and anxiety
Proper Management of Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms
The National Institutes of Health and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) provide guidelines for the correct management of withdrawal or detoxification from alcohol and other drugs in their “Treatment Improvement Protocols” publication. The book sets the standard of care that treatment facilities should use for their patients.
Treatment centers should perform a thorough physical examination and run a battery of blood tests, including drug screen panels, on all patients. A detailed history is also essential.
Many patients need medication to manage the side effects of withdrawing from drugs or alcohol. If a patient is young, in good health, and has not experienced previous reactions to withdrawal, that person might be able to detox without medications provided they are under constant observation. Detox is unpredictable and seizures can happen even with the fittest patient.
Since many people who seek treatment for addiction have a complicated history of substance abuse with heavy usage of alcohol consumption and other drugs, one can expect moderate to severe withdrawal side effects. These require a high level of medical care, including vigilant monitoring and the use of medications. Convulsions and other detox symptoms should receive immediate medical treatment.
Remember, improperly detoxing can kill you. Patients going through detoxification should receive:
- Monitoring of vital signs
- Medical surveillance
- Supervised use of medications to control the side effects and prevent seizures
- Adequate fluids and nutritious food
- Sufficient sleep
- Frequent interpersonal support
- Attention to hygiene
- Maintenance of an alcohol- and drug-free environment
Avoiding Improper Detoxification
A person trying to beat an addiction to alcohol or other drugs might try detoxification methods to get the substance out of the body and remove the dependency on the drug. One should always follow these guidelines to avoid improper detoxification:
- Detox is not a DIY project. See your doctor and use a medical treatment facility. Detox can be a dangerous process, even fatal.
- Do not stop alcohol or other drugs “cold turkey.” Safe detox after long-term use of any strong chemical requires tapering down.
- Do not detox alone. Seizures or other medical emergencies can happen when a person goes through detox. Always have someone there to get you to the emergency room.
- Make sure that you do not ignore withdrawal symptoms. Some signs are part of the normal process of your body adjusting to the absence of the chemical, but others can indicate a medical crisis, like gastrointestinal bleeding.
Insist on detailed information from facilities that claim to provide supervision and medical professionals during detox. Some centers do not have doctors on staff and are dangerously lax about watching over their patients.
Medication Protocols for Detox Will Depend on the Category of the Patient
The SAMSA book classifies detox patients into three groups to determine the appropriate level of care and medication the person will need to properly manage the detox process.
- Patients with a history of extreme side effects from previous detoxifications, like seizures.
- Those who are already experiencing withdrawal symptoms and need immediate medication treatment.
- Those who might currently be under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, have only abstained for a few hours and are not yet showing signs of withdrawal.
Getting Legal Help
If you suspect that you or a loved one received an improper detoxification treatment, you should talk with a medical malpractice lawyer to protect your legal rights. The lawyers at Pintas & Mullins can help you go after compensation for the harm you or a close relative suffered from improper detox.
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