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Medical Detox


A medical detox is usually the first phase of addiction treatment that involves slowly weaning a person off of harmful substances such as alcohol, heroin or prescription medications. Certain drugs can cause a physical dependency after a prolonged period of heavy use, and attempting to suddenly stop can cause severe withdrawal symptoms. A medical detox takes place under the supervision of a physician who can prescribe certain medications to ease withdrawal symptoms and monitor the patient’s condition. Although detoxification is an important part of addiction treatment, it is not enough to completely cure addiction and should be used as one part of a complete program.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Detox

After checking into an Iowa drug and alcohol addiction treatment center, patients will meet with a physician to discuss the best treatment method for them. Detox can take place either as part of a residential rehabilitation program or as a component of outpatient care. The best treatment method will depend on the nature of the addiction and the patient’s home environment. Those with serious addictions to alcohol or opioids should always opt for inpatient treatment to receive 24-hour care and supervision to monitor withdrawal symptoms. Patients with mild to moderate addictions to cocaine, speed or marijuana can choose outpatient care where they will check-in with doctors every day to receive prescription medications. Outpatient care is only suitable for those that have a strong support network of friends and family at home who can provide help and guidance during the recovery process. Attempting to detox at home without medical supervision can be extremely dangerous as many drugs produce withdrawal symptoms such as hallucinations, seizures and even thoughts of suicide.

Types of Detox Programs

There are many different types of detox that are available in Iowa to help addicts end their physical dependency on chemical substances.

  • Natural Detox – Natural detox does not involve the use of any prescription medications and is often referred to as going “cold turkey.” Rehabilitation centers that offer natural detox may use alternative and complimentary therapies to ease withdrawal symptoms such as acupuncture, homeopathy or sauna therapy.
  • Medical Detox – Medical detox takes place under the supervision of a physician and usually involves the use of drugs such as methadone, buprenorphine or

Suboxone. A physician may prescribe medications for a short time to deal with the more severe withdrawal symptoms at the start of the detox, or may advise patients to enter a methadone maintenance program to gradually reduce the amount of drugs they need.

  • Rapid Detox – Rapid detoxification takes place while the patient is under general anesthesia. Medications such as opioid blockers are given intravenously as well as medicine to ease withdrawal symptoms. Rapid detox usually lasts between four to eight hours and is ideal for those that have repeatedly failed to complete detoxification treatment.
  • Ultra-Rapid Detox – Ultra-rapid detox involves the use of a drug known as Naltrexone that acts as an opioid blocker. Patients are put under general anesthesia and 100 percent physical detox can be completed within 30 minutes. However, this procedure carries a significant risk to the patient and should only ever be used for those that have a high relapse rate.

Common Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Heroin Withdrawal – Patients undergoing heroin withdrawal often experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweats and muscle pain. Methadone has been used since the 1960s to combat heroin withdrawal symptoms and can greatly reduce cravings. Suboxone is a more modern form of treatment that can reduce withdrawal symptoms while also blocking the pleasant effects of opioids.
  • Alcohol Withdrawal – Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild shakes and anxiety to seizures and hallucinations. Those that have been abusing alcohol for a long period should never attempt to detox at home as withdrawal symptoms can have fatal consequences if the patient is not properly monitored. Benzodiazepines such as valium are often prescribed to combat anxiety, and Antabuse may be prescribed as part of a relapse prevention program.
  • Benzodiazepine Withdrawal – Those that take benzodiazepines for longer than prescribed can develop an addiction that can be extremely hard to overcome. Benzodiazepine withdrawal produces symptoms such as insomnia, panic attacks, confusion, muscle pain, hallucinations and psychosis. Clonidine is a common drug used to counteract the effects of benzodiazepine withdrawal and make addicts more comfortable.

Residential rehabilitation treatment is considered to be the most effective form of addiction treatment as addicts receive a high level of support in a drug and alcohol-free environment. As well as medical detox, addicts undergo a number of psychotherapy sessions along with group counseling to address their psychological addiction to harmful substances. If you believe a medical detox could help you overcome your addiction, then contact your nearest rehabilitation center in Iowa today.