Detoxing from drugs can be challenging, and withdrawal symptoms are often the biggest deterrent for people when it comes to achieving sobriety. Thankfully, there are many ways that individuals can increase their comfort while detoxing from drugs.
Even things as relatively simple as over-the-counter drugs can be helpful, reducing pain and keeping many withdrawal symptoms at bay. It’s a good idea to discover more about the realities of detox and how professional facilities may use drugs to aid drug detox for their patients.
Understanding the Withdrawal Symptoms of a Drug Detox
Although specifics can vary significantly depending on the drugs used, the severity of the addiction and the history of the patient, a typical drug detox will last anywhere from one to two weeks. The first withdrawal symptoms typically appear around 12 hours in, and they tend to peak at around 72 hours. While those first few days may be the hardest to get through, this stage is vital to lasting sobriety.
Withdrawal symptoms can be physical and/or psychological in nature, and they are often very unpleasant for patients. Detox is essentially when the body relearns how to function without the substance it is addicted to, which means that there are major psychological and chemical changes taking place. As a result, it’s common to experience nausea, struggle with diarrhea or be extremely dehydrated. Other common withdrawal symptoms include depression, insomnia, changes in appetite and extreme temperature fluctuations.
Over-The-Counter Medications That Can Ease Detox Discomfort
One of the benefits of attending a professional, medically supervised detox program is having access to around-the-clock care and the option of prescription medications. In many cases, however, common withdrawal symptoms can be best treated with ordinary over-the-counter medications. These milder medicines can be just as effective as more extreme measures, and they are also less likely to cause health problems as the body goes through such a sensitive period of transition.
Loperamide is one of the most commonly used over-the-counter medications during a drug detox. Loperamide is the main ingredient in anti-diarrhea medicine, and it’s often used when patients are detoxing from opiates. Many patients are surprised to learn that Loperamide is actually a form of opiate, although it doesn’t deliver a high. Taking Loperamide during detox can prevent diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration, but it can also help prevent other withdrawal symptoms since the body believes it’s getting a small dose of opiates on a regular basis.
Ibuprofen is perhaps one of the most common over-the-counter medicines used among people in America, and it’s just as commonly used in drug detox facilities. Ibuprofen reduces inflammation, which relieves pain and discomfort. During a detox from drugs, inflammation is likely, and it can cause everything from severe headaches to muscle pain. Ibuprofen is a simple, but incredibly effective way of reducing these symptoms and easing discomfort for patients.
A drug detox can bring on withdrawal symptoms such as a constantly runny nose or itchy eyes. Antihistamines have few to no side effects, but they can go a long way in reducing these symptoms quickly and effectively. Surprisingly, antihistamines can also be helpful among patients who are having trouble sleeping, since they can also be used to treat insomnia or restlessness in the night.
Dehydration is a major problem during detox, and it’s often the cause of a lot of discomfort. Diarrhea, vomiting and sweating, along with a lack of appetite or thirst, can easily cause extreme dehydration in just a matter of hours. Thankfully, this can be remedied with something as simple as electrolyte solutions and beverages. Electrolyte replacement shakes, or even salt tablets, can restore balance and hydration in the body quickly.
Prescription Medications During a Drug Detox
The best type of a professional drug detox will combine over-the-counter and prescription medications to help patients. Often, it’s the milder, more common medications that work most effectively and have the lowest risks. However, one of the benefits of being medically supervised 24/7 is having access to stronger, more potent medications if and when it becomes necessary.
While an ordinary electrolyte replacement shake can be beneficial for many patients, sometimes this basic approach won’t work. In that case, an I.V. can be used to stave off extreme dehydration and worsening symptoms. Similarly, if a medicine like antihistamine won’t help insomnia in patients who are seriously lacking in sleep, then a stronger sedative could be prescribed on an as-needed basis.
Risks of Improperly Used Medications
Although over-the-counter medicines carry lower risks than most prescription medications, that doesn’t mean that patients should take them without consulting a medical professional first. Some seemingly harmless drugs are contraindicated with one another, and taking two simultaneously could actually worsen, rather than improve, withdrawal symptoms.
It’s also important to note that even ordinary medications can become addictive, and it’s vital to watch for this. Imodium, for instance, with its primary ingredient of Loperamide, contains opiates. While short-term use in moderate doses can be helpful, addiction is possible. The last thing that patients want is to leave detox free from one addiction but now struggling with another one.
The Advantages of a Professional Drug Detox
There are many advantages of attending a professional drug detox rather than going through withdrawal at home alone, but one of the most important is accountability. Even when detox is challenging, having people supporting and helping patients means that they are more likely to complete the program and achieve sobriety.
Keep in the mind this vitally important fact: in a professional detox, patients will get medical attention around the clock. They don’t have to add stress to the process of withdrawal by worrying about whether one medicine will worsen symptoms or cause health problems. Instead, they can relax and focus on recovery, trusting nurses and physicians to make the right decisions for their health and sobriety.
While detoxing from drugs can be difficult, something as simple as over-the-counter medications can help. In a professional detox setting, certain ordinary medications can be effective in treating withdrawal symptoms and making the process less painful for those patients committed to achieving sobriety.