“Detoxification is a set of interventions aimed at managing acute intoxication and withdrawal,” according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The process itself is most effective in a treatment center or hospital where patients have access to pharmaceuticals, therapeutic interventions, and other medical procedures that can help ease the symptoms of withdrawal. However, detox treatment can be dangerous in some ways, especially if not properly administered.
Withdrawal is a Serious Issue
Certain withdrawal syndromes are more serious than others and can cause deadly symptoms. For example, delirium tremens, a dangerous form of alcohol withdrawal, “involves sudden and severe mental or nervous system changes” like hallucinations, seizures, and depression (National Library of Medicine). Withdrawal from CNS depressants like benzodiazepines can also be deadly, causing depersonalization, seizures, and hallucinations. For other drugs that do not have deadly withdrawal syndromes, like opioids, the symptoms can be incredibly intense and painful at times.
It is always important for healthcare professionals to watch their patients carefully when they are going through acute withdrawal and treat them appropriately to their symptoms. Withdrawal can almost always become more complicated at any point, and it is very important for doctors, nurses, and caregivers of any kind to watch for these issues. Without this kind of careful, patient monitoring, detox can be much more dangerous.
Detox is Not an Addiction Treatment
In addition, because relapse is such a strong possibility, detox can sometimes be dangerous if the patient does not attend addiction treatment soon after. Especially with the abuse of illicit or prescription drugs, the need for detox itself usually points to addiction, but detox isn’t an actual treatment for the addiction syndrome. According to SAMHSA, “Detoxification services do not offer a ‘cure’ for substance use disorders; they are often a first step toward recovery and a ‘first door’ through which patients pass to treatment.”
Individuals who go through detox without going through addiction treatment will, unfortunately, still be addicted to the drug. According to the NLM, “Because withdrawal reduces the person’s tolerance to the drug, those who have just gone through withdrawal can overdose on a much smaller dose than they used to take.” Therefore, detox treatment can be dangerous if the individual does not follow it up with addiction treatment afterwards.
Is Detox Treatment Dangerous?
Usually, if the individual is in a professional care center, either in a hospital or a separate clinic, the treatment itself is not dangerous and can greatly decrease the potential for risk. And if the individual is helped to transition easily into addiction treatment afterward, it is much safer still. The general treatments used in detox only work to decrease the intensity of the effects of withdrawal for the most part, and as long as the individual is monitored closely, they will be much safer in treatment than if they were going through withdrawal on their own, no matter what their substance or substances of abuse were.
Withdrawal itself is dangerous and detox is only the first part of addiction treatment. As long as these facts are remembered, the treatment will usually be safe and effective for the patient. If you would like to find a detox center in your area, call 800-483-2193.