Detox: In the past, patients who found themselves addicted to drugs or alcohol were doomed to unspeakable suffering as they tried to achieve abstinence.
A few fortunate patients underwent drug detox
at clinics and hospitals, where doctors could prescribe a handful of
medications that eased the misery of withdrawal. But even these
medications were only partially successful. Most patients were left to
their own devices and the agony of a “cold turkey” detox (so called
because of the symptoms of chills and gooseflesh that accompanied
opioid and alcohol withdrawal). Those addicted patients who were unable
to endure withdrawal often returned to drugs to obtain relief. Few made
it through the detox process. Some even died.
important fact to keep in mind when thinking about detoxification is
that sudden withdrawal – especially from the sedative/hypnotic drugs
like alcohol and benzodiazepines – can kill. Patients who experience
delirium tremens (the constellation of symptoms – shaking, chills,
hallucinations and seizures – known as the “D.T.s”) and are not
immediately treated can have up to a twenty percent mortality rate.
Sedative/hypnotic withdrawal is a life-threatening emergency that must
be treated in a hospital.
And while withdrawal from opioids
(drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Demerol and heroin) is often
believed to be less malignant, the likelihood of the patient completing
treatment is significantly diminished.
Today, doctors who
treat addiction no longer inflict cold turkey detox on patients. It’s
ineffective, and it’s inhumane. Now doctors have new medications such
as the newly approved opioid detox medication buprenorphine (Suboxone)
to help patients through the detoxification process safely and
comfortably. Proper detox makes it much more likely that addicts will
seek treatment at an earlier stage of their illness, and will
transition from treatment to long-term sobriety with greater confidence.
like all patients, deserve treatment that best serves their needs and
not ill-informed and tired ideologies about moral failings and bad
choices. Combined with the traditional wisdom of twelve-step recovery,
the medications available today to doctors who treat addicts paint a
bright future for the treatment addiction. Patients who repeatedly
failed treatment in the past are now reporting that for the first time
in their lives they feel hope.