Although we normally think of drug detox as a positive way to improve someone’s health, it can still be a very dangerous process. This is especially true for those experiencing alcohol, benzodiazepine, and opioid withdrawals. All three have the potential to cause life-threatening physical and psychological symptoms that may require professional treatment. For this reason, it is crucial to stress the importance of drug rehab in situations like these. Rehab centers not only prevent relapse but also death caused by severe withdrawal symptoms.
A complete alcohol detox lasts for about 7-10 days. However, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from a number of days to a number of months. There are 3 stages of symptoms classed by severity, stage 1 being the least fatal and stage 3 being the most. Stage 1 symptoms can begin as little as 8 hours after an absence of alcohol in the system. Stage 1 symptoms may include:
- Heart palpitations
- Mood swings
- Stomach upset (nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite)
- Foggy thinking
Symptoms typically peak at around 2-3 days after the detox has begun. Not every recovering alcoholic’s symptoms progress into stage 2 or 3 but, these more severe symptoms can occur very quickly and may need immediate medical attention. Stage 2 and 3 symptoms include:
- Increased blood pressure
- Cardiac arrest
Due to the seriousness of these symptoms, it is important for alcohol addicts to detox at a rehab center to reduce the risk of entering stages 2 or 3. Usually, symptoms tend to reduce at around days 5-7. However, psychological symptoms may be long-lasting, and continuous treatment might be needed. It is important to remember that these mental indicators can be just as deadly as cardiac arrest if untreated.
Benzos treat a wide variety of illnesses and disorders. Although they are most commonly used to treat seizures and anxiety/panic disorders, they can also be used as an aid for alcohol withdrawal and sedation during surgery. Most symptoms of benzos withdrawal are psychological, but physical concerns may also arise. Here are common benzos withdrawal symptoms:
- Panic attacks
- Tremors and muscle spasms
- Head and body aches
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and/or touch
- Grand mal seizures
Symptoms usually peak at around day 2 and begin to lessen in severity at around day 4 or 5. Although counseling is important during any drug detox, this may be especially true for those with diagnosed mental disorders that benzos previously treated. If this is the case continuous treatment is most likely needed after drug rehab to prevent relapse and self-harm. As stated before, psychological symptoms can pose as much of a threat in these situations as a seizure can. Suicidal ideation poses a serious threat for those detoxing from benzos.
Although opioids are sometimes necessary, their detox can be extremely unpleasant and life-threatening. Common opioids include Morphine, Oxycodone, Vicodin, and Dilaudid. Similar to the previous examples of potentially fatal detoxes, symptoms of opioid withdrawal progress at a fast pace. After around 24 hours opioid addicts are likely to experience:
- General aches and pains
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Excessive sweating
After this 24 hour period, symptoms can worsen rapidly. Oftentimes rehab centers and hospitals continue to provide opioids at reduced dosages to prevent death. Excessive diarrhea and vomiting can cause deadly amounts of dehydration, and cardiac arrest is also possible due to a rapid heart rate and high blood pressure.
Therefore, it is extremely important for addicts to go through their detoxes at a drug rehab center. Having medical professionals on hand prevents potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms from progressing, and using a support system of counselors can help with the psychological aspects of this process. Rehab centers can also provide information about continued treatment plans if needed. For many, counseling might be helpful in preventing relapse and working through long-term psychological withdrawal symptoms.