Detoxification is part of the body’s natural healing process. Thousands of active enzymes and countless chemical reactions are at work continuously to cope with the poisons we put into ourselves. It is astonishing how well this complex defense system functions. Not surprisingly, alcohol, opiates and other drugs cause damage to the cells, tissues, cell-cell connections in the brain, and even to DNA. When alcohol and other drugs are present in the body for a prolonged period of time, the brain and body expect them to be present and thus creates a dependency. When the drugs are stopped, the body must adjust back to normal and this adjustment is painful.

Depending on the specific drugs to which the body has become adapted, the symptoms will vary. Stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines enhance nerve cell signaling. As a result, the nerve’s native signaling chemicals are depleted. When the drugs are stopped, they have trouble sending a signal and severe fatigue follows. This and sleep disturbance are the neurobiochemical reasons for the “come down” from cocaine and speed.

Benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, Ambien and others) all turn down the signal of nerve cells. They make us sleepy and relaxed. When they are stopped, the nerves are very sensitive to the slightest stimulus. Withdrawal symptoms include: jitteriness, shaking, trouble sleeping, and in severe cases convulsions (seizure).

Alcohol Detox

Alcohol can be a subtle foe. Advertisements from companies selling alcohol in countless forms beckon you to an easy release from worry and cares. Initially alcohol’s stimulant-like effects can make you feel more focused and energized. A few more drinks and the sedative effects kick-in: now you are drowsy and clumsy.

In your brain and nervous system, millions of changes are taking place. Receptors on nerve cells adapt to being bathed in alcohol. Cell-cell connections are rearranged and the brain cranks-up its sensitivity to cope with the depression caused by the alcohol. Many people report they are drinking just to feel “normal”. By that, they mean not sick from alcohol withdrawal. By this stage it is common for people to have a drink in the morning to “steady the nerves.”

Alcohol detox should be professionally supervised. An abrupt stopping of alcohol can lead to seizure (convulsions) or heart attack in severe cases. Hallucinations, sleep disturbance, and anxiety can occur as well.

Opiate Detox Programs: Freedom from OxyContin, Vicodin, Heroin and Others

Opium poppies and their derivatives have soothed and comforted man for millennia. Like any drug, however, the brain and body adapt through tolerance and become dependent. Chemists have further refined and crafted molecules to be extremely potent in their effects as painkillers. The latest, Oxycontin, follows in a long line of more powerful pain-relieving medications that include Vicodin, Morphine, Demerol and many others.

Opiate Withdrawals can be particularly painful if not professionally assisted. Sweating, severe muscle aches, loose bowels, nausea and intense cravings are all part of the opiate withdrawal syndrome. Although death from opiate withdrawal is rare, the intense pain leads most to resume use shortly after attempting to quit. Small doses of medications including Buprenorphine (Suboxone) can be used to dramatically reduce the symptoms of withdrawal.

What is usually meant by “alcohol detox” or “drug detox” is the collection of physical symptoms accompanying the discontinuation of addictive substances. It hurts when we quit and it can be dangerous to come off certain substances too quickly. Modern medical science has provided us with some excellent medications to minimize the discomfort associated with the detox process. That is why it is important to have professionals who specialize in detox assisting your initial process of recovery. This way you can expect a safe and comfortable detox.


Category: Drugs, Neuroscience, You Don't Need Rehab

About the Author: Dr. Jason Giles is certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine and the American Board of Anesthesiology. He is a physician specializing in the treatment of drug, alcohol, and behavioral addictions. He is the founder of Haywire.

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