Drug Detox – Best Treatment Options in the UK

In your search for help with drug problems, you have likely come across some very familiar terms including ‘drug detox’. It is important to understand the difference between detox and rehab, as they are entirely different things. Both drug detox and rehab work together to help someone addicted to drugs achieve long-term recovery.

From a clinical standpoint, detox is a process by which the body of the drug addict is allowed to cleanse itself of the toxins within through separation. In other words, once a person stops using drugs, his or her body can begin the process of flushing, cleansing, and healing. This is what detox is all about.

The confusion surrounding detox is the result of several things. First, many of the terms used within the drug recovery environment are used interchangeably to the extent that they lose their meaning. Second, the idea of drug detox has been expanded to include prescribing certain medications that attempt to help people overcome drugs while avoiding detox altogether. The result is that a lot of people don’t really understand what detox is.

Before we go any further, here are some important terms addicts and their families need to know:

  • Medically Supervised Detox – A detox programme that is medically supervised is one that is controlled by a doctor, registered nurse, or other medical professional with experience. The idea behind medical supervision is to ensure patient safety at all times. When appropriate, prescription medications are administered to make withdrawal symptoms more bearable.
  • Home Detox – This term has two different meanings. First, home detox can refer to an NHS programme in which a person undergoes medically supervised detox at home, under the care of a registered nurse. The second definition of home detox refers to a scenario in which someone will attempt to detox at home without any professional help.
  • Natural Detox – There are some within the drug rehab community who prefer to administer detox with the use of nutritional supplements and natural remedies. Natural detox has its sceptics and believers alike.
  • Rapid Detox – Rapid detox is a new kind of detox programme that is gaining popularity in the US. Here in the UK, it is still rather rare. It is a detox programme that stresses the use of high doses of vitamins and minerals that can ostensibly accomplish in just a few days what would normally take up to a week.

Why Drug Detox Is Necessary

The clinically diagnosed drug addict who truly wants to overcome his or her addiction is left with a conundrum. Addiction, by its very definition, is a condition in which the body and/or mind is dependent on having drugs in the system. What does this mean? It means that the addict’s brain and other systems have become so used to drugs being present that they cannot function normally without those drugs.

Take heroin as an example. This drug is highly addictive because of the immediate rush it offers followed by feelings of euphoria that can linger for quite a while. The physical effects of the drug on the brain are what result in the quick energy surge the user feels. To compensate for this rush, the body must regulate itself by limiting other brain chemicals accordingly. That’s why the heroin user begins experiencing slowed breathing, drowsiness, and falling body temperature as the effects of the drugs wear off.

Essentially, the body has forced itself to slow down in order to compensate for the heroin in the system. If this process is repeated often enough, a condition known as ‘tolerance’ results. Tolerance leads the individual to take more of the drug to feel good, requiring the body to compensate even more. Things will eventually get to the point where the person’s body simply cannot function without heroin because it has had to compensate for too long.

In short, this is why detox is necessary. The body has to be freed from the drugs within if it is to return to normal functioning. Unfortunately, even detox cannot always repair the damage done by drugs. There are times when prolonged drug abuse leads to permanent physical harm that can include liver or kidney disease, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.

How It Works

In a medically supervised setting, detox begins by documenting the last time the patient used drugs. The patient is then admitted to a room where he or she will be made as comfortable as possible throughout the process. Overall health is checked and recorded at the start of detox.

Medical professionals will know when to expect withdrawal symptoms to begin based on the drugs used and when the last dose was taken. At that time, they will start to monitor the patient closely to ensure safety. Where possible, prescription medications may be administered to help the patient through withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms for most drugs peak within 24 to 72 hours before beginning to subside. The entire detox process takes between seven and ten days, during which time clinic staff provide ongoing medical supervision along with providing for basic necessities. Completing detox results in the body being totally free of drugs and on its way to healing.

As far as withdrawal symptoms go, they vary from one drug to another. Stimulants may cause one set of withdrawal symptoms while depressants cause entirely different symptoms. Below is a short list of some of the more common withdrawal symptoms associated with detox:

  • Anxiety, depression, or nervousness
  • Auditory and tactile hallucinations
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting, sweating
  • Interrupted sleep that could include insomnia
  • Convulsions and tremors
  • Strong drug cravings.

Most cases of drug detox conclude with all withdrawal symptoms having completely subsided. But that’s not always the case. There are times when some of the withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks or months. Drug cravings are a good example. There are recovering addicts who still experience cravings long after detox is complete.

Detox Alone May Not Be Enough

We assume you are visiting our website because you are concerned about yourself or a loved one who might be struggling with drugs. If so, your past research may have exposed you to some treatment providers offering a rapid, five- or seven-day detox programme designed to get patients off drugs and back to normal life within a week.

Although these rapid programmes do work for some people, we want to caution you that detox alone is usually not enough to overcome long-term addiction. Here’s what you need to know: detox only addresses a physical addiction to drugs. There are psychological and emotional issues that also have to be dealt with before a patient can expect to succeed in long-term recovery.

Those psychological and emotional needs are met through a 3-to-12-week rehab programme focusing on psychotherapeutic treatments. Don’t let the word ‘psychotherapeutic’ scare you away. Most of the treatments are counselling or talking therapies in which therapists guide patients through the process of discovering who they are, why they developed an addiction, what causes addictive behaviour in them, and how they can avoid future relapse.

Where to Go for Treatment

Whether a drug addict decides to enrol in a detox only programme or a treatment that involves both detox and psychotherapeutic rehab, there are plenty of choices throughout the UK. We invite you to contact us for more information. We maintain an up-to-date database of treatment providers offering all sorts of drug detox and rehab programmes for those in need.

The primary options for drug detox and rehab treatment are as follows:

  • NHS outpatient clinics
  • Private outpatient clinics
  • Private residential clinics
  • Private counsellors
  • Drug and alcohol charities
  • Drug and alcohol support groups.

Please note that charities and support groups do not offer medical treatments of any kind. If your situation calls for detox, you will have to seek treatment through the NHS, a private treatment clinic, or another medical professional licenced to provide detox.

We normally recommend private treatment in a residential clinic as the best option for most drug addicts. Private clinics offer medically supervised detox along with concentrated rehab programmes in an environment that is optimal for complete recovery. Where residential treatment is not practical, we are more than happy to help clients choose another appropriate option.

We are a confidential referral service assisting clients who need help with drug and alcohol problems. We offer free assessments, advice, and referrals to drug and alcohol treatment centres throughout the UK. If you or a loved one is battling with drugs of any kind, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We would be happy to answer all of your questions about drug detox and rehabilitation. If you’re ready to get help, we can also connect you with a treatment programme well suited to your needs.