Having a substance use disorder is hard, and life stops being so much fun when you’re dependent on drugs to get through your day. If life for you (or your loved one) now revolves around scoring the drug and then using it, you’re in need of drug rehab so you can get back to a life that you enjoy. If you’re able to spend your day on other things besides the drug – but you’re thinking about it all day – you too can benefit from some help getting clean and sober.
Sometimes people are worried about getting clean from drugs because they experience withdrawal symptoms that are so painful they need to use again. In order to get clean and stay clean in treatment, you do have to be off the drug so that you can focus on your sobriety. Not everyone needs to go through detox to stop using their drug of choice, but a medically assisted detox is sometimes the difference between success and failure when it comes to living drug-free.
What Is Detox?
Long-term drug use, especially in combination with heavy usage of drugs, causes changes in the way the brain works. The natural chemical messengers that your brain normally provides may slow down or speed up, depending on the drugs you’re using. Your brain learns to rely on the drugs instead of its own natural processes, which is why you may feel anxious, depressed, paranoid, and/or irritable when you’re coming off a high.
After your last dose of the drug, you may go into withdrawal, depending on factors like how long and how much you’ve used the drug, your physical and mental health, and some others. That’s because your brain has lost the assistance of the drug and now has to try to make things work by itself again, which leads to many of the withdrawal symptoms you might experience.
Not only does drug use affect your brain, but it also affects your body physically. Drugs can stay in your blood and in your urine depending on the drug. For example, on the short end alcohol remains in your blood for about ten hours, and on the longer end benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax can remain in your urine for up to a month and a half after your last use.
Your body type also factors into how long your body retains the drug, because people with more body fat have higher amounts of metabolites, or what the drugs break down into inside your body.
On the other hand, many people with drug addictions have given up eating nourishing food, so they have little body fat and may be dehydrated as well. During a medically assisted detox, you may receive fluids to help rehydrate you, as well as food that’s healthy and nutritious to help your body recover.
The goal of detox is to help you stop using the drug, so that you can then spend time in drug rehab focusing on your sobriety instead of drug cravings. With many drugs, abruptly stopping them can have serious and painful consequences. In a supervised detox you’ll gradually stop using the drug so that the withdrawal symptoms aren’t as powerful, and with a medical detox you may be given some meds that will help reduce cravings for the drug.
If the only way that you can get clean is to go through medically assisted detox, then yes, you do have to go through it in order to get to rehab. But if you haven’t been using very long or very heavily, and you’re not physically or emotionally dependent on the drug, you may be able to stop on your own without a detox.
What Happens in Drug Rehab?
When you’re ready for the recovery center, whether you’ve gone through detox or not, you’ll be learning new habits and focusing on your own sobriety. There are several levels of care and the drug rehab recovery center normally assesses you to see where you may need to start. If you do go through drug detox, most likely you’ll start with a stay in a residential facility.
At an inpatient rehab, each day is highly structured so that you don’t get too lonely or bored, which could derail your sobriety journey. Your meals are normally taken with everyone else in the group for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Mornings are often dedicated to therapy, both individual and group, as are the afternoons. Evenings after dinner may be devoted to hobbies or other fun activities.
Therapy is important because most of the time, drug use itself is not the problem, but rather the symptom of an underlying issue. That’s what you’ll need to work on, with the help of your counselor and other addicts and alcoholics in the treatment facility with you. Therapy has been shown to work no matter which drug you’ve been using or how long you’ve been dependent on it.
Residential facilities shield you from triggers that you might experience outside treatment, so that you can put healthy habits and problem-solving skills in place before you have to deal with the people, places, and things that might otherwise cause a slip or relapse. You may also discover that you have a co-occurring disorder such as a mental illness or something like ADHD that can be treated once you’re clean. You may have a 30-day, 60-day, or 90-day stay, depending on your specific circumstances.
Some people may be able to go directly to outpatient care, while others need the structure of inpatient drug rehab first. There are three general levels of care to this type of treatment, and during all three you’ll be making plans for aftercare and staying sober for the long term. You may need the care in all three levels, or you might start with a lower level.
1. Partial Hospitalization
This level of outpatient treatment is the most intense, and you’ll be spending most of your day in treatment and therapy. You might go home at the end of the day to a sober living house, or some other arrangement. You still have some structure to your day, although it’s not 24/7 as it is in inpatient.
2. Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
While you’ll still be spending time in treatment, with an IOP you’re usually attending on evenings and/or weekends, so that your days are free for work or school.
3. General Outpatient
In this level of treatment, you may spend only a few hours a week in treatment, and aftercare planning becomes a bigger part of your therapy. It’s critical to have a plan for how you’ll reintegrate back into the world outside treatment and know who you will call when things get dicey, or you need some help.