07 February 2018

What is Drug Detox Like – And What Happens Afterwards?

The illness that is drug addiction is often met with scorn and judgement from those who have no experience and little understanding of what it is. But this judgement and discrimination are often enough to prevent those who suffer from addiction from reaching out for help. The idea of being looked down on can cause some people to pretend that everything is okay with them rather than reaching out for the help they need.

However, another reason many drug addicts fail to get help is that they are afraid of drug detox. One of the questions regularly asked of us by those in need of help for addiction is ‘what is drug detox like?’. Many fear this process because they have been misinformed about what it is like. Others do not believe they will make it through to the end and therefore see no point in even starting.

The truth is that drug detox is rarely as painful as most expect it to be. Furthermore, when it takes place in a supervised facility, it can be effectively managed to make the process much more comfortable and entirely safe. In the following passages, we talk more about drug detox and what it is really like.

What to Expect from Drug Detox

If the question of what is drug detox like has been something you have been wondering about, you will want to know what to expect before even considering going through a programme. What you should know though is that detox is different for everyone.

How the process progresses will depend on several factors. The type of drug you are abusing, how long you have been abusing this drug for, and how often you use it will all play a role, as will your age and your overall mental and physical health.

If you have been heavily abusing drugs for quite a time, your detox may be more complicated than someone who has realised quite quickly that they have a problem. Also, if you have a history of mental health problems, you may be at higher risk of severe withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, in a dedicated detox facility with experienced staff in attendance, you will be at virtually no risk and any discomfort you do experience can be effectively managed.

A drug detox can be described as the process that will separate you from the substance you have been abusing. It is a natural process that automatically begins when you stop taking drugs. When the earliest symptoms appear again depends on the type of drug you were abusing and how severe your addiction has been up until this point.

Most people notice the first symptoms within a few hours of quitting, and for the most part, these will be quite mild in intensity. Symptoms are dependent on the drug that was being abused and can include the following:

  1. Headaches
  2. Nausea
  3. Vomiting
  4. Sweating
  5. Stomach cramps
  6. Muscle aches
  7. Confusion
  8. Tremors
  9. Weakness
  10. Fatigue
  11. Insomnia
  12. Restlessness
  13. Irritability
  14. Agitation
  15. Anxiety
  16. Depression
  17. Loss of appetite
  18. Hallucinations
  19. Seizures

You may believe that going ‘cold turkey’ will be an agonising prosses and you might have visions of you being strapped to a bed while screaming in pain. Rest assured that this is very definitely not the way a detox happens.

In a carefully managed detox facility, your symptoms will be treated with appropriate medication. That is not to say that a detox will be an easy process because it will not. You are likely to feel unwell and you may have a strong desire to give in to the temptation to use drugs again to make you feel better. Nonetheless, if you stick with the process and let yourself be guided by the staff who are taking care of you, you will improve within a few days.

Most detox programmes last for between seven and ten days and symptoms tend to reach a peak before easing off. There might be some symptoms that do linger on for a few weeks or even months, but this is normal and they will go away with time.

What Happens After Detox?

If your first question was ‘what is drug detox like?’, you may also be wondering what happens when it is finished. A detox programme is just the first step on the road to recovery and should always be followed by rehabilitation.

While detox addresses the physical aspect of your illness, rehab is the process designed to deal with the psychological and emotional side of it. Rehabilitation programmes take place in either inpatient or outpatient programmes and the one you choose will depend on your requirements and how severe your illness is.

An outpatient programme is generally accepted as the best choice for those who do not have a severe addiction. It is also often used as a secondary care option for those who have completed an inpatient programme but who are not yet comfortable with the idea of returning to independent sober living.

For those who would find it difficult to stay clean and sober in the real world, a residential programme is usually the best choice. These programmes tend to be provided by private clinics and they have the benefit of being able to offer immediate access to patients. Nevertheless, there is a cost involved, unlike programmes provided by the NHS, for example. The downside of free programmes is that they are usually accompanied by long waiting times, which many people find is detrimental to progress.

What Happens in Drug Rehab?

The aim of drug rehab, regardless of the type of programme chosen and who provides it, is to help you break the cycle of addiction. To do that though, you are going to need to identify what led you to this point in the first place and then deal with that.

Many people believe that all they need to do to be free from addiction is quit drugs and stay off them for a while. They think that if they can do this, they will be cured and will never want to touch drugs again. Unfortunately, addiction does not work this way. Moreover, you should know that there is currently no cure for addiction and it will always be lying under the surface, threatening to appear again.

To have any chance of long-term sobriety, you must get to the root cause of your addictive behaviour so that you can deal with this issue and prevent it from causing a return of your symptoms again at a later date.

A huge part of drug rehab is helping you to identify the negative thought processes that usually lead to your harmful behaviour. This takes place through various therapies. In a residential programme, you are likely to be given a bespoke treatment plan that will include traditional psychotherapies as well as holistic treatments designed to work together to treat you as a whole.

The exact therapies used in your programme will be decided by the team at your rehab clinic and will be based on your needs, circumstances, and preferences. Below are a few examples of the types of therapies you might take part in during drug rehab:

  • Individual Counselling
  • Group Therapy
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Mindful Fitness
  • 12-step Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Contingency Management
  • Art Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Animal Assisted Therapy
  • Sports and Nutrition
  • Life and Work Skills
  • Relapse Prevention.

If you do choose a residential programme, you can expect your days to be quite full. You will spend a lot of time in treatment and you may or may not have free time in the evenings or at weekends. Some providers like to fill time not spent in treatment with various activities to keep you busy and prevent you from thinking about drug use.

Most rehab programmes run for between six and twelve weeks. In a private clinic, there will be very few distractions and you will have no access to any temptations. You can, therefore, get on with focusing fully on your recovery and will have the greatest chance of success over the shortest space of time. But what happens after rehab?

What is Aftercare?

When thinking about what is drug detox like and what happens after it, many people fail to realise that the end of a detox and rehab programme does not mean the end of recovery. As there is no cure for addiction, you will have to maintain your recovery for the rest of your life.

This may sound like a lot of hard work, and in the early days it might be overwhelming, but you will get used to your new life and sobriety maintenance will become a way of life.

When you first leave your rehab clinic, you might be apprehensive and worried that you will not be able to cope with the real world and that you might find yourself back on the path to addiction again. However, your rehab provider will continue to work with you and will more than likely provide up to a year of free aftercare so that you are not on your own at this vulnerable-for-you time.

You will also be able to access the recovery community in your local area. Support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous are a fantastic resource that you should definitely make use of. By joining such a group, you can regularly meet up with other recovering addicts to discuss the issues you are facing and to share your stories. This is massively therapeutic and can help you to stay sober long-term.

Many recovering addicts continue attending these meetings for the rest of their lives to remind them of why they wanted to get clean and stay that way. Others go because they view their local support group like an extended family. They make lifelong friends and want to help others get to the same point in their lives that they are at.

Accessing Help for Addiction

If the issue of what is drug detox like has been one holding you back from accessing the help you need to get better, we encourage you to get in touch with us today. One of our friendly advisors will be able to discuss a drug detox with you in further detail so you know what to expect.

You should know that many of our advisors have completed their own recovery journeys so have first-hand experience of drug detox and what it is like. Please call today to speak to one of them and find out what to expect from this process.

If you are ready to then move on to treatment, we can help. We have a number of private clinics operating in the UK and all are regulated by the Care Quality Commission. Please call to find out more about what we can do for you.

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If you successfully complete our 90-day inpatient treatment programme but experience a relapse within 30 days of leaving, we will welcome you back for complimentary 30 days of treatment.*

* Click here to learn more or contact UKAT directly for rehab availability.

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Our brand promise

If you successfully complete our 90-day inpatient treatment programme but experience a relapse within 30 days of leaving, we will welcome you back for complimentary 30 days of treatment.*

* Click here to learn more or contact UKAT directly for rehab availability.

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