Detox, short for detoxification, is the removal of toxic substances from the body. It is one of the major functions of the liver, lower gastrointestinal tract and kidney's, but can also be achieved artificially by techniques such as dialysis and chelationtherapy.
Detoxification, by abstaining from alcohol or drugs, gives the body time to rid itself of these toxic substances. People seeking detoxification in a medical facility will usually experience intravenous fluids, diet modification and twenty-four hour monitoring for life-threatening withdrawal symptoms such as seizures or cardio distress. Rapid detoxification is used primarily for people who abuse opiates but is also used for alcohol abusers. During rapid detox, the patient is put under general anesthesia and an opioid antagonist is administered. The opioid antagonist speeds up the detox process, while the anesthesia keeps the patient asleep to lessen discomfort. Many people prefer alternative methods of detoxification such as colon hydrotherapy, body cleansing, juice fasting, saunas and aqua detox. These treatments are often used in alternative and holistic treatment facilities but offer no proof of effectiveness and in some cases can be dangerous or even fatal if the individual is in need of anti seizure medication.
Medical detox should be sought if you: abuse opiates, excessively abuse alcohol, or are currently taking opiate replacements (methadone, suboxone), or abuse benzodiazepines (xanax, nirvam).
The cost of medical and alternative detoxification depends primarily on the specific needs of the patient. Cost can range from approximately $7,000 to $20,000 per week. Factors such as length of stay, medication, doctor consultations, testing and procedures can all impact the cost.
The risks involved with detox depend on the patient, his/her overall health and the length and severity of use of drugs or alcohol. Rapid detox procedures are both costly and have high risk. Some patients have died while undergoing rapid detox. In some cases, opioid agonists such as methadone are used to treat opiate abuse. Methadone is a synthetic opioid that produces the same effects as morphine and heroin. Unfortunately, those who have taken methadone as opiate replacement therapy, tend to start abusing the methadone. Opioid antagonists such as naltrexone are also sometimes used to reduce or eliminate the effect of opiates or alcohol taking away the "high" associated with those drugs. People who abruptly stop using opiates, alcohol or benzodiazepines will sometimes experience headache, sweating, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, insomnia, rapid heart rate and tremors. Severe symptoms include hallucinations, confusion, agitation, fever, seizures and even death.
In 2001, the 436,000 admissions for detoxification in the United States accounted for 25% of all substance abuse treatment reported to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Among the detoxification admissions, the primary substance of abuse was alcohol (50%), opiates (33%), cocaine (10%), marijuana (2%), stimulants (2%), and other drugs (3%). Detoxification admissions were more likely to have had five or more previous admissions (26%) compared with all other admissions (9%).