Detoxification Process

detoxification processDetoxification is only the first stage of a rehab program, but it’s a necessary step in the recovery process. Chronic substance abuse can cause a physical dependence on drugs or alcohol, making it impossible to stop without unpleasant side effects. During detox, the body readjusts to the absence of these chemicals as the drugs leave the system.

Detox can take place in a variety of settings, from inpatient rehab centers and hospitals to clinics, mental health facilities and jails. A teenager who’s chemically dependent can even detox at home; however, self-detoxification is a risky process, especially where alcohol and certain tranquilizers are involved. Withdrawal from most drugs usually won’t endanger a teen’s life, but withdrawing from alcohol or benzodiazepines, a class of sedatives, can be fatal. The safest approach to detox is to enroll your teen in a medically supervised addiction treatment program.

Why Is Detoxification Necessary?

When a boy enters a rehab program, he may be in an acute state of intoxication, or recovering from a recent episode of intoxication. His body is still under the direct influence of alcohol or drugs. In order to benefit from addiction treatment, he must be medically stable, sober and able to take part in counseling or group meetings. Detoxification allows the client to safely clear the drugs from his body before moving forward with the next phase of rehab.

During detox, teens will experience withdrawal symptoms that may be extremely uncomfortable. In a clinically monitored setting, they can receive treatment for the side effects of withdrawal, such as:

  • Medications to prevent seizures
  • Anti-nausea drugs
  • Medications to relieve upset stomach and diarrhea
  • Medication to reduce anxiety
  • Fluids to relieve dehydration

In the supportive environment of a drug rehab facility, teenagers can meet with addiction counselors who can help them through the detoxification process. These initial sessions can help boys cope with the depression, restlessness and cravings that often occur at this stage. Nutritional support is provided, if necessary, along with sleep aids for patients who are struggling with insomnia.

What Happens During Detox?

The first priority during detox is to stabilize the client and keep him physically safe until he’s no longer intoxicated. The Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants lists three primary goals for detoxification:

  1. Managing withdrawal symptoms
  2. Preventing the symptoms from getting worse
  3. Preparing the client for the next phase of rehab

Patients are monitored at this stage to make sure that their vital signs are within normal limits and that they’re neurologically stable. With alcohol withdrawal, which can be fatal, it’s crucial to watch the patient for tremors, hallucinations, seizures, hyperthermia and severe dehydration.

Detox allows a teen to return to a state of balance. Once a teenager is out of danger and has caught up on fluids, nutrients and rest, he will be able to participate in therapy sessions and peer group meetings with other teens in the program.

Does My Teen Need Inpatient or Outpatient Detox?

Detoxification can occur at an inpatient treatment center or at an outpatient clinic or rehab facility, depending on your son’s needs. According to Alcohol Health & Research World, outpatient detox can be effective for patients with mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms, such as sleep problems and tremors. But patients who meet the following criteria may need monitored inpatient detox:

  • Teens with co-occurring psychiatric disorders, like depression or schizophrenia
  • Teenagers who have suicidal thoughts or who have attempted suicide
  • Teenagers with co-existing medical conditions, like heart problems or diabetes
  • Teens who have displayed violent behavior
  • Teens who have already tried outpatient treatment without success

Inpatient detox is the best choice for teenagers who need a supervised, structured environment. Teens respond strongly to social cues and peer pressure. In an outpatient setting, teenagers have more independence, which may be dangerous if they’re exposed to their old temptations and triggers.

Why Is Detox So Important?

It’s important not to underestimate the importance of detox for teens. Although most teenagers are healthy and resilient, they can still suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms if they don’t receive the right care during this initial phase. In addition, even teens who are committed to recovery may be in danger of a relapse if their withdrawal symptoms and cravings aren’t managed effectively.

Detoxification builds the foundation for long-term recovery. At Muir Wood, we provide a secure setting where teens can start this journey. Our detox program transitions naturally into rehab, where the work of recovery continues. Call us to learn more about detox and rehabilitation or to find out about our individualized addiction treatment plans.

Further Reading