How Prescription Drug Detox Works

Detox from prescription drugs is no different than detox from chemically related illicit drugs. Detox from prescription oxycodone is no different than that of heroin. In fact, withdrawal symptoms from prescription drugs can be even more intense than illicit ones are because prescription drugs deliver consistent potency and purity. You can be sure than a 30-milligram oxycodone tablet contains the amount of active drug that it’s supposed to. This guaranteed high potency encourages tolerance and the higher drug intake that can result in stronger withdrawal symptoms. On the other hand, street heroin may vary in potency from purchase to purchase. This is true of all black market drugs. It’s not like they come with a certificate of analysis and a quality assurance guarantee. This article will now discuss how prescription drug detox works.

Detox: Which Drug is Involved?

The detox protocol depends on which prescription drug has been used. If it’s more than one from differing drug classes, such as opioids and benzodiazepines, both produce a separate withdrawal syndrome, and both will need to be treated. This abuse of two or more drugs is called polydrug abuse. Since withdrawal from benzodiazepines like Valium, Ativan, Klonopin and Xanax can be life-threatening, the detox facility will have to handle the situation very carefully. Benzos cannot be suddenly stopped without risking serious complications, including death. Instead, they must be gradually withdrawn over a period of time.

Opioids are much safer to withdraw from in terms of physical danger, but it’s a painful process. Medications like buprenorphine, known by its trade name, Suboxone, will reduce or eliminate these symptoms and also suppress drug cravings. Of all the drug classes seen in detox, the opioids are by far the easiest to treat. Both methadone and buprenorphine are addictive, but both can be taken just long enough to get through the prescription opioid withdrawal process. They can also be taken long-term to help former opioid addicts with drug cravings, and many former addicts do this.

Choosing a Detox

Detox must be combined with ongoing drug recovery treatment to be effective. Simply eliminating the drug in the system is not enough. Without a structured recovery program, prescription drug abusers have no tools to stay clean in the long term. The underlying reasons for the drug abuse are still there. Detox by itself is rarely successful. Some rehabs have attached detox units. Many do not. If you want to attend detox and rehab at the same facility, you will need to call and ask if they offer this service. If they do not, and you still want to go there, they are probably affiliated with a detox that they can refer you to.

Detox can be inpatient or outpatient. Your individual needs will be determined by your detox intake physician, who will be directing your care. Even if home detox is safe for you, you still must be very motivated because you will have access to your drug of choice. If this is likely to be a problem, it may be better to choose inpatient detox.

If you’ve been drinking alcohol with prescription drugs and have an addiction to both, that is a special management problem. Alcohol withdrawal produces a set of symptoms only seen in this drug. This includes delerium tremens, a potentially fatal complication of alcohol withdrawal with the following symptoms:

  • Brain changes in directing blood circulation and breathing
  • Extreme confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors
  • Disorientation
  • Anxiety

Delerium tremens is a medical emergency. It occurs most often in heavy drinkers of hard liquor who have a long history of alcoholism, but it can happen to anyone withdrawing from alcohol. The DTs must absolutely be managed in a hospital setting.

Benzodiazepines do not have all the same problems as alcohol withdrawal does, but it can still be dangerous and even fatal due to the risk of serious seizures. This type of withdrawal doesn’t necessarily require inpatient treatment for safety reasons, but it can. Both benzos and alcohol work in the brain in similar ways, but alcohol is far more toxic to the brain and body.

Call us Anytime

We’re a group of drug counselors very experienced in the field of substance abuse detox and recovery treatment. We’re here to offer help, hope and guidance 24 hours a day. We offer reassurance and the information you need to make an informed decision about your own care. We like to think we’re your helpers to a brighter future. Please call us at 833-846-5669. We look forward to helping you.