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Medical Detox: When, Why and How it Works

By August 14, 2019 June 15th, 2023 No Comments
Toronto Medical Detox Centre

Detox has become something of a fad word. It’s used colloquially for diets, relationships and bad habits. But in a medical sense, to detoxify means to cut out something harmful from your body so that it can stabilize and recover. 

Often when we talk about detoxing, we’re referring to addictive substances. Here’s what you need to know about medical detox.

Why detoxing is useful for overcoming addiction

When a person becomes addicted to a substance, it changes the chemical processes within their body. As a result, withholding that substances causes the body’s processes to destabilize. The consequences of this process may vary, depending on the person, their level of addiction, and the substance they’re addicted to, but generally, this is what’s known as withdrawal.

Withdrawal makes it difficult for people to kick an addiction. It can cause them to feel physically sick, intense pain and high anxiety. It can even be fatal in extreme cases. 

Because of the intense discomfort many people experience during withdrawal, the natural instinct is to seek immediate relief by consuming the addictive substance. But of course, this is a self-perpetuating cycle that leads straight back to addiction. 

Detoxing is similar to the concept of ripping the bandage off in one quick motion. It’s a short-term sacrifice made for the purpose of a long-term benefit. Of course, that comparison is merely hypothetical; detoxing may typically lasts a minimum of 72 hours, and is more difficult than removing a bandage. 

In fact, detoxing is an all-around challenging process. Many who try it fail to complete the process. That is why medical detoxing programs in Toronto provide assistance. 

How medical detoxing works

The popular understanding of detoxing is to cut something out cold turkey. This conception is partially accurate, but it isn’t the whole story.

When a person undergoes medical detoxification, they are supervised and supported 24 hours per day. This support takes various forms, including verbal encouragement, physical restraint and medical testing.

For example, a person undergoing a detox will have their heart rate monitored, their blood pressure taken and their breathing checked, to make sure they are safe. They may also be given medicine to mitigate the symptoms of withdrawal. 

Medical detoxing typically takes three to seven days, depending on the severity of the addiction. In certain cases, it may take a longer or (rarely) shorter amount of time. Once the symptoms of withdrawal have waned, the person can then start to focus on overcoming their addiction.

Detoxing is not rehab

Detoxing and rehabbing are not the same thing. A detox physically prepares the body to go without a substance; it doesn’t mean the person will not still have the desire to use that substance. In this sense, detoxing merely makes rehabilitation possible. It does not mean rehabilitation has been completed.

Once a person’s body is capable of functioning without the substance, rehab begins. Rehab includes a variety of treatments, like therapy, while the client practices continued abstinence. The focal point of rehab is to identify the cause of the addiction, and determine useful methods to avoid relapsing. Typically, a stay in a rehab centre will take an additional month or longer to complete. 

Programs that include detoxing

Though detoxing may be viewed as the first step to completing rehab treatment, it is considered a unique element of the program. A person may receive medical detoxification without continuing into a Toronto rehab program, though this is not recommended.

Once detoxification is complete, a person will typically join either an inpatient or  Toronto outpatient program. In the case of the former, they will board at a rehab centre for a preset number of days (usually 30 or more), while receiving therapy, counselling and oversight. Outpatient programs permit the person to live at home, possibly continuing their daily routine, like going to work, while attending scheduled therapy and counselling sessions.

In either case, detoxing is often the starting point for the program. Entering a program without a medical detox is recommended only for those who have abstained from the addictive substance for at least 72 hours prior to entering the program.

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres

We offer residential and outpatient rehab treatment programs for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.