As with any medical condition, there are numerous articles out there that suggest an alternative rehab over the mainstream options for treating substance abuse. While it may be tempting to believe the claims that one or more detox alternatives is quick, easy, and/or cheap, readers beware. “At home detox” or any other tips for detox alternatives, aside from medically supported detox, should be regarded with caution and skepticism.
Why People Often Seek Alternative (or Easy) Treatments
It’s hard to argue with the appeal of a seemingly quick and easy way to quit drugs without rehab. After all, most people think they can’t take the time away from their busy lives to get professional treatment for substance abuse, let alone go through medically supervised drug detox. No wonder so many who struggle to get past drug abuse or addiction seek a newly touted, quick, alternative drug rehab, or conduct searches for rehab alternatives and detox alternatives online.
The Importance of Treating Substance Abuse with Medical Professionals
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines detoxification as “a set of interventions aimed at managing acute intoxication and withdrawal,” noting, however, that detox is “not designed to resolve the long-standing psychological, social, and behavioral problems associated with alcohol and drug abuse.” Detoxification is not a treatment for substance abuse and it is not rehabilitation.
Medically supervised drug detox, on the other hand, when performed by medical professionals in a specialized facility, not only provides palliative care and aims to lessen the physical harm caused by substances of abuse, but also serves as the first point of contact and a prelude to entry into substance abuse treatment following completion of the detoxification process.
Substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation include ongoing assessment, risk factor analysis of continuing substance abuse, identification of triggers that may precede immediate relapse, and development of strategies of prevention to cope with the cravings and urges to use. Professional substance abuse treatment also involves continuing counseling and support during the maintenance phase, so that the newly sober individual can learn to strengthen their relapse prevention strategies and engage in aftercare services aimed at enhancing the likelihood of long-term sobriety.
During an individual’s addiction treatment and rehabilitation, several alternative rehab therapies may be utilized as complementary and holistic practices to help the person relax and better incorporate the principles of sobriety while adopting healthier lifestyle behaviors. Such rehab alternatives include yoga, acupuncture, massage, and Reiki, among others, and are becoming prominent mainstays in therapies offered for those engaged in active drug and alcohol addiction treatment, especially when they are received during residential or inpatient treatment.
Concerns About “Alternative Detox Options”
What’s the worst that can happen with alternative detox options? For those with compromised immune systems, pre-existing medical conditions, co-morbid psychiatric and substance abuse issues, and severe allergic reactions to various medications, detox alternatives could prove life-threatening. The sudden onset of serious adverse reactions and complications associated with alternative detox methods requires immediate medical intervention by skilled professionals.
While rehab online is convenient, it’s not hands-on, evidence-based detox or substance abuse treatment like you’d receive in an accredited drug and alcohol rehab center. Do-it-yourself cleanses and other rehab alternatives may put you in physical jeopardy, causing more harm than good, and may even result in the need for immediate emergency medical attention.
Common Alternative Detox Options and Associated Issues
From quitting cold turkey to rapid drug detox to purges, cleanses, aversion therapy, and more, the list of alternative detox options continues to grow. So too, however, do the serious issues associated with such alternative rehab methods. Here is a look at the two most common alternative detox options and concerns associated with them.
Quitting Cold Turkey
The expression “quitting cold turkey” refers to a common alternative detox option that, unfortunately, too many desperate people choose as a quick and convenient means of getting clean. Often, they’re alone and have no one to help them or summon help from medical professionals if they suffer dangerous withdrawal symptoms that could prove life-threatening. Such complications as grand mal seizures, dehydration, cardiac arrhythmias, and hyperthermia may occur during alcohol withdrawal. Severe complications can also occur during withdrawal from opiates and benzodiazepines.
Those choosing to quit cold turkey are also more likely to give up and go back to using alcohol or drugs once the painful or miserably uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal appear; and, quitting cold turkey and then relapsing significantly increases the risk of overdose, since the body’s tolerance to the drugs has decreased. Thus, the cold turkey approach to quitting drugs without rehab is more than likely a recipe for failure.
Perhaps one of the more controversial alternative rehab options involves what’s called “rapid detox.” This method entails clearing toxic substances (principally opioids) from the body using medications to sedate the individual, and pushing chemicals through their system intravenously to flush out the drugs. Yet this so-called rapid detox still takes up to 24 hours to complete, and the costs, which can reach upwards of $20,000, are not covered by insurance.
More importantly, rapid detox is not without medical risks—among them, significant cardiovascular changes—and is not effective at treating the underlying issue of substance addiction. As a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported, rapid detox “does not appear to affect the course of this chronic, relapsing disease.” One reason for its inefficacy as a treatment is that completely bypasses counseling for addiction.
Naturally, the concept of going to sleep and waking up drug-free, without going through painful or uncomfortable symptoms of drug withdrawal, can have a strong appeal. For those who believe they’re capable of getting on with their lives without succumbing to triggers, cravings, and urges after drugs are out of their system, rapid detox could seem like a miracle solution.
It is not. Besides, mild-to-moderate withdrawal symptoms are common for several days after rapid detox. Rarely does someone who undergoes rapid detox remain drug-free for long. Rather, it’s much more likely that they’ll quickly revert to their drug of choice, especially when stress and everyday issues occur, since they have no coping mechanisms to help them withstand the temptation to use again.
Best to Consult Experts in Medical Detox
Ridding the body of drugs and alcohol is, understandably, an important goal, especially for someone who’s dependent on or addicted to these substances. Yet, you can’t just quit drugs without rehab. It’s not just the removal of alcohol and drugs that must be considered, for without counseling and support following detox, the return to drug use is almost guaranteed.
Just getting an “all-clear” after rapid drug detox or some other fad detox alternatives won’t suffice. The same stresses, everyday triggers and urge to use again will resurface with a vengeance, likely quicker than anticipated. Worse, without effective coping strategies and a readily available support network, the descent into relapse can cause substantial damage to relationships, career, physical and mental health, and finances.
When the long-term goal is sobriety, the best possible approach to substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation is well-worth the effort. With medical detox, the process for detoxification is as safe and effective as possible, while minimizing discomfort, and ensuring round-the-clock care by addiction doctors, registered nurses, and licensed therapists.
Also, since it is a known fact that substance abuse often co-exists with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and other mental health diagnoses, receiving state-of-the-art treatment during medical detox can help minimize the severity and recurrence of the symptoms associated with these diagnoses as well.
If you are currently struggling with cocaine abuse, prescription drug abuse, heroin abuse, or alcohol abuse and you want to begin the process of drug detox, FHE Health is ready to help. Contact us to learn how to take the next step toward your healing journey with a safe, medical detox followed by an evidence-based substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation plan that is custom-tailored for your unique needs.