A common misconception from individuals suffering from addiction and substance use disorder is that all they need to do is stop using drugs or drinking alcohol and they will be fine. Often, a person in active addiction will think or believe that if they can get a couple days under their belt of not drinking or using, get through any withdrawal symptoms, and be separated long enough with the drugs and alcohol are out of their system and they are physically sober, that everything will be good, and they will have overcome their addiction. This is just not the case.

The Revolving Door of Detox

There are many adages, sayings, and slogans in the 12-Step rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), but one of those that people hear regularly that rings true is hearing someone say, “I could stop, I just couldn’t stay stopped.” For anyone that has found sustained and long-term recovery from addiction, they know this statement to be true. While stopping active drug and alcohol use is not easy, it is only the tip of the iceberg when looking at a journey of healing and recovery from addiction. Unfortunately, those in active addiction time and time again return to the thinking of “All I need to do is put down the drugs and alcohol, get through withdrawals by going to detox, and everything will be okay.” Unfortunately, that rarely happens. Instead, what happens is people in active addiction use detox as a revolving door, going to detox to get medical help to comfortably manage withdrawal symptoms, refusing any further treatment or follow-up care, wanting to leave detox as soon as their medication detox protocol is over, leaving detox, relapsing, then calling back and wanting to return to detox because they fell into active addiction very shortly after leaving the treatment center.

What Drug and Alcohol Detox is REALLY About

Detox is not about getting physically sober. A medical detox, depending on the drugs and alcohol someone specifically is using, certainly will have detox protocols where doctors and nurses will prescribe medications to help a patient comfortably manage their withdrawal symptoms. However, the idea that the process of a drug and alcohol detox is just about the 5-7 days or 7-10 days of a medication protocol is incorrect. The process of drug and alcohol detox includes managing any physical withdrawal symptoms with medication, but detox also includes all necessary clinical and recovery support services that can take some from a state of active addiction or alcoholism, help them stop using drugs and alcohol, get through withdrawal symptoms, but also get to a state of physical, mental, and emotional stability. That last part is extremely important, because if a person gets through withdrawals, is physically sober, but is not stable mentally and physically, there is a high chance they are not prepared to continue their journey of recovery and if they leave treatment, will ultimately relapse.

Detox is the First Step in Recovery

Detox is the first step in a long-term process of treatment and recovery. Detox is the beginning stages of starting clinical treatment, where the underlying causes and conditions of a person’s addiction can be identified. Detox can either set an individual up for success in recovery, or if that person only is looking to achieve physical separation from drugs and alcohol while refusing and ongoing treatment or care, can set them up for failure. Detox is not meant to be a revolving door; a place people can continue to return to once they begin using drugs and/or alcohol again because they refused to follow aftercare recommendations. Detox is meant to begin a successful process of treatment; where patients can be safely and comfortably separated from substances, over the course of a short couple weeks begin the clinical treatment process and become mentally and emotionally stable so that ongoing treatment and recovery can be effective. Detox is not a 3–4-day window to help someone feel physically better, but instead an acute medical process to prepare patients for success by supporting long-term care.

Recovery is Not Just Detoxing Physically

How many people go to detox, leave when they feel physically better, and ultimately return because they didn’t follow a long-term care and support plan? How many people have gone to multiple detox experiences, yet never found long-term recovery, because all they do is go to detox for 4 days or 5 days or 7 days but refused residential treatment or extended care treatment or outpatient treatment programs like a partial hospitalization (PHP) or intensive outpatient (IOP) program? How many people only go to detox, refuse ongoing care, then tragically pass away due to an overdose? This idea that detox is enough, and just getting physically separated from substances is enough, needs to stop. This idea that physical sobriety equates to recovery, to healing, to quality of life must be smashed. Individuals in active addiction and their loved ones need to hear that just going to detox and leaving once the medication protocol is done is a recipe for disaster. They need to know that detox is a period of stabilization- physical stabilization and separation from substances, but also mental and emotional stabilization, where patients can make sure their mental health diagnosis is accurate, their ongoing medications are appropriate and correct, and they are in a place emotionally where they can begin to make better decisions and where they can appropriately engage in ongoing treatment, clinical services, and the necessary and vital actions taken to support recovery.

Addiction is a complex, chronic illness that is always driven by underlying issues, both mentally and emotionally. Long-term care always equates to better outcomes and results. Detox is not a 5-7 day stay to get off drugs and alcohol, although it can be. Rather, detox is the first step in treatment and recovery, a short window that can last as short as seven but preferably a few weeks where a patient can find physically health, but also the necessary mental and emotional stability to prepare them to continue their journey of addiction treatment and recovery. Detox as episodic treatment rarely works, and often leads to a revolving door of multiple treatment experiences, hurt and disappointed family members, loss, and pain. However detox, when used as the vital first step to find physical, mental, and emotional stabilization, can be a vital and necessary first step to a patient’s new life of hope, health, freedom, and long-term recovery.

Drug and Alcohol Detox in Pennsylvania

If you or someone you know needs help with addiction or co-occurring disorders, please give us a call. Innovo Detox offers the latest in evidence-based medical, psychiatric, and clinical care for those in need of detox and medical stabilization in Pennsylvania and the surrounding Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or a loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a detox, rehab, treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Contact us or give us a call at (717) 619-3260 or email our team at info@innovodetox.com.