We’ve recently launched a new information section on our website with information about detoxification from alcohol, heroin, cocaine and cannabis. This section includes interviews with Dr. Margaret McCann, CEO of Castle Craig Hospital, and Prof. Jonathan Chick, Castle Craig’s Medical Director.
The biggest misunderstanding about detox is that it is a substitute for treatment, or that it constitutes a full course of addiction treatment – in reality it is just the first stage. To assist with further understanding about detox from addictive substances, Castle Craig has produced a series of short videos, which you can watch below.
Dr. McCann describes detox as the “treatment of any withdrawal symptoms associated with the abrupt or gradual cessation of drugs.” Detoxification is a delicate process that needs to be managed safely and it’s best done in a residential clinic. Dr. McCann adds that “we [at Castle Craig] want to ensure that detox is as rapid as possible so that the person is not on any medication for any prolonged period of time.”
During the detox phase, patients undergo a thorough medical assessment that looks at a patient’s medical record, chemical use history and any other health conditions. The medical team prescribe a diminishing dose of medication to ensure a smooth withdrawal process.
Prof Jonathan Chick explains that the medication dose for each patient is closely monitored during the alcohol detox phase. “If you think of the nervous system of an alcohol abuser as a spring, on which alcohol has been sitting like a heavy weight… when the weight is suddenly removed, the spring is unstable” – which can lead to alcohol withdrawal symptoms of shaking, trembling, anxiety or even hallucinations.
In the case of cannabis or cocaine addiction, the physiological withdrawal symptoms are minor. “The symptoms”, explains Dr McCann “are managed with non-medication interventions, by supporting the patient”. In order to ease the process, Castle Craig provides complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, hyperbaric oxygen treatment and stress-management techniques.
When someone is addicted to stimulant drugs like cocaine, amphetamines or methamphetamines, they will often experience an opposite reaction to the drug’s effects. This is called “crash”, and it manifests through tiredness and exhaustion.
Withdrawal symptoms from opiate drugs – such as heroin, methadone or prescription painkillers like oxycodone – are safely controlled at Castle Craig. The unpleasant flu-like symptoms are managed through either gradually reducing the drug dose, using a substitute and specific medications or by using other rather emotional relaxation methods.
Detox “is not an isolated block”, Prof. Chick adds. “It’s a period when the individual is going to meet the therapist, will have his or her ‘buddy’ from the community group and they’ll get involved in the community life”.
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | January 22, 2020