We often hear about people going ‘cold turkey,’ but sudden abstinence from drugs or alcohol can be very difficult – and dangerous without the right physical and emotional support.
Most inpatient rehab programmes have a supervised detox process to ensure people are supported as they come off drugs and/or alcohol. This will vary from person to person, and every programme is personalised and based on medical expertise.
Anyone physically dependent upon drugs and/ or alcohol will experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping and be very vulnerable. Residential rehab is a space where people can manage drug cravings and feel more comfortable, as well as have medical supervision if they get withdrawal symptoms such as tremors or seizures.
A specialist doctor is available exclusively to Castle Craig, onsite, 24 hours a day, seven days a week in case of emergency.
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.
What is a detox?
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.”
Detoxification or detox is the first step on the road to recovery.
Our experienced team of psychiatrists, doctors and nurses works together to oversee every individual detoxification and personalise treatment to make detox as safe and as comfortable as it can be. With 24/7 round-the-clock care, our compassionate staff of medical experts support and encourage you through this difficult time.
Throughout the detox process, you are closely monitored and cared for at Kirkurd House, our specialist detox unit.
Until you are medically stable, our staff meet regularly to discuss your ongoing condition and update your treatment plan according to your progress in treatment.
We are committed to providing the best possible outcomes and care for our patients as they undergo detox.
It is dangerous for people with a serious dependency to give up drinking or drugs without medical supervision. This is known as going ‘cold turkey’ and withdrawal symptoms can be severe.
Every detox bed has a medical call button so you can alert the nurse immediately if you need attention. Castle Craig also has a specialist doctor on-site, at all times in case of an emergency.
First Step: Establishing the alcohol and drug-taking history
“When we look at their detox we have to very carefully establish their chemical use history” she explains, “sometimes people minimise what they have been taking and sometimes they exaggerate a bit… They are nervous of coming off that substance.”
They back up the interview phase by testing the patients’ blood and this says Jane, “gives us a very clear picture. Sometimes we come across substances that haven’t been mentioned, for example, somebody has come in primarily for a problem with alcohol but has also been taking Benzodiazepines – and that’s a bit of a dangerous mixture… So we have to treat both of these substances as part of their detox.”
Detox from Alcohol
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 heavyweight… when the weight is suddenly removed, the spring is unstable” – which can lead to alcohol withdrawal symptoms of shaking, trembling, anxiety or even hallucinations.
How long does it take to detox from alcohol?
Detox from alcohol can last anywhere between 3-7 days, depending on the following:
- How much alcohol the person has been drinking,
- The length of time they have been drinking for,
- Their overall health – physically and cognitively,
- What the withdrawal symptoms are like.
We ensure that alcohol detox is a gradual, safe and comfortable process. We conduct blood and urine analysis to ensure overall health and we prescribe vitamin replacements as most people who have been drinking heavily are low in essential vitamins and minerals.
We monitor for possible complications closely and we are adept at quickly identifying and responding to any severe withdrawal symptoms.
Mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms from alcohol include:
Any symptoms are monitored closely by our specialist medical team. Our nurses have many years of experience in treating alcohol detox.
Detox from Drugs
How long does it take to detox from drugs?
Detox from drugs depends on the type and amount of drugs taken and can last from one week to six weeks or longer.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal can take a particularly long time. We also provide detoxification from heroin and methadone.
Drug detox is delivered at a gradual, safe and comfortable rate.
Drug withdrawal symptoms depend on the drug but can include:
- Craving, restlessness, cramps
- Muscle and bone pain, insomnia
- Anger, depression
- Increased heart rate
- Diarrhoea, vomiting
Withdrawing from drugs
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”.
Round the Clock Monitoring
Another important part of detox is 24-hour monitoring.
We know that supportive and compassionate care from our nursing and therapy team is a vital component of a smooth and successful detox.
To ensure the best possible outcomes and safest detoxification we closely monitor each person.
We have a specialist detox medical centre in the Kirkurd House so nurses are close to patients.
The nursing team make sure that each patient is checked every four hours (during the day the patients spend time with the therapists and the other patients, and during the night the nurses check patients for “vital signs.”)
“We watch the patients very closely,” says Jane, “and this is an important part of the nursing role.” By closely observing them the nursing team can make sure they get the dosage of detox drugs just right.”
What is detoxing like?
At Castle Craig, the nursing team work closely with the doctors and therapists in providing patients in the intensive care unit with 24-hour medical cover.
The aim of the detox phase of treatment is to get the patient feeling comfortable and stable. Within a week or so “we cut the dose down and down and down.”
Jane Spurgeon, the Senior Staff Nurse at Castle Craig Hospital describes the process of detoxification:
“Every patient who comes into Castle Craig is different,” says Jane, who explains the importance of understanding what drugs the patients have in their bodies, and what is the appropriate dose of substitute drugs that are given to them for their first few days.
“We usually have a sort of celebration,” says Jane, “when we say ‘this is your last day on detox… tomorrow you will be clean or sober’. That’s a big deal for people. Maybe it’s the first time in years that they have been that way, so it is something worth celebrating.”
Clean and sober
Once a patient is stabilised on their detox regime, they can attend all the activities that other patients attend at our detox centre. They will attend morning meditation, lectures, group therapy.
Although detoxification is the first step on the journey to a life free of substance abuse, the medication prescribed during detox may ease the cravings somewhat but will not stop them completely.
This is why it is important to introduce patients to the therapy programme as soon as possible, to examine the addiction and behaviours and to introduce coping skills. This is when recovery truly begins.
Get in touch today
You’ll be glad you did.
Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked | October 19, 2021