We often hear about people going ‘cold turkey,’ but sudden abstinence from drugs or alcohol can be very difficult – and dangerous without the right medical and emotional support.
Detoxing from drugs and alcohol can be seen as difficult and painful, and this can delay the start of recovery for many people, however under safe medical supervision and in a comfortable environment, detoxification needen’t be daunting. At Castle Craig we have a specialist 10-bed detox unit that abides by NICE quality standards. Our hospital was graded as ‘Exceptional’ in our latest inspection by Healthcare Improvement Scotland.
Few inpatient rehab programmes have a medically supervised detox process to ensure people are supported as they come off drugs and/or alcohol. The exact requirements will vary from person to person, and every detox is tailored to patient needs and substance use.
Our detox unit offers comfortable, private, en-suite bedrooms, and a Medical Centre with 24/7 nursing staff, 24/7 doctor and therapy support.
Anyone physically dependent upon drugs and/or alcohol will experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping and can be very vulnerable. Our residential rehab is a space where people can manage drug cravings and feel more comfortable and 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. Our detox unit has 24-hour nursing care.
- Detox removes all traces of alcohol and any other addictive substances from your body
The biggest misunderstanding about detox is that it is a substitute for a full course of addiction treatment.
In reality, it is just the first stage.
What is a detox?
Co-founder of Castle Craig Hospital, Dr Margaret 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.
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 possible.
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
Dawn, Head Nurse at Castle Craig says: “When we look at detox, we have to very carefully establish the patient’s chemical use history. Sometimes people minimise what they have been taking, and sometimes they exaggerate… They are nervous about coming off that substance.”
They back up the assessment phase by testing the patients’ blood, and this says Dawn, “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.”
During the detox phase, patients undergo a thorough medical assessment, and if required, our medical team will prescribe a diminishing dose of medication to ensure a smooth withdrawal process. More.
Prof Jonathan Chick, our Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director, 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.
When to seek help, when is enough, enough?
Detox from alcohol can last anywhere between 5-7 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. Our nurses and doctors 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.
Our psychiatrist-led medical team monitor for possible complications closely and we are adept at quickly identifying and responding to any severe withdrawal symptoms.
Mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Anxiety, depression, irritability
- Insomnia, fatigue
- Confused thinking
- Sweating and Cravings
- Physical shaking
- Nausea and vomiting
Severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include:
- Heart palpitations and increased heart rate
- Severe shakes or delirium tremens
- Extreme confusion/disorientation
- Severe agitation/irritability
- Fever/impaired attention
All alcohol withdrawal symptoms are monitored closely by our specialist medical team. Our nurses have many years of experience in treating alcohol detox.
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
Our specialist detoxification centre is staffed by 1-2 registered nurses and one healthcare assistant as well as our onsite 24/7 Medical Officer and a member of the therapy team.
Withdrawing from drugs
In the case of cannabis or cocaine addiction, the physiological withdrawal symptoms are less severe.
“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. We manage the unpleasant flu-like withdrawal by either gradually reducing the drug dose, using a substitute and specific medications or by using other emotional relaxation methods.
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.
Our caring nursing team make sure that each patient is checked regularly during the day and are comfortable at night. They monitor the withdrawal symptoms and provide help when needed – even if it means simply making a herbal tea to help relax someone into their sleep.
What is detoxing like?
At Castle Craig, the nursing team work closely with doctors and therapists to provide patients with 24-hour medical cover. The detox phase of treatment aims to get the patient feeling comfortable and stable.
Post Detox – Drug-free and sober
The end of detox is a landmark moment for many people – it is often the first time in years that they have not had any substances in their body.
Once someone finishes detox they can attend all the other therapy and community activities at our rehab centre. They will attend educational lectures, group therapy, individual therapy, fitness activities and complementary therapies such as mindfulness and massage.
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.
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