Some of you may be familiar with what withdrawal might look like if you’ve seen the movie, The Basketball Diaries starring Leonardo DiCaprio. In one of the scenes, Leonardo DiCaprio is experiencing withdrawal with no medical intervention and trying to go ‘cold turkey.’ He’s become addicted to Heroin and with the help of his friend Reggie he attempts to detox.
It’s true what you’ve seen in some movies or TV shows. Detox also referred to as withdrawal management, can be an uncomfortable and possibly dangerous if not executed properly. Detox is completed by patients that have severe dependence on alcohol or other drugs and need assistance getting rid of all these chemicals from the body. Not all detoxes are the same and can differ from person-to-person.
What is a Medical Detox?
According to research, a medically supervised detoxification treatment has always been seen as the “gold standard” and as a reasonable position to begin treatment. It’s important to clarify that medical detox will mitigate but does not always eliminate the discomfort.
At the EHN’s Bellwood Health Services, a medically managed detox is carried out because there are some serious health risks for clients coming off alcohol and or other drugs, such as seizures and other possibly life-threatening symptoms. At EHN, our detox includes the involvement of a medical doctor, a psychiatrist may be involved, a nurse, and support staff (counsellors).
According to Joshua Montgomery, Director of Nursing and Admissions at Bellwood Health Services, the process of a medically managed detox all depends on the substance. At Bellwood, the length of time a person is in detox can vary from three to ten days depending on whether the person has become addicted to opiates, alcohol or benzos. A thorough assessment using the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS) or the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol (CIWA) to provide a framework to assess where the person is within their withdrawal and to determine what support the person requires and the medical attention needed.
Are There Risks Having a Non-Medically Supervised Detox?
Joshua Montgomery states that going through withdrawal can be dangerous, “People going through withdrawal without any medical supervision will experience withdrawal symptoms to a greater degree than a medical detox. Yes, it can be dangerous. There are various levels of care someone might need. I would advise against that and to speak to a healthcare professional to determine the best course of action to take. We don’t want to support someone with their medication that they are trying to get off of but I rather have them wait a few days to receive medical attention than trying to detox on their own if the circumstances doesn’t allow them to immediately access medical detox services. We want to promote a safe and healthy detox.”
What Happens After Detox?
Joshua Montgomery shares, “Some clients might need continued monitoring. We eventually begin to integrate a client into our program. We motivate them and give them the freedom to do what they are ready to do. We use placement criteria to assess and determine what’s the best course of treatment that the client needs. We want to meet the client where they’re at. We want to encourage them to choose recovery and support them through the process.”
If you know someone who requires detox (withdrawal management) there are many organizations, including Bellwood Health Services, that can provide this delicate service across Canada. Give us a call to learn about the range of services and treatment programs we offer for alcohol, drug and prescription pain addictions.
 McCabe, Susan EdD, RN, CS. Rapid Detox: Understanding New Treatment Approaches for the Addicted Patient. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, Vol. 36, No. 4. October- December 2000.