Do Only Addicts Go To Medical Detox?

Do Only Addicts Go To Medical Detox?

Most people assume that the only types of people who go to medical detox are drug addicts. When many people think of drug addicts, they get visions of people lying in dingy rooms with needles in their arms and blank faces. They think that drug addicts never bathe, don’t hold jobs and live off of welfare and crime. You see drug addicts in the soup line at a church, don’t you? When they hear that a drug addict is going to medical detox, they assume that the reason for it is that the court said it was either medical detox or jail.

However, this conception of drug addicts and the people who go to medical detox is an example of what humorist Will Rogers meant when he said, “It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain't so.” In fact, most of the people coming to Novus for medical detox look just like your accountant or your lawyer, your doctor or even your mother, brother or father. They dress well. They are well groomed. They have responsible, well-paying jobs or are students. They love and support their families. They are not on street drugs and would not have any idea how to buy illegal drugs or where to find them. Their drug dealer is not in a dark alley but in a modern building in a nice medical office.

Most of the people who come to medical detox at Novus are physically dependent on or addicted to drugs prescribed by medical doctors. Most doctors don’t just hand out addictive drugs so their patients can get high. No, the reason they prescribe these addictive drugs is to control pain caused by an injury or accident. Many of us have had our wisdom teeth pulled or another type of operation or injury and have suffered severe pain. Our natural pain killers, the endorphins, are not produced in enough quantity to lower the pain and we just hurt. We wanted to take something that would let us escape in sleep and when we wake up maybe the pain will be gone. When we woke up and still had pain, we wanted something that would allow us to reduce the pain and still let us go to work or take care of our family.

Our doctor prescribed painkillers like OxyContin or Vicodin. We may have been warned that the drug was strong, but we were probably not informed by our doctor that the drug actually was an opiate that acted just like heroin and was just as addictive. Maybe in our case, the pain lessened and was gone in a few days and we stopped taking the addictive drugs and never experienced any withdrawal symptoms. However, for many others, their metabolism and DNA are different and maybe even if their pain is lessening they have become physically dependent on the drug. If they try to stop taking the drug, they have withdrawal symptoms—sweating, diarrhea, nausea, high fever and joint pain that can put them in bed for a week or more. The pain of withdrawal is not an option and they continue to take the opiates even though the pain, the original reason for the opiate, is not there. Others may not become physically dependent as easily, but when they try to stop taking the opiates they find the pain is still there and the only way to control it is to continue taking the opiates for several weeks more. After several weeks they know that they should stop taking the opiate because they know it is not good for them and they don’t want to become a drug addict.

However, by this time they have also become physically dependent and possibly even addicted because they crave the feeling provided by the painkillers. Medical doctors will often continue to prescribe painkillers for both of the above groups. If one doctor decides that they won’t continue, there always seems to be another doctor or a pain clinic that will prescribe the drugs. Some people’s metabolism and DNA do not allow them to build up a tolerance to the drug that requires higher and higher doses to have the same feeling. However, like most heroin or methadone users, most users develop a tolerance to the original dose and it must be continually increased until the user begins losing the ability to function normally in life.

At some point, many of these opiate users determine that they have to regain control of their lives and may try to lower the dosage of the opiates on their own. However, they will go through the same type of withdrawal as heroin addicts and few will be successful. In fact, less than five percent of opiate users can successfully do a cold turkey withdrawal. After a day or so they are again taking the opiates. The user feels trapped and is naturally anxious and depressed about their addiction. They may be referred to a psychiatrist. Instead of the psychiatrist explaining that their anxiety and depression are natural and the real problem is that they need to detox from the opiate, the person normally leaves the psychiatrist’s office with a prescription for at least one unneeded anti-depressant like Effexor or a dangerous benzodiazepine like Xanax or sometimes one or more anti-depressants along with a benzodiazepine.

Combining anti-depressants and benzodiazepines with opiates, again depending on the individual’s metabolism, can create further problems and cause the person to experience one or more of the more damaging side effects of the drugs. This is the type of person that we are seeing at Novus. They want to withdraw but want to do their withdrawal more safely and comfortably and under medical supervision. At Novus, we are able to help them get off not only the opiate but any other drug that is not needed. They normally complete their detox in a week and we don’t send them home on two or three new drugs.

The fact that they are now off the opiate and think clearly for the first time since they started taking the opiate is, to many of our patients, a miracle. Many comment that, “I have my life back.” To Novus we see these “miracles” every day and wonder why other detox facilities don’t seem to get the same results. At Novus, we specialize in giving people their lives back.

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