One of the biggest issues that people run into during detox is the immediate need to “get back to their life” once they’ve gone through withdrawals and begin to feel physically better. It is well-known that patients receiving addiction treatment whether at a stand-alone detox or during detox in a month-long residential rehab have high rates of leaving treatment AMA (against medical advice, also sometimes known as ACA or against clinical advice) once they have gone through detox and begin to feel better physically or feel “normal” again.
This is extremely dangerous for the patient. For one, patients in detox or treatment for opioids run a very high risk of overdosing if they use again. After detox, the body begins to reset and a smaller amount of opioids can cause overdose or death. Individuals leaving treatment with an opioid use disorder will often use the same amount of drugs they were using when they entered treatment, and with their tolerance lessened after detox, they can succumb to an opioid overdose due to a lower tolerance. The potency and accessibility of fentanyl heightens this danger.
Additionally, it is well-known that better or successful recovery outcomes come through a long-term continuum of care of treatment, accountability, and recovery support. Individuals suffering from addiction often are delusional, believing that all they need to do is stop using drugs to get better, when in fact the drug use, drug misuse, or drug abuse was simply a symptom of the addiction, and that the addiction is actually a much deeper piece of the issue rooted in connection, trauma, attachment, family dynamics, and a host of other complex issues. In order to overcome addiction, those root causes need to be identified, assessed, and treated. This takes time, and certainly doesn’t occur once a patient is physically separated from drugs and alcohol.
Many individuals have a history of treatment. While some people are seeking treatment for the first time, many individuals have an extensive experience with going to treatment numerous times. This could include multiple stays in detox, several experiences at a 28-day rehab or residential treatment center, and/or going to an intensive outpatient (IOP) program time-and-time again. Many times, those patients that seek to leave treatment early, once they feel physically better, also have a history of leaving treatment early, against medical advice. Talk to their parents, or their spouses, or their friends, and you’ll undoubtedly hear a response such as “oh, he does this all the time” or during pre-admission or admission, “he’ll probably try to leave after a couple days.” This is a distinctive pattern, and while leaving treatment early does not necessarily mean someone won’t stay sober or find recovery, if there is a pattern of going to treatment, leaving early, relapsing, and returning to treatment, it is a good sign that such a pattern will continue. Not every journey of recovery looks the same for everyone, but we know that best outcomes come through a long-term continuum of care, so every patient suffering from addiction needs to be given the roadmap that will equate to the best possible outcomes and chance at success. If an individual always leaves treatment as soon as they feel physically better, and never take aftercare recommendations, chances are good that there will be a relapse and, God willing, they will have another chance at treatment and recovery.
Detox is meant to be a comfortable, safe, and supportive environment for an individual suffering from addiction to get through any withdrawals, feel better physically, find emotionally stability, and continue on with treatment and recovery support. Detox is not meant to be a revolving door that patients come through, time and time again, to dry out, feel better physically, and then return to active use and active addiction. The idea that just stopping drug and alcohol does will lead to staying stopped and a lifetime of recovery is a false belief. Recovery is a transformational process that helps a person heal and find fulfilment, happiness, and a high quality of life so that they don’t return to drugs and alcohol. This is a process that requires time, professional and community help, and not simply feeling physically better. The risk of feeling better after a few days in detox, and the dangers that come with leaving detox or treatment after only a few days, and then returning to active drug or alcohol use are extremely high. The most recent fatal overdose numbers of over 93,000 in 2020 alone demonstrate that fact.
Addiction is a chronic, progressive illness that if left untreated can be fatal. If it is not fatal, is provides a long life of disconnection, isolation, pain, and sadness. However, addiction is entirely treatable if patients engage in what we know works- long-term treatment, accountability and monitoring, recovery support, and life skills development. The purpose of detox is to feel physically better but feeling physically better and stopping drug and alcohol use do not equate to recovery. The purpose of recovery is not to stop using drugs and alcohol, but rather to gain the tools to create a wonderful life of meaning, purpose, direction, and fulfillment, so there will be no need to use drugs and alcohol. For patients entering detox or treatment for addiction, take those first steps not to simply stop using or drinking, but rather to find recovery and a wonderful life worth living.
If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorders, please give us a call. Innovo Detox offers the latest in evidence-based medical, psychiatric, and clinical care for those in need of detox and medical stabilization in Pennsylvania and the surrounding Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or a loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a detox, rehab, treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (717) 619-3260 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on our company or services, please visit our website at www.innovodetox.com.