Does detoxification cure addiction? Not according to a new movement within the addiction medicine field. In fact, this movement is challenging the entire notion that when a person cleanses his body of toxic chemicals he is on the road to recovery.
“That’s a really pernicious myth, and it has erroneous implications,” (Gordon, 2017, paragraph 9) Dr. Frederic Baurer, president of the Pennsylvania Society of Addiction Medicine, says. Baurer, who has been treating addiction for over 30 years adds, “The focus should be on a stabilizing treatment plan, not on detox” (Gordon, 2017, paragraph 30).
Elvis Rosado can testify to the need for such a plan. While he was incarcerated and addicted to codeine, he decided to end his “longtime love affair” (Gordon, 2017, paragraph 10) with the opioid. He did not seek anyone’s help, even though prisons have the ability to give medications and monitor patients while they are withdrawing from drugs. Rosado explained his aversion to taking medication as feeling like he was still using drugs to feel better: “I was like, ‘I’m still using.’ That’s how I was seeing it” (Gordon, 2017, paragraph 11).
However, even after he got through the worst of his withdrawal, the temptation to use was still there. “It’s a battle,” (Gordon, 2017, paragraph 17) he says. He remembers the constant voice in his head telling him how much easier it would be to give in and take just a little bit–just enough to feel better.
Rosado was lucky. Too many people attempt to detoxify each year without medical assistance. They fall back into addiction and are more sensitive to overdosing due to their decreased tolerance. Others attempt to self-medicate with drugs like methadone which, without proper monitoring from a licensed physician, can lead to overdose and death. Rosado’s cellmate attempted to detoxify after being released from prison. He was unsuccessful and died of an overdose.
“What bothers me most in thinking detox is adequate treatment is that we know that it just doesn’t work,” (Gordon, 2017, paragraph 26) says Dr. Kyle Kampman, a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction treatment. “Addiction isn’t something you can just flush out of your body. It is a disease” (Gordon, 2017, paragraph 26).
Joining the drive to create programs that stabilize recovering patients is the director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow. “Medications can be helpful in this detoxification stage, easing…symptoms that can…trigger a relapse. However, this is just the first step in treatment. Medications have also become an essential component…enabling opioid-addicted persons to regain control of their health and their lives,” (Gordon, 2017, paragraph 28) she told a Senate committee.
Dr. Frederic Baurer believes that there is not one formula for overcoming drug addiction and taking control of one’s life again. All the tools available to support people who want to get well must be considered and taken advantage of. What works for one person may not work for another. The most important factor is that we provide all the resources we can for life-long recovery.
For more information on this topic, please read “Do-It-Yourself Detox Can Be ‘Freddy Krueger’ Scary — And Usually Fails” by Elana Gordon.
Gordon, E. (2017, July 7). Do-It-Yourself Detox Can Be ‘Freddy Krueger’ Scary — And Usually Fails. Kaiser Health News. Retrieved from http://khn.org/news/do-it-yourself-detox-can-be-freddy-krueger-scary-and-usually-fails/