The coronavirus has sparked fears among addiction doctors and support workers that poor mental health as a result of lockdown and uncertainty around jobs and finances could create a surge in demand for inpatient detox support.
The immense stresses that the pandemic has inflicted on individuals, couples and families has caused many people to turn to drugs or alcohol to help them get through the crisis. The use of these substances has become a habit or a dependency for many during this time. A recent study stated that 25% of Canadians said they were drinking more at home during the pandemic.
It has also caused many people who were already tackling their addictions to relapse in a bid to cope.
Many rehab centres have been open throughout the crisis to provide inpatient detox, which is the most effective form of treatment in the first steps of the journey to sobriety.
The first part of rehab is to stop taking the drugs or alcohol, but if this is not managed correctly then it can be extremely dangerous. This is why inpatient detox is highly recommended.
It is known as a medical detox and it carefully manages the whole withdrawal process, keeping the patient stable throughout and making sure they are comfortable during the process. Doctors and nurses will often use prescribed medication to help the withdrawal process.
Inpatient detox provides 24 hour medical and emotional support at a time when the chances of a relapse are really high. Programs can be anything from 28 days to six months and patients stay in rehab clinics or hospitals during this time.
This type of program helps patients to wean off the substance they are addicted to. Some people who have a less severe addiction might be able to handle an outpatient program, but severe addiction is best treated through an inpatient detox.
The first part of an inpatient detox involves a three to seven-day detoxification that is managed using prescribed medication. The medication used and the dosages will depend upon which substances the person is addicted to. Inpatient detoxes will take place in hospital or clinic settings to ensure the facilities and professional staff are there to be able to deal with any serious complications as a result of the detox.
There are several medications used by doctors in inpatient detox dependent upon the addiction. Methadone helps to reduce craving and provides the body with the chemicals it needs to feed the addiction, but without the euphoric high that the drug gives. Gradually reducing the drug helps the body to withdraw safely.
Buprenorphine is often used for people addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers. It reduces cravings and helps to stabilize the body’s systems throughout the process. Suboxone is used to stop the abuse potential of the treatment drug.
Benzodiazepines are usually used to support alcohol withdrawal. They help anxiety, insomnia and seizures. Other anti-convulsants might also be used to help with seizures.
Anti-psychotic medication is used to support people who suffer delirium, delusions and hallucinations during the detox process.
All inpatient detox programs have very strict rules, regulations and protocols to make sure patients are kept safe and are ultimately successful in their treatment. But some rules can vary from facility to facility. For example, some detox centres will allow patients to use the internet, read newspapers, have access to mobile phones and anything to do with the outside world. Other clinics ask their patients to cut off from the outside world completely and restrict the use of the internet, computers and phones, particularly in the first few days of the detox, which is the hardest part.
Items like razors and anything that a patient could cause harm to themselves with are taken away and only given out at certain times – just to make sure they stay safe in the hardest part of the detox when many severe addicts can experience suicidal thoughts.
Everyone will suffer different side effects to their detox, but when people are withdrawing from opioids, they could suffer side effects like muscle pain, agitation, anxiety, stomach pains or cramping, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, sweating and cramping.
Detoxing from alcohol can cause symptoms such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, nightmares, irritability, seizures, tremors, nausea and vomiting. Then for those who have been using cocaine and want to detox, they can expect to suffer from anything from depression, agitation and restlessness to fatigue and nightmares.
There are many factors that contribute to finding the right program for someone who wants to tackle their addiction. The location, the cost and whether it needs to be population specific, for example all female, all male, LGBTQ or linked to a particular faith. The type of addiction are key factors. Recovery from addiction is also very dependent on the post inpatient detox support programs available and that will be something that patients or their families will need to research to optimize the chances of recovery.