Treating Withdrawal vs. Treating Addiction

man withdrawing in bed

During drug detox, both your body and your mind will undergo some major changes. Unlike the popular junk food detox plans that are primarily meant to rid your body of toxins, a drug and alcohol detox program has three main objectives.1 They are:

  1. To help you achieve sobriety.
  2. To treat uncomfortable physical withdrawal symptoms.
  3. To treat any co-occurring medical or psychiatric conditions.

In order to thoroughly understand the significance of detox within the larger scope of a comprehensive addiction program, it’s essential that you also understand the difference between treating withdrawal and treating addiction. This may also help you understand why detox alone is not a cure for addiction.

Treating Withdrawal

When a person becomes addicted to a drug, they develop a psychological need for it.2 When their body is suddenly deprived of that substance, they begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be both physical and psychological but are often very uncomfortable.

At a detox center such as Briarwood, the medical staff’s primary objective is to help each client safely reach a stable and sober state, which will require that they experience withdrawal.

Naturally, a large part of the drug detox and stabilization process is treating withdrawal. But what does this entail?

  • Reducing discomfort. Medical staff at a high-quality detox center are trained to recognize and treat the physical symptoms of withdrawal. This is achieved with appropriate doses of tapering medications that work to comfortably ease a person into a state of sobriety while reducing the discomfort caused by withdrawal symptoms. Clients are also housed in a quiet, relaxing environment during this time to reduce discomfort as much as possible.
  • Monitoring. Throughout the duration of a drug detox program, medical staff will also monitor each client’s progress closely. This may involve checking the patient’s vitals, carefully monitoring them several times a day, and providing on-site medical staff who are available 24/7. Throughout the detox process, the treatment plan will also be adjusted as the client’s needs change.
  • Individual and group counseling. Addressing the psychological symptoms of withdrawal is also an essential part of drug detox. Consistent drug and alcohol abuse can cause short and long-term changes in the brain, which often lead to mental health issues like anxiety, paranoia, depression, hallucinations, and aggression.3 As you detox from these addictive substances, your body will undergo many physical changes that may impact your moods, emotions, and mental health. During detox, clients work individually with a clinical counselor to address these complex emotions and learn about how drugs and alcohol affect the brain and the body. Clients may also attend group therapy sessions during detox to address these issues.

Drug and alcohol detox is only the first stage of addiction treatment but it plays an important role in preparing the client for entry into a drug and alcohol rehab program.4 Treatment for withdrawal is an important and essential part of the overall process that should not be skipped.

Treating Addiction

Treating addiction is not the same thing as treating withdrawal symptoms. The main difference between treating addiction and treating withdrawal are the primary objectives of each.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse outlines three main goals for addiction treatment programs.4 They are:

  1. To help a person stop using drugs.
  2. To help a person stay drug-free.
  3. To help a person be productive in the family, at work, and in society.

While drug and alcohol detox works to help clients get sober and prepare for drug rehab, addiction treatment programs help clients develop a foundation for their ongoing recovery by helping them achieve the following things.

  • Accept that they have an illness. A person may go through many different stages of denial and gradual acceptance before genuine and lasting change can be made.5 In drug and alcohol rehab, clinical counselors will work with clients to help them accept the fact that they have an illness and begin to take steps towards making the necessary changes.
  • Address the root causes of the addiction. In detox, the physical, emotional, and psychological effects of the addiction were addressed, but in rehab, more focus is placed on the root causes of the addiction itself. Drug abuse and addiction is often a symptom of a much larger problem, such as unresolved trauma, stress, or an inability to cope with certain life situations.6 By addressing the root causes of addiction, individuals can work to resolve those underlying issues and as a result, reduce their need to rely on drugs and alcohol.
  • Modify negative behaviors. Addicted people often lack the skills to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, and other life issues in a healthy way. Additionally, drug abuse inhibits a person’s ability to make sound decisions and judgments, making it even more difficult for them to adjust to these life changes.7 In drug and alcohol rehab, clients focus on addressing negative behaviors and replacing them with more positive ones that will support a life of sobriety.
  • Heal damaged relationships and learn how to build healthy ones. Substance abuse harms relationships in countless ways. It causes arguments, fuels trust issues, produces stress and harmful codependent behaviors, and can also lead to isolation and physical or sexual abuse.8 A major part of treating addiction is healing the damage caused by substance abuse and helping the client and their family learn how to develop healthy, meaningful relationships in sobriety.
  • Maintain their abstinence. Another primary aspect of addiction treatment is to help clients maintain long-term or lifelong abstinence from all addictive substances. This is achieved with a blend of therapeutic interventions, ongoing participation in individual and group therapy sessions, and recovery support services.

Although the processes of treating withdrawal and treating addiction have differing objectives, each aspect of treatment plays a vital role in overcoming addiction to drugs and alcohol.

If you’re interested in learning more about drug detox or would like to enroll in a drug or alcohol detox program at Briarwood Detox Center, please call our admissions team today.




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