Guest Post – Joe Wallis

What You Need to Know About Medical Detox
Written by Joe Wallis

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The human body is a true marvel. There is a constant balancing act between the hormones and chemicals that give each system signals to perform their individual functions. Many mental problems are caused by improper balance in those chemicals. This is why drugs and alcohol cause dependence and addiction. When a person uses or consumes these substances, chemicals found in them begin to take the place of naturally occurring chemicals in the body.

The greater problem comes from what happens when those chemicals are removed. Once the body has become accustomed to them being there, it can be extremely unpleasant, even painful to regain homeostasis once they’re gone. Every person is different, and their current health and genetic disposition can have drastic effects on how the body will react to sudden changes. A medical detox program can help keep a person safe while they go through the early stages of finding their own natural balance, or homeostasis.


Withdrawals are different for various substances and from person to person. Again, every person is different, and their bodies will respond differently to changing chemicals. In some cases it’s possible for a person to power through the withdrawal symptoms and quit cold turkey, but it’s often not that simple. How often have you heard of someone who wants to quit, but can’t do it? It’s usually due to the difficult withdrawal process.

The right approach

Getting clean on your own is very difficult, but it can also be very dangerous. Your body can have a number of reactions to the sudden change, and in some cases they can be fatal. So what is a person to do?

This is where appropriate detox comes into play. Detoxification is doing exactly what it sounds like: removing toxins from your body. Withdrawal is going to be difficult no matter what, but going about it with the right approach can ease the process, and make it much more likely to be completed. What is the right approach? It depends on the person and the nature of their dependency, but there are some basic steps to guide the process.


The first step to successful detox is an extensive evaluation. This will include tests to find out what substances are present in the body and in what quantity. It’s also important to determine if there are any co-occurring disorders, including mental health problems. These can cause complications or interfere with the effectiveness of a given treatment. This evaluation should only be performed by a qualified professional.

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The treatment itself should be tailored to the needs of each patient, as determined in the evaluation. The treatment often includes an alternative substance being prescribed to ease the body’s transition. This will help reduce medical risks, such as seizures, caused by the sudden absence of the drug. Over time the dosage is reduced until it is safe to stop. This process is called tapering. In other situations treatment could be as simple as monitoring the patient through the withdrawals. For some substances, particularly alcohol, a major side effect is dehydration, so rehydrating and replacing important nutrients in the blood is a critical component.

Preparation for Recovery

Detox is only the first step toward recovery. It won’t take away all the cravings or withdrawal symptoms, and should be followed up with entrance into a recovery program that fits the person’s needs. Before release, a good detox facility will provide each patient (and their families) information about recovery programs available to them. Ideally a patient will go straight from detox into recovery. A center offering both provides an even better solution.

Medical Supervision

Something to watch for when it comes to detox is how it will be administered. Sometimes you will find a center calling themselves detox, but not offering medical supervision. True medical detox means it is performed under qualified medical supervision. Because there are so many variables, and so many things could potentially go wrong, it’s dangerous to approach detox without a trained medical staff on hand.


Another question to ask yourself when considering detox is the setting. This is another area where individual circumstances make a big difference.

Inpatient detox means the patient is checked into a facility and kept under constant medical supervision. This is the safest approach, and most likely to be completed successfully, especially for more severe situations.

Outpatient detox means the patient comes in for assessments, and is perhaps given a prescription, but doesn’t stay full time at a facility. This approach is far less controlled and usually takes much longer because the doctor must use extra caution. It is also much more likely to be abandoned. This approach should really only be taken in cases of very mild dependence.

It’s also possible to do something in between. Some facilities provide housing and regular medical checkups, but can’t be considered a full inpatient program due to lack of full time medical supervision.

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How to Decide

If you are ready to get clean, it’s strongly recommended that you start out with an appropriate medical detox, followed immediately by a good recovery program. There are a lot of facilities out there. Ask yourself these questions to start of your investigation:

● Do they offer combined detox/rehab?
● Is the staff qualified and appropriately licensed?
● Are they flexible enough to accommodate different reactions to the treatment?
● What is the atmosphere like?
● How much privacy will each patient have?
● Will family be able to visit? What are the visitation policies?
● What is their success rate with prior patients?

Entering detox and recovery is a long term commitment. Addiction recovery is never really finished, it’s a lifelong process. Starting it off right can make all the difference.

About the AuthorJoe_author_bio
Joe Wallis finds writing to be a soothing experience, and revels in the chance to cut out all the distractions and focus on a single topic at a time. His family experience with emotional disorders, addiction, and the co occurrence of the two has given him personal insight in the field, and is the driving motivation in his work.

WARNING: Graphic Drug Use

The silver hollow sliver. Small but deadly.

The silver hollow sliver. Small but deadly.

The small excerpt below is taken from the story of my addiction. I must warn readers to its graphic and very detailed nature. It is a small piece of my true story; my relentless addiction to heroin and other drugs. If you are new in recovery and sensitive to any drug triggers, strong thoughts of using, or if you are still glorifying drug use- you may want to skip this post until you have both your feet firmly planted in recovery. The sequence of events below took place in the midst of my addiction when the capsizing wake of my addiction had already sunk my ship. I was homeless and had nothing but heroin, a spoon, some cotton and a needle. Any vestige of my true-self had been almost completely defeated…

(excerpt from my book)

[…Cars zoom past me as if late for an important meeting. I stand alone on the faded yellow curb. A local transit bus squeals to a sudden stop to my right. The sounds of leaky hydraulics radiate from under the frame as the bus driver opens the scissor-style doors. As the passengers’ board and fight their way to an empty seat, I notice a young boy staring at me through the scratched window of the bus. He is all alone. He is wearing a blue and yellow mask that he probably made at school. The eye-holes are cut out as well as a small slice for his mouth. For some reason I can’t break my focus from this little boy. As I stare in bewilderment, he gives me what looks to be a half smile that is projecting an unspoken message. He slowly shakes his head side to side. Is he telling me no? What is he trying to say? Why is this bothering me? I feel a shiver forming through my body. I continue to stare at the boy as the bus pulls away. He raises his hand in the shape of a pistol and puts it to his temple. He pulls the trigger and drops his head down on an angle so that I can see his mask as the bus pulls away.
The exhaust is still billowing into the air as I walk across the street to a local gas station. My thoughts are still turning the odd visuals of the little boy, his mask, and the bus. As I approach the station, my attention is diverted to a man on a Harley Davidson. He is wearing a worn black leather jacket that looks like it has seen its share of highway miles. His Levis are torn on the knees but held together by a few, small white threads. His face looks as if it has never been under a shade tree. The lines and wrinkles on his weathered face tell me he’s had a rough life. As I approach his motorcycle, he asks, “Hey, man. You have a light?”
“Yeah, sure.” I hand him my lighter and as I do he says, “Can you get me some cocaine?”
“I can get it but I don’t have a way to get it. I don’t have a vehicle,” I respond.
“I’ll give you a ride. Hop on.”
The powerful acceleration of the motorcycle jerks me backward. The wind fills my ears with empty air sound. We fly down the road with one thing in mind. One purpose, one reason. Our determination pays off as we approach an area well known for its high volume of illegal activity. My ears are still ringing as he kills the motorcycle engine. For a brief moment, I recall the boy on the bus. The thoughts are washed out by the voice of my new biker friend.
“Hurry up, I don’t have all day,” he gruffly reminds me.
“I’ll be quick man, no worries.” My heart starts beating fast as I realize I am about to get heroin and cocaine.
Before I met this guy I had no money and no way to get any. Once he gets his cocaine and I get my heroin, we will probably go our separate ways. It doesn’t matter though. We do whatever it takes to get our fix.
With the dope safely secured in my tightly closed fist, we drive to a local grocery store. Their bathrooms serve as a safe haven for shooting up. When you are homeless it is hard to have privacy. Public bathrooms provide that privacy.
We pull into the grocery store and park the bike next to the building. I am nervous as I approach the entrance. The automatic doors open swiftly to the motions of shoppers and children. A gust of air hits me as I enter the store. My focus is on the back of the store where I see a blue plastic sign pointing the way. My fast-paced walk gradually turns to a jog. I can hear my friend keeping pace but I don’t acknowledge him.
Since I reach the bathroom first, I go into the stall that is against the wall. I like these stalls the best because if someone comes in while I am using, I don’t run the risk of having people on both sides of me. My new friend goes into the stall next to me. I see his hand lower under the stall wall. I hand him his cocaine, a spoon and a needle. I start to get my heroin ready, but he interrupts me saying, “Hey man, let me try some of that stuff.”
I know he hasn’t used heroin in a while and I’m a little worried to give him some. He doesn’t seem like the type of person to reason with though, so I hand him my leftovers under the metal door.
I return to my own priorities. I draw back the heroin and fill the needle. A couple shakes of my wrist and the air rises to the top of the syringe. I push the air through the needle and spin the needle around with my fingers. I look down and gently place the needle’s sharp point against the vein protruding from my left arm. One quick tap with my index finger and the needle tears a hole. I pull back on the plunger to see a deep red color mix with the liquid heroin. PUSH. The warm mixture enters my veins with vengeance. Within seconds I feel the world’s troubles subside into total bliss.
As I wipe the blood from my battered arm, I open the stall door. I look up and see my friend leaning towards the mirror with both hands on the sink. Sweat runs down his temple and off his forehead. He looks as if he is staring through his own reflection.
“Hey, are you okay?” I ask. He takes a slow deep breath and says, “Yeah.” He lets go of the sink with both hands and his body drops to the hard tile like a bag of wet sand. Images of the boy on the bus flash back and start to haunt me.…]

What do you do? What do you do when a man drops dead right in front of you? In a public bathroom, with no doors- after shooting up heroin that you gave him only moments ago? The man’s pockets are littered with balloons of cocaine and remnants of heroin; spoons, needles, and cash scattered over the bathroom tile. It is impossible to hide the bloody track marks up and down your arms… So… Do you call the police? Do you yell for help? Or, do you run?