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Drug Detox Centers are Not Full of The Drug Addict Stereotype
When most people think of drug detox, they think of drug addicts. And when they think of drug addicts, they think the worst: money and dope changing hands in doorways by people looking over their shoulders, addicts who look like they haven’t bathed in weeks shooting up in dark alleyways or walking unsteadily along a city street in a daze. They think of people who don’t work, don’t take care of their responsibilities and who would do anything to get their next hit. But this vision of the typical person entering drug detox is far from the truth – the majority of people who show up in private drug detox centers look just like your accountant, your lawyer, your family doctor, or even your mother, brother or father. And they didn’t go to drug detox because the court sent them there; they came to get their life back.
They dress well, they take care of themselves and their families. They are students or employees in well-paid jobs. And they didn’t get their drugs from that dealer in the doorway, they got them from their doctor. In fact, if they couldn’t get them from their doctor, they wouldn’t have a clue where else to look for them or who to ask.
Most of the doctors who gave them the drugs didn’t intend to addict their patients, they were trying to relieve the pain of an injury, an accident or surgery. Nevertheless, many of those patients end up in drug detox.
When the pain we experience is minor, the body can handle it. Endorphins are produced naturally, and control the pain. But when the pain is severe, when we can’t sleep and can’t work, when we can’t take care of our family, we need something more. Our doctors prescribe painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. They tell us they’re strong, but they don’t tell us they’re opiates, very similar to heroin, nor do they tell us we may become dependant on or addicted to the drugs and need medically supervised drug detox to get off them.
In some cases, our pain may be gone within a few days. We stop taking the drug, and that’s the end of it. But for others, for those of us whose pain is persistent and severe, we have to keep taking the drugs just to function. Sometimes for weeks or months.
There are also those of us DNA causes us to metabolize the drugs differently and, although the original pain is less severe and we don’t really need the painkiller anymore, we have become physically dependant.
In either case, the alternative to taking the drug is withdrawal – we could be in bed for a week with sweating, diarrhea, nausea, high fever and joint pain – so, we stay on the drug.
Doctors will often refill prescriptions and, if your own doctor will not, there are plenty of other doctors or pain clinics that will. After taking the drugs for several weeks, we know we should stop. We know they’re not good for us. But, by this time, we’re physically dependent and, maybe addicted.
Some of us may also develop a tolerance to the drug. Although it doesn’t happen to everyone, with the right DNA and the right metabolism, we may find that we have to take more and more of the drug to get the same feelings. And, soon, our life has changed and we just can’t function as well as we used to.
Eventually, most of us decide we have to get our lives back under control. We may try to stop taking the drugs, or lower the dosage. But, again, both bring on painful withdrawal symptoms that we just can’t cope with. In fact, fewer than five percent of opiate users can successfully do a cold turkey withdrawal. After a day or so we’re back on the drug and shortly after that we begin to feel trapped, anxious and depressed.
Sometimes we’ll be referred to a psychiatrist who, instead of explaining that anxiety and depression are natural under these circumstances and getting us into a drug detox so we can get off the drug, will often prescribe anti-depressants like Effexor or a dangerous benzodiazepine like Xanax. Or both. These new drugs can then cause further problems, and dangerous, damaging side effects.
If we’re lucky, we find out about drug detox. And we find out that people who go to drug detox are just like us – they’re not the vision of drug addicts we had imagined. If we go to a good drug detox program we’ll go home free of that drug within a week or so, and we won’t be prescribed others to take home. And, we have our lives back.
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