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Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE): How they Affect Health and Well-being

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE): How they Affect Health and Well-being

In past articles and our most recent article on trauma, we have mentioned the impact that Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, can have on an individual. While it wasn’t long ago that we figured it out, there is a great deal of research supporting the notion that one of the key contributing factors to substance abuse, mental health and other behavioral disorders is childhood trauma. Adverse Childhood Experiences, known widely as ACEs, are common and seemingly passive experiences that one may have as a child, that, when occurring repeatedly or in combination, have a devastating impact on a person’s development and long-term health.

When an Adverse Life Event takes place during one’s life in later adolescence or as an adult, the connection for the survivor to make between the traumatic experience and their future issues can be clear. Whether it’s a singular “Big T” trauma or a series of less severe “Little T” traumatic events, the link between these experiences and a person’s behaviors can often be made easily. For example, a 58-year-old man who recently went through a divorce, was laid off and then lost his house, might make the connection between these experiences and his increased drinking and isolation.

However, the link between ACEs and mental health or substance abuse issues that develop later in life can be more difficult, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the mental health or substance abuse issues often don’t surface until years, or even decades, after the Adverse Childhood Experience occurs. What starts as general family dysfunction, divorce, neglect, or abuse may seem relatively normal through childhood and even into adulthood. The early signs and symptoms of a greater issue often manifest themselves as isolation, lack of trust, avoidance and other social and emotional issues before they ever develop into substance abuse or severe mental illness.

What are ACEs?

The notion of Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, began with the research of the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. The study was conducted between 1995 and 1997 and studied nearly 17,000 Kaiser patients in a San Diego Health Clinic[1]. Patient health was studied through physical exams and surveys of current health and behaviors, while they also completed surveys about childhood experiences. What this groundbreaking study was looking at was the link – which was not understood at the time – between childhood trauma and physical, mental and emotional health later in life.

The ten childhood experiences they were looking at were:

Childhood abuse

1.     Emotional Abuse

2.     Physical Abuse

3.     Sexual Abuse

Childhood neglect

4.     Physical Neglect

5.     Emotional Neglect

Household challenges

Growing up in a household were there was:

6.     Substance abuse

7.     Mental Illness

8.     Violent Treatment of a mother or step-mother

9.     Parental Separation/divorce

10.  An incarcerated household member

 

Participants in the study were then given an ACE Score between 0 and 10, the total sum based on how many of the 10 types of adverse experiences they reported experiencing.

The Findings of the CDC-Kaiser ACE Study

The ACE Score, from 0 to 10, is used to assess cumulative childhood stress – now sometimes referred to as “Little T” trauma or by association with this study – a person’s “ACEs”. One of the clearest and most widely understood finding of the study was that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are more common than one might think, or thought at the time. More than half (52%) of the participants from the original CDC-Kaiser study reported having at least one ACE, and more than 1 in 5 (20%) reported exposure to 3 or more ACEs, while another 6.2% reported 4 or more exposures[2].

The most prevalent of the categories of childhood exposure was substance abuse in the household (25.6%); the least prevalent exposure category was evidence of criminal behavior in the household (3.4%)[3]. Another finding was that the susceptibility of a person’s exposure to multiple ACE categories, as the relationship between single categories of exposure was significant. If someone reported any single category of exposure, the probability of exposure to any additional category ranged from 65%–93%; and then not surprisingly, the probability of more than two additional exposures ranged from 40%–74%[4].

The key finding of the study as it related to health outcomes, and which changed the way we understood childhood trauma, was that as one’s ACE Score increases, so does the risk for serious diseases and conditions, including:

  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • Illicit drug use
  • Depression and other mental health issues
  • Suicide attempts
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Smoking
  • Chronic disease
  • Heart and liver disease
  • Poor academic achievement
  • Poor work performance and financial stress
  • Risk for intimate partner violence
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • STDs and unintended pregnancies
  • Risk for sexual violence and intimate partner violence

The increased risk for these negative health outcomes and well-being are dramatic. Compared to someone with an ACE Score of 0, a person with an ACE Score of 4 or more is:

  • 18 times as likely to have attempted suicide
  • Twice as likely to have had two or more weeks of depressed mood in the past year
  • Nearly 5 times as likely to have ever used illicit drugs
  • More than 11 times as likely to have ever inject drugs
  • More than 5 times as likely to be an alcoholic

How are ACEs Linked to Health Issues?

There is a large and growing body of research about how childhood stress and trauma affect brain development, brain chemistry and, thus, the regulation of the body’s emotional, stress and fear response systems are impacted. Repeated stress and activation of these systems of the brain dramatically alter the formation of myelinated axons and the amygdala, the part of the brain that activates the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol into the body. If you’re walking through the woods and see a bear approaching, or you see a kid walking into oncoming traffic, the activation of this system is very effective in increasing your heart rate, opening your airways, and increasing blood flow to your organs and muscles, and away from certain parts of the brain.

However, if the stress response system is activated every night by the sound of your dad coming home, or the sight of your mom reaching for a bottle of alcohol, your body and brain are hit with the same fight-flight-freeze response. The repeated activation of this system take a toll on your vital organs as well as your brain’s ability to regulate emotions and responses to triggers. When the body produces too much of, or stops producing, the natural chemicals to sooth or excite you, it is very common for people to turn to external stimuli to compensate this: depressants like alcohol and benzodiazepines, stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine, or even behaviors like gambling and sexual intercourse.

Exposure to abuse and neglect also impact the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for high level cognition and controlling impulse, and the nucleus accumbens, the brain’s pleasure-reward center which releases the body’s natural dopamine. The nucleus accumbens was first discovered in 1954 by two scientists when rats became addicted to pressing a lever that activated this part of the brain. The role of the nucleus accumbens and its connection to the amygdala and hippocampus[5] have great implications in the study of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse and addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome, and more studies are being conducted.

Dose-Response Relationship

The CDC-Kaiser study also found a “dose-response” relationship between ACEs and negative health and well-being outcomes across a person’s lifetime. A dose-response relationship is one where as the dose or intensity of the trigger increases, so does the intensity of the maladaptive behavior or response. For example, the more a person is exposed to abuse or neglect, the more severe the negative health outcomes will be.

Follow-Up Studies

Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris

One of the most notable cases of these results in action was the work of Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris, a pediatrician in San Francisco who was originally unaware of the CDC-Kaiser ACE Study. She noticed when she began working in a hospital in Bayview-Hunter’s Point, a low-income area of the city riddled with addiction and violence, that there was an abnormal number of children being referred to her for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). One of her colleagues made her aware of the ACE Study, which led her down a path of studying her patients’ exposure to trauma and how the brain and body were impacting their health. She subsequently started the San Francisco Center for Youth Wellness, where Dr. Burke-Harris made it routine to screen children for their ACE Score to better understand the risk factors of these youth across their lifetime.

See her TED Talk on How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime:

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

In 2009, the CDC began collecting annual ACE data through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BFRSS) from voluntary respondents telephonically. It is now the longest-running phone survey in the world. The BFRSS asks questions modified from the original ACE Study, from people across 32 states, using randomly dialed numbers. The data collected from the BRFSS are:

All ACE questions refer to the respondent’s first 18 years of life.

  • Abuse1
    • Emotional abuse: A parent or other adult in your home ever swore at you, insulted you, or put you down.
    • Physical abuse: A parent or other adult in your home ever hit, beat, kicked or physically hurt you.
    • Sexual abuse: An adult or person at least 5 years older ever touched you in a sexual way, or tried to make you touch their body in a sexual way, or attempted to have sex with you.
  • Household Challenges
    • Intimate partner violence:2 Parents or adults in home ever slapped, hit, kicked, punched or beat each other up.
    • Household substance abuse: A household member was a problem drinker or alcoholic or used street drugs or abused prescription medications.
    • Household mental illness: A household member was depressed or mentally ill or a household member attempted suicide.
    • Parental separation or divorce: Parents were ever separated or divorced.
    • Incarcerated household member: A household member went to prison.

The findings of the BFRSS are similar to that of the original CDC-Kaiser ACE Study:

  • More than two-thirds of the participants reported at least one adverse childhood experience
  • More than 1 in 5 reported exposure to 3 or more ACEs

Similarly, they also found a dose-response relationship with ACE Scores correlated to an increase in the following:

  • Myocardial infarction
  • Asthma
  • Mental distress
  • Depression
  • Smoking
  • Disability
  • Reported income
  • Unemployment
  • Lowered educational attainment
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes

Treatment of Childhood Trauma

Understanding the role that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) play in brain development and prevalence of addiction, mental illness and life-threatening diseases is a pivotal precursor to addressing these issues. Identifying and acknowledging the root of the issues is an important step in the recovery process, and only once a person can work through the lasting effects of exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences can they truly recover. Because of the way these experiences embed themselves in our brain and body, the process of resolving them can take months or even years, but even the most complex trauma can be resolved with enough time and commitment.

Despite the acceptance of this research in the medical field, behavioral health professionals have been slower to integrate the identification and treatment of trauma into practice. It is important for someone who has been exposed to these adverse childhood experiences to find help at trauma-focused treatment programs like Roots Through Recovery, who utilize evidence-based approaches like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Somatic Experiencing (SE), Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), and expressive approaches like music and sound therapy, trauma-focused yoga, and art therapy.

EMDR at Roots Through Recovery

Resources:

[1] https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(98)00017-8/fulltext

[2] https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(98)00017-8/fulltext

[3] Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults. https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(98)00017-8/fulltext

[4] https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(98)00017-8/fulltext

[5] https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-05/cafn-itp052114.php

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): Myths Debunked

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): Myths Debunked

In 2015, Michael Botticelli, the director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy stated:

“Medication-assisted treatment saves lives while increasing the chances a person will remain in treatment and learn the skills and build the networks necessary for long-term recovery.”[1]

So why is it that the use of medication-assisted treatment remains staggering and access is limited for those who need it?

When it comes to medication-assisted treatment, there is a whole host of misinformation and confusion surrounding its use and purpose, which leaves it rejected or ignored by the vast majority of treatment centers. Medication-assisted treatment is the use of legal, FDA-approved medications in combination with counseling and behavioral services provided by treatment professionals and family and peer support (Source: SAMHSA).

But for those who don’t understand the benefits or its place in treatment, it can seem simply as replacing one drug with another. Of course, that’s not the case for any accredited medication-assisted treatment programs, which is often the best option for some people looking to achieve long-term sobriety.

 

Here are a few of the debunked myths surrounding medication-assisted treatment.

MYTH: If you take medications like Suboxone, you aren’t really sober.

TRUTH: While it’s true that opioid replacements, such as Suboxone which contains Buprenorphine and Naloxone, act on the same receptors as heroin or an opioid, the medication attaches to these receptors but does not activate them, and also blocks other opioids from these receptors[2]. The combination of these two mechanisms helps control cravings in a person who is physically dependent on opiates without getting the person high.

 

MYTH: Medication-assisted treatment is for people who aren’t serious about their recovery.

TRUTH: In certain cases, even the most intensive counseling and behavioral treatments just aren’t enough to achieve sobriety and prevent relapses in the future. For these situations—particularly when opioids or severe alcohol use is involved—using medication-assisted treatment to neutralize the physiological effects may help someone attain this critical first step of recovery, allowing them to focus on the underlying issues and move forward in their recovery.

 

MYTH: It’s always better to just get people off of all drugs.

TRUTH: Although going “cold turkey” and just outright stopping the use of any substances is the ideal scenario for many, using medication-assisted treatment to ease the body away from its previous addiction can be both easier and medically necessary in some situations. “Ripping the bandage off” may seem preferable at the time, but it can also lead to complications, permanent damage, and even death if a person’s health is too fragile to handle the severity of the physiological repercussions.

 

MYTH: Medication-assisted treatment is just taking the easy way out.

TRUTH: If one accepts that addiction is a chronic disease, like diabetes or hypertension, then the use of medication should be understood to be a critical component of treatment in some cases. Like hypertension, if someone is able to address their condition by changing their lifestyle, such as their diet and physical activity, that is ideal; however, for some, that isn’t enough[3]. We wouldn’t shame someone with hypertension for taking Beta-blockers or ACE inhibitors, and addiction should be treated with the same understanding and compassion.

 

MYTH: People using medication-assisted treatment are less likely to stay sober.

TRUTH: When utilized correctly, medication-assisted treatment carries with it lower risk, and higher probability of success than solely doing counseling and behavioral services[4] for many people looking to address their addiction, stay in treatment[5], and remain sober for the long-term. One study found that patients who were still on an opioid agonist 18 months post-treatment, were twice as likely to be sober from opioid pain killers than those who were not (80% versus 36.6%).[6]

Figure Below. Abstinence Rate Exceeds 60 Percent in Long-Term Follow-Up of Medication-Assisted Therapy for Dependence on Opioid Pain Relievers Dependence on pain relievers dropped below 20 percent at 18 months, and below 10 percent at 42 months, after patients were stabilized on, and then tapered off, Bp/Nx. At all three follow-up points, patients who were currently engaged in opioid agonist therapy had markedly higher odds of positive outcomes. (Source: National Institute of Drug Abuse)

 

Like any form of treatment, medication-assisted treatment isn’t for everyone, and the decision to start these medications is made after consultation with a treatment team, and a thorough assessment is completed. If you’ve struggled with relapse and traditional treatment hasn’t worked for you, contact Roots Through Recovery or another certified provider to consult on whether it would be an appropriate course of action.

 

References:

[1] https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/fact-sheets/2016/11/medication-assisted-treatment-improves-outcomes-for-patients-with-opioid-use-disorder

https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/17/remarks-ondcp-director-michael-botticelli

[2] https://www.naabt.org/faq_answers.cfm?ID=5

[3] https://archives.drugabuse.gov/publications/drug-abuse-addiction-one-americas-most-challenging-public-health-problems/addiction-chronic-disease

[4] https://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/practice-support/guidelines-and-consensus-docs/asam-national-practice-guideline-supplement.pdf?sfvrsn=24

[5] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/209312

[6] https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2015/11/long-term-follow-up-medication-assisted-treatment-addiction-to-pain-relievers-yields-cause-optimism

 

WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU

For immediate assistance, please call our Admissions Specialists at +1(562) 473-0827 or +1(866) 766-8776.

For more information or to start admissions – fill out the form below and we’ll reach out to you as soon as possible:

Health Net: 5 Things to Know About Your New Covered California Plan

Health Net: 5 Things to Know About Your New Covered California Plan

If you’re one of the million-plus people who get their Health Net insurance through Covered California, then you’ve hopefully just recently enrolled in coverage for the new year. Whether it’s your first time with subsidized healthcare or you’re a seasoned veteran, every year can bring new complications and changes to what you may have thought you understood. Thankfully, we’ve put together this quick checklist of steps to demystify your new Health Net insurance plan.

Check your new provider and plan

Just because you picked up Health Net insurance through the same portal doesn’t mean you have the same insurance coverage you did in previous years. Even if you were pretty thorough when looking at what you were choosing initially, you probably still want to actually check which insurance provider you now have and what’s covered under your current Health Net plan. Networks change for providers all the time — for instance, Roots Through Recovery is now in Health Net’s network — so you may have some new possibilities even if your provider hasn’t changed.

Look into new options

No matter if you’re looking at a brand new insurance plan or just a shift in the same one you’ve always had, there may be new medical providers and options for you that you weren’t aware of. Whether it’s simply finding a new doctor, accessing your substance abuse or mental health benefits, or looking into a whole different approach to your health, many insurance providers offer a wide and constantly changing variety of choices. If you’re not looking for a particular treatment right now, you may as well see what options you have available to you all year.

Understand the financial requirements

Beyond the amount you pay for the insurance each month, different plans have different out-of-pocket costs when actually seeking medical and behavioral health treatment. From co-pays to prescriptions to specialty services, just having health insurance doesn’t necessarily make your healthcare free. As a general rule of thumb, checking with the doctor, facility, or service provider can get you pretty close to the exact cost that’ll be incurred for various treatments — and they can also sometimes help you work with certain financial restrictions.

Keep track of your income changes

Although getting a new job and making significantly more money can drive your health insurance costs up through Covered California, misreporting or incorrectly estimating your income can also lead you to pay more than you should be. The point of Covered California is to make sure people pay an appropriate amount for health insurance, so keeping your income and tax situation up to date ensures that you don’t overpay if you lose your job or go through other dramatic life changes.

Schedule introductory consultations

Getting signed up for health insurance is the first step in making sure you’re all covered for the year. Before you actually need to seek treatment for the first time, you’ll need to figure out which in-network providers are the best for you. The easiest way to do this is simply by calling and scheduling consultations and introductory sessions with each provider you think you’ll need over the course of the year. Whether that means getting in contact with a facility like Roots Through Recovery or simply getting a check-up to add yourself to your new primary care physician’s patient list, getting in with the appropriate services and providers is ultimately the real reason to purchase healthcare.

If you’d like to check your benefits to see what’s covered under your new plan, you can verify your benefits here.

 

WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU

For immediate assistance, please call our Admissions Specialists at +1(562) 473-0827 or +1(866) 766-8776.

For more information or to start admissions – fill out the form below and we’ll reach out to you as soon as possible:

Staff Spotlight: Meet Sam Weiss, LCSW

Staff Spotlight: Meet Sam Weiss, LCSW

Although Sam Weiss may be one of Roots Through Recovery’s newest Licensed Clinical Social Workers, she’s no rookie when it comes to working with the recovery community. Now that she’s completed the licensing process, Weiss can spend her days focusing on her professional passions of handling the initial assessments when new clients come in as well as her individual and group therapy sessions. With big dreams of one day opening up her own practice in order to help as many people as she can within the community, Weiss is keen to continue learning as much as possible in the coming years while staying true to her life’s mission of lending a helping hand to anyone who needs it.

What was it like to complete the process to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker?
I just got licensed in October, and it was a 3-year long process, so it was very rewarding to finally be able to go and take the licensure test and pass the first time. It’s allowed me to work under my own license and have the opportunity to do more of my own things to help the clients.

What made you want to get into the field of social work within the recovery community?
My first introduction into the recovery community was not actually my choice. I was assigned to work in a mental health hospital and was placed in the dual diagnosis unit during my first internship experience while in undergrad. I worked there before I even knew I wanted to pursue social work. I really liked working with the population just because of the challenge and stigma attached to the population and how underserved they are. I eventually chose social work because of the breadth of the career. You can work one-on-one with people, but if I eventually decided that I wanted to work on an organizational or macro level, that’s something that I’d also be able to do. I like having that flexibility. Working in recovery is extremely rewarding, and I’m glad I was initially introduced to the recovery community early on in my schooling because I’ve fallen in love with the population.

How is Roots Through Recovery different than the other facilities you’ve worked at?
I love Roots. The facility where I was before looked at clients and staff as a number, so it was very hard to be able to do what I wanted with the clients because I had such an overloaded case load. Here at Roots, you can really tell how much they care about their clients and staff. It creates a really secure environment, and the feedback that we get from clients all the time is how safe they feel here. That’s something I really value in a job; to have clients feel like we care about them and not just because they’re paying for it. The knowledge that the staff has when it comes to individualizing the clients’ treatment plans and meeting the client where they are at is part of what sets Roots Through Recovery apart from other treatment facilities.

What kinds of changes have you seen in the industry since you began working with recovery facilities?
The thing that I think has changed the most is the growing acceptance of addiction as a mental health disorder and not just as a behavioral problem. It’s really opened up the doors for people with addiction problems to get the help that they need, because it’s so common for them to have a co-occurring mental health problem. The more knowledge that people have that it’s not just a behavioral problem but an underlying mental health issue can change the way that people look at addiction, which I think is really awesome.

How do you spend your free time when you’re not working?
I’m a big sports fan, and I think a lot of people know that. I’ll spend a lot of my free time watching sports, because I’m not very good at playing sports. It’s unfortunate because if I was, that’d probably be something I would want to do. Other than that, I love going to the beach, going to the movies, spending time with friends, playing video games, stuff like that.

WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU

For immediate assistance, please call our Admissions Specialists at +1(562) 473-0827 or +1(866) 766-8776.

For more information or to start admissions – fill out the form below and we’ll reach out to you as soon as possible:

Staff Spotlight: Meet Josh Pannell

Staff Spotlight: Meet Josh Pannell

Josh Pannell’s title might technically be “Executive Program and Clinical Assistant,” but he sees that as basically just a nice way of saying that he handles a little bit of everything. Whether it’s facilitating group activities or assisting the admissions team, directing the communication of doctors and pharmacies or helping clients take their first steps into their new lives, Pannell enjoys being a catch-all for Roots Through Recovery. After all, he was one of the facility’s very first employees and comes from a background that gave him plenty of knowledge on the other end of treatment.

Why were you initially interested in getting into this field?
Honestly, I had no clue what else I wanted to do with my life. I’m in recovery myself, and when I became sober I didn’t want to go back into sales. I didn’t know what I wanted to get into, so a counselor at the facility I was at recommended going into this field. They helped me go back to school to get everything I would need. Although I was originally scared to death of going back to school, once I started looking into it I got really excited about it. I dove in head first and started working in admissions and in a residential program while going to school full time. I pretty quickly realized that I wanted to keep going after I got my initial certification, so I’m now pursuing my bachelor’s degree with a plan to get my master’s degree after.

What do you think it is about Roots Through Recovery that sets it apart from other treatment facilities that you’ve seen?
It’s the environment and team for sure. When I was in treatment, I never had the luxury or privilege of going to a facility like this. I always had the standard nonprofit one-size-fits-all mold. We have so many types of treatments, therapies, and experiences here for people to see what works best for them. Every facility says that they have “personalized” treatment, but I’ve never before seen such personalized treatment that really focuses on the individual. It’s also such a tight-knit team that helps everyone. I’ve never been a part of a team that works so closely and communicates so well.

What have you learned while working at Roots Through Recovery?
Kind of like how the treatment isn’t one-size-fits-all, sometimes success isn’t either. Success doesn’t necessarily mean that the client doesn’t relapse, but it might just be about an overall life change or giving them the tools they need to function in society whether sober or not. The goal is not just staying sober, but also about addressing the trauma that they’ve experienced. Identifying that trauma and learning how to address it has helped me recognize some of my own patterns as well.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Well these days I’m mostly going to work, school, and also planning my wedding for May. In the little free time I have, I enjoy going to the gym — I’m trying get back into a shape that’s not round — and I like going new places, having new adventures, and eating new food. I’ve learned in the last year or so that i really enjoy going to amusement parks like Disneyland. My fiancée and I will go to Disneyland for a couple hours on a Friday evening, and we also love going up to Yosemite every year. I enjoy local things too as long as I’m doing something new and having fun.

WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU

For immediate assistance, please call our Admissions Specialists at +1(562) 473-0827 or +1(866) 766-8776.

For more information or to start admissions – fill out the form below and we’ll reach out to you as soon as possible:

Home Detox vs. Medical Detox

Home Detox vs. Medical Detox

To break the cycle of drug or alcohol addiction, you must first conquer your physical dependence upon the substance. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines “detox” or “detoxification” as a process that lets the body rid itself of a substance as withdrawal symptoms are managed. NIDA acknowledges detox as being the first step in drug rehabilitation programs, which is then followed by behavioral therapy and medication if needed.

Methods of Detox

Detox means cleansing the system of the drugs that have been affecting the mind and the body which have been harmful to yourself and to those who care about you. It is imperative that the detoxification phase takes place before rehab begins in order to remove all traces of addictive substances from your body.

When the detox process is undergone, the body goes through a state of withdrawal that can cause certain symptoms, some of them painful or dangerous, depending upon the substance being cleansed and the length of time addiction has lasted.

There are basically two methods to undergo the detox process. These include medical detox and at-home detox.

Natural Detox at Home

At first glance, accomplishing or going through a natural detox process in your own home sounds like a good idea. The words “natural” and “at home” may be attractive to many who do not want to venture out to a clinic, rehab center or physician to rid themselves of substances when they feel it can be done in a more comfortable setting: their own home. However, there are quite a few good reasons why home detox is not the answer for most people seeking to achieve sobriety.

Home detox can be dangerous, especially if you decide to attempt the process on your own, without the support of friends and family. Performing detox at home by going “cold turkey” can be harmful and even deadly, most notably if you attempting to withdraw from alcohol, benzodiazepines or opiates.

The withdrawal symptoms during detox can include heart palpitations, seizures, hallucinations, delirium tremens (DTs), panic attacks, depression, confusion, insomnia, irritability and depersonalization. These are just a few examples, based upon different substances of abuse.

Without the support of medically trained assistants, an at-home detox procedure can be extremely uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally.

Another reason for not attempting at-home detox is that this type of detox does not usually have successful outcomes.

Without the additional support of cognitive behavioral therapy and medications to control withdrawal symptoms, many people give up or end up relapsing in the short term.

Medical Detox

Because in-patient detox focuses on lessening the severity of withdrawal symptoms and on providing support to clients throughout the process, this method is preferred over at-home detox. With medical detox, patients overcome addiction by careful oversight of the detox process by medical professionals.

The symptoms of withdrawal that can be so discomforting are managed with medications at a high-quality in-patient facility such as Roots Through Recovery. Physicians can prescribe anti-anxiety medications to calm patients and treat tremors. Other medicines are available to help patients through detox, a few of which include:

  • Suboxone for opioid addiction. It blocks opioid receptors that block pain.
  • Naltrexone helps prevent the effects of opiates and decreases the desire for taking opioids; it also reduces the pleasure received from drinking
  • Acamprosate reduces cravings for alcohol
  • Disulfiram induces sick feelings in the abdomen when drinking

Medical detox is agreed upon by most doctors to be the most successful path to withdrawal and eventual lasting sobriety.