Drug detoxification, or detox for short, is the process by which the body clears itself of mind-altering substances. There are many options for detoxifying from drugs, one of which is through an at-home detox. Over-the-counter medications and supplements can help treat the symptoms of drug withdrawal and make the detoxification process easier.
Stimulants are drugs that increase heart rate, metabolism and other bodily functions. Drugs in this class include amphetamines, cocaine, ephedrine and piperazines.
Stimulant detox is usually not a health danger, but it may cause unpleasant side effects, including extreme fatigue, increased appetite, nausea, depression and clouded thinking. The goal of stimulant detox is to allow the body to recover from the strain of stimulant abuse while replenishing stores of vital nutrients and rebuilding normal energy levels.
Opiates are drugs derived from the opium poppy that are used to treat severe pain. Morphine, codeine, hydrocodone and heroin fall under this category.
Like stimulant withdrawal, opiate detox isn’t considered dangerous for a reasonably healthy person. It can be extremely unpleasant, however, and may include symptoms such as increased pain sensitivity, nausea, diarrhea, depression and cold and flu-like symptoms. Those detoxifying from opiates should focus on treating physical withdrawal symptoms and re-training the body to produce its own endogenous pleasure chemicals.
OTC Detox Aids
Several over-the-counter medications and supplements are available that can help ease the symptoms of drug detox, many costing less than $20.
For the fatigue of stimulant withdrawal, the herb yerba mate is an effective remedy. Its MAOI properties also make it a potential mood brightener, which can be helpful during the mental “crash” of stimulant detox. Other stimulating herbs include gingko biloba, Korean ginseng and guarana.
The gastrointestinal effects of drug withdrawal can be eased using the herbs ginger and peppermint. According to Nih.gov, ginger causes fewer side effects than Dramamine and is as effective at relieving certain types of nausea. Imodium (loperamide) stops the diarrhea and cramping associated with opiate withdrawal, while medications containing doxylamine succinate can help ease insomnia and anxiety.
Outlook and Lifestyle
During drug detox, it's normal to feel mentally and physically run down. Get plenty of bed rest during this time, and stick to bland foods that are less likely to cause stomach upset. Treat withdrawal as you would a bad case of the flu—with plenty of rest and relaxation.
As physical withdrawal symptoms fade, you may begin to feel restless and irritable. Vigorous exercise is an excellent stress reliever that can help boost the production of endorphins, serotonin and other pleasure chemicals in the brain. Keep a journal of your progress, and don’t hesitate to call on your support network of friends, family and medical professionals for help and advice. Counseling, psychotherapy and 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous can all be effective in helping maintain a sober lifestyle.
Certain drugs including alcohol, benzodiazepines and some sedatives can cause dangerous withdrawal effects that can be harmful or deadly. Never attempt to quit these drugs without the help of a trained medical professional, and avoid abrupt cessation of all drugs to avoid potentially dangerous effects.