10 Oct Pros and Cons: Outpatient Medical Detox
Each day seems to be getting worse.
The weight of everyday life, and the burden of responsibility and expectations consumes your every waking move.
Willpower has vanished. Self-respect has dissipated. Family has shown their resentment, and you’ve shown your own. Friends are noticeably concerned. Co-workers seem disconnected and cold around you. Even your own dogs cower and nervously wag their tales the moment you walk inside the door.
The world around you feels as though it is looking at you through a lens; you feel you’ve become a prisoner without a cage; a monster without a purpose; a former shell of something that once was good; a walking, breathing entity of negativity, shame, hopelessness and despair.
The low moments of alcoholism are dark and miserable, and the lower moments, are torturous and impossible to describe. The chemical dependence of alcohol has turned you into a puppet, and its very own personal slave. No, you don’t have to do any favors for it or beg for its forgiveness—all you have to do is keep doing one thing: drink, drink and drink.
Playing host to alcoholism is as close to living hell on earth as you’re likely to experience. The conscious realm of life is like a weight of unthinkable pain and constant craving; and once you fall asleep, the unconscious realm is just as haunting, horrifyingly cruel and disturbing as reality —and with each passing day—the walls within these two separate worlds become blurrier, and blurrier and blurrier.
But, today, for whatever reason, something feels different.
Something just clicked; something changed; something happened.
You don’t know why, or how, or even what it is, but, you just know, at the bottom of your heart, that something did. The want to enter detoxification from substance abuse don’t always happen quite like this, but when/if it does, it is important to recognize it, accept it and take action.
Today, you’ve simply had enough of the pain and destructive pattern you have been living day in and day out. Today, you decided to take action.
Today, you decided to detox.
The decision to participate or enter some sort of detox treatment certainty doesn’t come without its pitfalls. The unknown of how your mind will feel, or what your body will do, is a scary, albeit important, realization. Nonetheless, it takes a brave individual to 1.) admit to themselves that they have a problem and 2.) acknowledge the fact that the following hours, days, weeks, months and potentially even years will be extremely difficult, uncomfortable and painful.
So, if/when the decision of detoxification enters your life, what should you expect? During and after detoxification, patients will typically endure these three different stages of alcohol withdrawal:
What is Outpatient Medical Detox?
Outpatient medical detox in relation to inpatient intensive care, implies that patients are not required to stay overnight in a medical detox facility. Around the clock care is not provided via an outpatient setting, and it is the patient’s responsibility to go to therapy, counseling and doctor appointments individually.
Usually administrated in a hospital, medical office or specialty clinic—outpatient medical detox is intended to help support patients during their alcohol withdrawal (AW) and mitigate its uncomfortable, emotionally draining and potentially dangerous symptoms. It’s important to note that successful completion of detoxification is not a long-term solution or treatment plan from drug and alcohol abuse; in other words, detox should be used as a transitional method in the recovery process and help to put patients in a different state of mind during long-term recovery.
Phase 1.) Usually occurs approximately 7 to 10 hours after the individual’s last drink. During this time, individuals will endure feelings of agitation, restlessness, stomach pain, dizziness, vomiting, loss of hunger, confusion, overwhelming sadness, anger, night sweats, increased heartrate, etc.
Phase 2.) Usually 1 to 3 days after an individual’s last drink from alcohol, the patient may endure feelings of overwhelming shame and/or hopelessness. Increased body temperature and unusual heart beat is also common during this phase. Visible hallucinations, nightmares, severe confusion, trembling, etc. are also common symptoms.
Phase 3.) Typically, stage three of AW usually occur 4+ days after a patient’s last drink from alcohol. During this time, the separation from alcohol can result in seizures, tremors and convulsions. Insomnia, vomiting, suicidal thoughts and thoughts of hurting others are also common. All symptoms will usually dissipate or reduce in severity after one week of alcohol detox.
Let’s take an introspective look into the pros and cons of outpatient medical detox, which is a highly debated topic in conjunction with inpatient medical detox treatment:
Monetarily, outpatient services can save you and your family hundreds to thousands of dollars. Because you do not need around the clock care, housing, food and other accommodations, outpatient medical detox may be the more feasible option for some patients.
Depending on your location of living, outpatient medical detox treatment may be difficult to routinely visit and seek counseling for. If you have a DUI, revoked license, or have trouble staying sober during treatment, getting to and from the detox facility may be infeasible for outpatient services. The good news is, however, there are several high quality outpatient programs located throughout the United States. Public transportation may be the best alternative option for you if personal transportation does not work.
Pro: Personal Accomplishment
Unlike intensive inpatient services, outpatient treatment requires that you take action.
Around the clock staff members won’t be in your house with you—pushing you on and encouraging support. Successful detoxification from alcohol, in an outpatient environment, implies you were able to push yourself to counseling and stay sober, without receiving constant care and guidance from trained physicians.
In this stage in your life, having the resilience to stay sober is a huge accomplishment. The confidence you will get from overcoming what your brain wants (alcohol) versus what your heart wants (sobriety) will lead you in to the next phase of recovery with some positive momentum behind you.
From Netflix to video games, from Sunday NFL football to hanging out with friends and family—life is full of distractions.
Having distractions aren’t necessarily a bad thing, however, in the case of detoxification and recovery, distractions can potentially be dangerous.
All your focus should be centered and geared towards yourself. Although distractions are important and can prove constructive during detoxification, it’s common for them to deter what it is your trying to accomplish. Detoxification and separation from alcohol can resort in the feelings of boredom and restlessness.
Instead of working on yourself, visiting a combination of doctors and therapists, exercising or meditating—you might decide to do something harmful that isn’t necessarily abusing alcohol or other substances; for example, the urge to gamble, porn, prostitution, overeating, etc., can all be different forms of negative distractions in replacement of alcohol.
Pro: Friends and Family
Around the clock professional care and staff may not be available with outpatient treatment, but friends and family members may be present during this time. The love and support given from family/friends may prove more beneficial and authentic to patients enduring detox and AW. Depending on the nature and severity of the situation, family/friends can be more effective than professional care due to their understanding of the situation.
Con: Friends and Family
The consistent presence of friends/family can certainly have its bad side as well. Detoxification is commonly associated with agitation and anger, which can put friends/family in a potentially dangerous, and even deadly, situation.
More likely than not, friends/family are not trained professionals and may lack the experience and understanding of the severity of symptoms associated with AW. For patients with children or younger siblings, seeing a family member during this time can be disturbing and can potentially put them in harm’s way. If something were to happen, patients may be subject to losing custody and have their children put in protected services.
Pro: Continue to Live your Life
Outpatient medical detox may serve as an extremely beneficial treatment option due to the flexibility and time structure of treatment. For patients where losing employment is of concern as well as earning an income, outpatient medical detox gives you the opportunity to both seek counseling and continue to go to work or work from home. Exercise, surfing, going to the gym, playing basketball, cycling, swimming, etc., are all activities you can continue to do while you seek treatment. Inpatient care may have limited alternatives of exercise, which can defer patients from “blowing off steam” constructively.
Exercise during detoxification is monumentally important to the state of mind and wellbeing of patients going through AW. The depletion of endorphins due to the separation of alcohol is the reason for so many of the negative side effects associated of AW. With outpatient medical detox, a patient is able to do the physical things he or she loves to do, which can help encourage the release of endorphins and dopamine (the body’s natural reward and feel-good chemicals, to be released). Without exercise, patients are much more susceptible to discomfort, pain, anger, insomnia, anxiety and depression.
Con: Exposure to Same Negative Influences
Outpatient medical detox serves many constructive benefits, but one of the most potentially harmful consequences is your environment. It is likely that most of a patient’s substance abuse was done in the home where he or she currently is going through detoxification. Due to the brain’s chemical dependence on alcohol, even the subtlest nuance can trigger a wave of abuse and further deepen the wound of recovery.
A certain smell in the kitchen, a commercial on television, a certain poster or picture on the wall, the neighbor’s cat next door, anything at all, can suddenly send the urge to abuse alcohol to skyrocket. Friends who may not understand what it is you’re going through can unintentionally encourage or persuade abuse as well.
Pro: Keeping Things Private
For some, going through detoxification can be an extremely embarrassing and revealing moment in someone’s life. Many people don’t want others to know what it is they are going through, and are very good at “keeping things under wraps.” Outpatient medical detox allows patients to communicate and stay present with the world around them, but also gives them the opportunity to better themselves and what it is that keeps them from feeling happy.
Other than immediate friends and family, no one has to know what is you’re going through because you’re not in an inpatient treatment center.
Con: Consistent Professional Care
Although you do set up a specific treatment plan that is designed to give you the best possible counseling and healing, outpatient medical detox will not give you around the clock care. In more severe circumstances, where AW may be more dangerous and require consistent care, professional staff won’t always be there to take you of and provide the comfort (either through medically assisted treatment or emotional support) you may need during that situation. This can result in deciding to end detox and continue substance abuse, which will prolong recovery and potentially rescind your chance of recovery.
Consistent care means you always have someone to talk with and vent what it is you’re feeling. When you’re in an outpatient medical detox environment, sometimes the only thoughts you will be hearing will be that of your own, which can prove detrimental and dangerous. You also don’t have a sober network of people going through a similar situation, which can you help to feel comforted and social. If you’re alone or without friends/family, outpatient medical detox can be an extremely lonely battle, and can increase the symptoms associated with AW.
Pro: Combination of Other Therapy
It is very possible that the reason of your alcohol abuse is due to many different emotional problems, which may require very different forms of therapy. Outpatient medical detox gives you the opportunity to seek a combination of counseling and treatment options. Creating a therapy network of off-site specialists may give you the best chance of successful detoxification.
Villa, Lauren. “Outpatient Detox Guide: What Is Outpatient Treatment?” Detox.net. 17 April 2017. 14 Mar. 2019. https://www.detox.net/outpatient/
“Can You Detox through an Outpatient Program?” American Addiction Centers. 14 Mar. 2019. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/outpatient-treatment/detox
“Outpatient Drug Rehabs.” Addiction Center. 14 Mar. 2019. https://www.addictioncenter.com/treatment/outpatient-rehab/