Detox has been a household name in the health and wellness niche. Fitness gurus and drink sellers claim they work, but what does research truly say about detox drinks? Are they a cure-all concoction, or a marketing hoax? Learn more about detoxes in this post.
In recent years, many people have joined the bandwagon on drinking detox mixes. Even some big names in the health industry claim that you can “reset” your body with cleanses that are supposed to “flush out” toxins in the body.
Consequently, many health and fitness professionals have created their own version of cleanses to be sold in wellness stores. Coaches and alternative medicine specialists also promote their own lists of ingredients for homemade detox juices and shakes, along with the claim that they target specific ailments in the body. With so many resources dedicated to detox, what should people truly know about detox? Let us dig deep into what detox is, along with unbiased information about their effectiveness.
What Is Detox?
Detox or detoxification, in general terms, is defined as the process of removing toxins from the body. From the prefix “de-” and “toxification”, it is comprised of various methods that can help the body get rid of harmful substances for different reasons. Some of the common purposes of detox include the following:
The detox drinks we often hear in the media are commonly marketed to promote weight loss. These green juices, shakes, pills, teas, and other products have the goal of circulating in the body while removing fat buildup. Many of the drinks contain plant-based food, such as leafy greens, citrus fruits, and fiber that aids in digestion and satiety.
Diseases and conditions
Another use of detox claimed by healthcare professionals is for healing certain diseases and conditions. For example, there is information spreading on the internet about a gallbladder flush that helps remove gallbladder stones by using a combination of olive oil and herbs. However, an article at Quack Watch claims that these are ineffective methods, as the “stones” passed during these cleanses aren’t really gallbladder stones, but more of oil and combination of body secretions.
Additionally, people who take in detox cleanses and juices also have the intention of keeping their body healthy. From a scientific standpoint, this makes sense because most detox drinks contain large portions of fruits and vegetables. For example, consuming detox green shakes may be healthy because people tend to consume more leafy greens in their diet.
This last common reason why people detox may be less popular but highly relevant. Although detox in the field of substance use disorder may not always be in the form of juices or drinks, they are nevertheless effective in helping people overcome the sting of withdrawal. Moreso, detox is used to decrease an individual’s dependency on addictive substances such as drugs or alcohol.
These reasons may be varied, but they all share the same goal of removing “toxins” from the body. Whether it’s unwanted fat, a buildup of foreign bodies, or addictive substances, the purpose of detox is to reset and restore the body as it once was.
Perhaps you’ve come across this post to find more information about how you can detox for substance use disorder at home. Although this method is possible, there is a risk that entails when attempting to have a do-it-yourself addiction detox. Here are some things you should know about detox in relation to substance use disorder recovery.
The Most Common Ways To Detox
There are various ways to detox from drugs and alcohol, and their effectiveness depends on different factors. The methods often used are:
- Use of partial agonist drugs: Partial agonist drugs are those which mimic the effects of addictive substances but to a much lesser extent. This supposedly helps reduce the dependency of the person towards drugs or alcohol. Partial agonist drugs are given at specific times and specific doses. Without these strict guidelines for taking the medications, there is a chance that addictions will also develop towards these drugs. For example, opioid addiction can be ‘detoxed’ using methadone as a partial agonist.
- Use of antagonist drugs: If partial agonists act to mimic, antagonist drugs work in the body by reducing the effects given by the addictive substance. In simpler terms, they ‘numb out’ the pleasurable feelings even as the person takes their usual dose of drugs and alcohol. The goal of using antagonist drugs is also to decrease one’s dependence on addictive substances. An example is naltrexone, which is used to block the positive feelings associated with heavy alcohol use.
- Tapering off: This method is done by using the same addictive substance but reducing the dosage per day. Tapering off is much safer than quitting drugs or alcohol abruptly as the side effects can be observed and safely managed.
- Nutrition-based: Another type of substance use disorder detox is through the use of nutrition-based strategies. People who want a more natural way of healing their bodies can go through fasting, drinking juice, tea or shake cleanses, and eating a balanced diet to jumpstart their metabolism for the removal of toxins. Detox diets, short-term fasting, and stress seem to be interrelated as some neuropathic studies link water fasting as a means to improve overall wellness.
- These drug and alcohol detox strategies can be done separately or in combination with each other, depending on the severity of the addiction.
Which Toxins Are Eliminated?
The toxins eliminated in your body when performing a detox are the components of the addictive substances you have previously taken. Although you cannot sweat toxins out of your body, performing any of the detox methods mentioned above can aid your kidneys and liver in the process of removing the remnants of the addictive substances.
Some of the common toxins expelled are:
- Diacetylmorphine (the active component of heroin)
- Amphetamines (prescription or street drugs such as molly)
- Ethanol (alcohol)
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (the psychoactive component of marijuana)
The type of toxin removed is determined by the addictive substance taken by the individual. Each substance has its own active component that reacts with the brain’s chemistry as it forms an addiction.
How Effective Are These Diets Or Cleanses?
There are many studies that point to the effectiveness of detox methods. According to researchers, advancements in substance use disorder rehabilitation saw the positive effects of detoxification methods, which implies that these strategies should be implemented in various healthcare settings.
Treatment Improvement Protocols (TIP) for substance use disorder disorders suggest that Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is one of the pharmacological advances related to substance use. MAT is the use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs to help patients ease through the withdrawal stages of drug or alcohol abuse. This helps people to cope with the discomforts much more easily, and also to significantly decrease the dependence of the addictive substance.
More specifically, there are three FDA-approved drugs that are already used during the detoxification process. For example, buprenorphine, naloxone, and methadone are commonly used to treat opioid abuse.
As for natural or holistic detoxification methods, there is also evidence of how healthy diets improve the mental well-being of patients. Dietary modifications through the consumption of more vegetables, fruits, lean meat, and whole grains are associated with lesser symptoms of clinical depression. Although this does not tie directly to the use of cleanses and juices, it implies that incorporating a healthy diet can help reduce mental health triggers for addiction in some patients, such as depression, anxiety, or other psychological disorders.
Important note: The proof of effectiveness in these studies are based on professional settings. This means that people who plan to undergo detoxification must seek the help of addiction specialists. Do-it-yourself strategies may be ineffective, and there are life-threatening risks in performing detoxification at home. The next topics will also show the risks and benefits associated with drug or alcohol detox.
There are many reasons why people with addictions should opt for a professionally-assisted detox:
Safe management of withdrawal symptoms
The main purpose of detox in the addiction rehab setting is to manage withdrawal symptoms safely. When done in a medical and professional setting, patients can rest, take their medicine accordingly, and receive round-the-clock care in case unexpected events arise.
There are many cases where people tried to detox by themselves and suffered complications. A 41-year-old inmate in Watauga Detention Center died from the effects of alcohol withdrawal, as well as True Blood actor Nelson Ellis.
Another goal of detox is to decrease one’s dependence on addictive substances. When taking antagonist or agonist medications, the effects in the brain are dampened in order to lessen the cravings associated with drug or alcohol use.
By decreasing the dependency, specialists are able to eliminate the physical aspect of the problem which helps patients to proceed in treating substance use disorder triggers.
Increased chances of long-term sobriety
Undergoing detox in a professional environment helps improve the chances of achieving long-term sobriety. This is because environmental triggers are removed during detox–access to alcohol or drugs are prohibited, and controlled settings allow people to focus on staying sober. Attempting to detox at home may be ineffective as an uncontrolled environment may lead a person to “give in” once again to addictions because of extreme discomfort.
Safety And Side Effects
Detox in a high-quality rehab center is generally safe and effective. Trained experts are available to address any medical or personal issues that may occur during the detox process. That being said, it is important to go through the substance use disorder detox with medical help and not through do-it-yourself remedies.
Even if you think you can handle the effects of withdrawal at home, it is still best to get the professional assistance that you need. When the body and brain experience drastic changes, there are unexpected reactions that may be fatal when unattended. Here are some known side effects of detox from drugs or alcohol:
- Muscle pain
- Anxiety and depression
- Watery eyes
- Flu-like symptoms
- General discomfort
It is important to know about the side effects of detox before proceeding to have one. It helps set realistic expectations, along with a motivation to complete the process altogether. Also, know that these side effects subside as days pass by during the detox period. Once the body “flushes out” and resets itself sans the addictive substances, it will be easier for you to function during the treatment period.
The Verdict: Does Detox Really Work?
The simple answer is yes–detox does work! However, alcohol or drug detox is only truly safe and effective when done in a trusted rehab facility. When these evidence-based methods are combined along with your commitment to be addiction-free, your sobriety is definitely within reach.
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- Nccih.nih.gov – “Detoxes and Cleanses: What You Need To Know”.
- Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – “Withdrawal Syndromes”.
- Mayoclinic.org – “Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet”.
- Quackwatch.org – “The Truth about Gallbladder and Liver ‘Flushes’”.
- Time.com – “Are Smoothies Healthy and Good for Weight Loss?”.
- Pcssnow.org – “Methadone and Buprenorphine: Opioid Agonist Substitution Tapers”.
- Ocw.mit.edu – “Alcohol Antagonists”.
- Uamshealth.com – “Can you sweat toxins out of your body?”.
- Emcdda.europa.edu – “Heroin Profile (Chemistry, Effects, Other Names)”.
- Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – “Detoxification and Substance Use Disorder Treatment”.
- Dmh.mo.gov – “Medication Assisted Treatment”.
- Fda.gov – “Information about Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)”.
- Journals.lww.com – “The Effects of Dietary Improvement on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety”.
- Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – “Alan Goldhamer, dc: Water Fasting—The Clinical Effectiveness of Rebooting Your Body”.
- Nbcnews.com – “Death of ‘True Blood’ Actor Nelsan Ellis Spotlights Risk in Detoxing Alone”.
Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.
Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.