Acute treatment services are an important step in addiction recovery, for people who have a high risk for withdrawal symptoms, pressing medical needs, and who are seeking to achieve abstinence from drugs or alcohol. It involves a highly intensive routine and constant care for a variety of medical needs. In acute treatment, a holistic approach is required. You won’t just be treated for drug dependence; you will be treated for any urgent medical need you may have. Addiction affects multiple aspects of your life and may lead you to infectious disease, injuries, and poor self-care. In an acute treatment program, all of these needs should be met.
What Is Acute Treatment?
Acute treatment services involve highly intensive care 24/7 for about a week depending on your specific needs. Here, you will have access to medical staff that manages your progress and monitors your condition at all times. This level of care is designed to ensure your safety at all times while you go through drug withdrawal symptoms, which can cause medical complications. The word acute refers to a patient’s most pressing needs that have to be addressed as soon as possible. For instance, a person who comes in for an alcohol use disorder may be at risk of experiencing dangerous withdrawal symptoms, like seizures.
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Acute treatment services are a vital part of the process and help people reach their initial sobriety while continuing addiction service can help preserve it. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), acute treatment services are the first step on the continuum of care for people that need detox. While some people stop after detox, it’s not effective in treating the deeper aspects of addiction on its own. Addiction is a disease that affects the reward center of the brain in a way that causes it to rewrite the way you perceive drug use. Reward and motivation are programmed to seek your drug of choice like it is a vital part of your survival. To address addiction, work should be continued after services terminates.
Still, acute treatment answers immediate needs for safety and comfort that would get in the way of your progress if ignored. Someone who is going through acute withdrawal symptoms and is at risk for a seizure won’t be able to concentrate on clinical services—such as group therapy—and is in need of detox.
Why Is Detoxification Necessary?
Medical detoxification primarily seeks to address the problem of drug dependence that comes with the frequent use of certain psychoactive drugs. Dependence affects the chemical communication pathways in your nervous system and unbalances your brain chemistry. Different drugs affect the brain in different ways but, in general, dependence occurs when the brain stops producing some of its own chemicals and starts to rely on the drug you’re introducing.
In some cases, the brain might start producing chemicals to counteract the drug in an attempt balance your brain chemistry, but the drug will continue to suppress natural chemicals, especially if you increase the dose when you feel your tolerance growing.
Over time, a buildup of chemicals with opposing effects to the drug accumulates in your nervous system. When you stop using the drug or cut back on your doses, the chemical floodgates will be unleashed, causing a variety of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal can be different for each person depending on several factors, including:
- The type of drug you have been using
- The size of the doses you have been using
- The length of time you’ve been using
- The size of your last dose before quitting
Drug withdrawal symptoms can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening, and, depending on the drug, they can cause cognitive, psychological, and physical effects. For instance, opioid withdrawal symptoms are extremely uncomfortable and mimic flu symptoms. They aren’t typically dangerous, but they can lead to dehydration which can cause serious medical complications. Stimulants that work on dopamine like meth and cocaine are more likely to cause emotional symptoms during withdrawal, like depression, anxiety, or apathy.
In severe cases, these symptoms can cause suicidal thoughts or actions. Depressants like benzodiazepines and alcohol are the most dangerous during withdrawal and can cause life-threatening seizures and delirium.
Acute treatment services are also equipped to medical conditions and complications that aren’t directly related to withdrawal. Active addiction is closely tied to medical issues like infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis. Intoxication can also lead to accidents and injuries. However, acute treatment can also address unrelated medical issues. The goal of this is to help you achieve long-lasting recovery. To be effective, treatment must answer all needs in order of their urgency. Pressing medical complications need to be addressed as soon as you enter a treatment program and acute treatment services can help.
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How Services Work
These services are a holistic, medically managed level of care addiction treatment; it will start with a comprehensive initial assessment. This assessment will include reviewing medical history, a mental health evaluation, and a social evaluation. Once you are stabilized and able to sit down with a clinician, you may go through a biopsychosocial evaluation, which is an in-depth look at your biological, psychological, and sociological needs with a licensed therapist. This will help build a foundation of knowledge that allows your therapist to help you form the best plan for your individual needs.
Acute treatment may also involve medications that help alleviate symptoms, avoid dangerous complications, and help you begin your recovery. Overall wellness is a top priority and whole-body healing is emphasized. Depending on your needs, you may be placed on short-term medications to help you get through the detox process to abstinence.
As you go through the detox process, you will work with clinicians that will help you find the next step once you’ve completed the process.
If you’ve been struggling with a substance use disorder and you’d like to learn more about how addiction can be treated, there are resources available to help you make your next step. If you are thinking of quitting and want to learn more about our services, speak to an addiction specialist at Serenity at Summit.
ASAM. (n.d.). American Society of Addiction Medicine from https://www.asam.org/resources/the-asam-criteria/about
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016, February). Medical detoxification from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017, March 21). Frequently Asked Questions from https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/frequently-asked-questions#withdrawal