Medical professionals use the word “acute” to describe conditions that are overwhelming and severe. Broken bones, heart attacks or asthma attacks are all examples of acute conditions, and they’re typically treated in emergency rooms by qualified medical professionals. People with addictions often need this kind of acute care in order to recover, as the symptoms they face during detox are overwhelming or perhaps life-threatening.

Sub-Acute Detoxification

Sometimes, people who have very serious addictions don’t run the risk of developing serious complications during detox. They might need help in order to recover, but they might not need the level of help that doctors would deem to be acute.

These people are sometimes placed in sub-acute detoxification programs, so they can get the appropriate level of care they’ll need in order to beat back an addiction.

Understanding Detox Placement

There are a number of different detox settings that could be considered appropriate for a person who has an addiction, and families might be tempted to choose the program that offers the smallest number of options and the highest number of restrictions. By putting someone into a program that’s intense and severe, they reason, they’ll be able to ensure that the addiction slips away for good. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration suggests, on the other hand, that the ideal form of care for a person with an addiction is the “least restrictive” form of care that’s appropriate for that person’s health and safety.

It’s a difficult term to understand, but in essence, experts suggest that people with addictions should be given the right to experience care in a setting that doesn’t interfere with their personal freedoms, while keeping them safe from the harms an addiction can cause. They must get better, but their rights as human beings must also be respected.

Subacute detoxification fits into this model beautifully. With this type of treatment, patients are provided with the support, medications and monitoring they need in order to recover, but they’re not subjected to intensive medical care or overwhelming pharmacological or psychological interventions. Their therapists meet them where they are, providing a level of care that’s appropriate for the intermediate level of discomfort they might face in a detoxification program.

Subacute Formats

People who need subacute care might receive that help in a variety of different settings, including:

  • Intensive outpatient programs
  • Doctors’ offices

Typically, they’re provided with an intense level of monitoring, so that providers can ensure that sobriety is arriving in a safe and controlled manner, but they might not be required to live inside the walls of a hospital in order to get well. In residential programs, patients might live on site, but they might spend their detox days strolling the grounds of the facility, participating in therapy or otherwise interacting with the world. They’re not cooped up as much as they are healing in motion. In some cases, patients even live at home as they detox, coming in for monitoring in a series of appointments.

Studies suggest that detoxification programs that take place in the patient’s home may sometimes work as well as detox programs that take place in a facility. For example, in a study in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, researchers found that rates of completion were similar among people who were enrolled in a residential detox program and people who went through the process at home. With proper supervision from friends and family, at-home subacute detoxification can really work.

But some people with addictions need the additional help that a subacute residential detox program can provide. In such a program, they have access to therapies that can help them to understand their addictions on a deeper level, and they’re able to develop an understanding of why they must change and how they can make it happen. In an article in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, experts suggest that this level of care is better for people who have spent years getting sober and then relapsing. They need intensive care to break through, and residential programs are best.

Working the Program

No matter where the subacute detox program takes place, it tends to follow a typical format. In the beginning, patients undergo blood and/or urine tests, so experts can determine how much of an intoxicating substance is present in the person’s body. The patient might also be asked to outline prior drug-using habits, so experts can look for issues that might cause concern down the line.

Then, patients are provided with details about the symptoms they might expect, including:

  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Aches and pains

They might be provided with over-the-counter medications to soothe this distress, or some facilities might use prescription medications to ameliorate more dangerous symptoms that might appear. Counseling sessions might also be used to help clients understand and work through detox.

Patients might also be given information about symptoms that could indicate a more serious form of withdrawal, including hallucinations and seizures. Any sign of a problem like this should be immediately reported, and patients and their families are urged to comply with this rule. If these symptoms do appear, medications can be used to soften the impact.

Medication and Monitoring

It’s this medication and monitoring aspect that sets subacute programs apart from at-home, DIY care. People who try to recover alone often have no idea what to expect from the recovery process, and they’re often unable to react when something terrible happens.

They just don’t know enough, and they don’t have resources that can help. A subacute program is a much better option as a result.

In a few days, patients often feel well enough to continue to work on the addiction, and according to a study in the British Journal of Addiction, attendance in a follow-up program is associated with higher levels of recovery. Those who stop at detox tend to slide right back into addiction, as they simply don’t know what else to do in order to keep their cravings in check. Those who go on to rehab, however, tap into a huge amount of knowledge and they tend to recover as a result. It’s the best step when detox is through.

If you’d like to know more about subacute detox, please call us at Black Bear Lodge. This is the kind of care we can offer our patients, and we build on their successes in our evidence-based, Dual Diagnosis rehab facility. We know how scary it can be to even think about getting sober, and we know how hard it might be to even consider staying sober for a day, much less the rest of your life. We’d like to reassure you that our subacute detox program won’t punish you or harm you, and our counseling sessions can really help you to learn more about what you’ll need to do to build a sober life that sticks. Just call, and we’ll tell you more about it.