Detox is a popular word in pop culture. It sounds nice to be able to purge your body of all the excess chemicals and toxins that are muddying up your systems. Detox kits are products or diets that purport to have all you need to squeeze every last bit of unwanted chemicals from your body.
If you have a substance use disorder, it may sound especially attractive. You know that getting off a drug is going to be uncomfortable. If something can make you feel better faster, it’s worth a shot, right? The word detox is thrown around on morning talk shows, and by pseudo-medical authorities like Dr. Oz, so it must be legitimate. Right?
However, detox can mean a lot of different things. There are, of course, methods to ease the discomfort of detox to some degree and there are ways to get through drug withdrawal safely. Detox kits are sold online, and you may even find recipes to make your own. Are these viable alternatives to medical detox programs?
Learn more about how the body works to cleanse your system and how detox kits offer more fiction than fact.
Detox kits are used for two main reasons: to cleanse the body of toxins or to remove traces of a drug in your system. Both uses are extremely popular among health nuts and people who need to pass drug tests. However, there is very little evidence that they do much for either use.
Detox kits can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They may be sold online or in head shops as expensive supplements that contain fiber and “detox liquid” or other nondescript terms. Some detox mixtures contain a wide variety of exotic sounding all-natural ingredients that can run you well over $100 for one container.
However, one of the most famous detox methods is actually fairly cheap, and something you’re able to make at home. The Master Cleanse is just water, lemon juice, and sometimes syrup and cayenne pepper. In many cases, these detox kits and diets come with dietary instructions and a time table as to how long you should do it.
Detox kits and cleansing with supplements or diets has grown into a huge industry. So big, in fact, that there have been many studies that look into the effects of these detox kits and cleanses. Up to now, the idea of the dietary cleanse has been all but completely debunked by scientific research and medical professionals are generally at a loss as to why people still do it. If you look up a YouTube vlogger who touts the benefits of detox diets, you might hear something like, “People don’t realize that we have so many stored toxins in our bodies.” But that’s not necessarily true.
A wide variety of chemicals can be toxic in excessive amounts including oxygen and water. However, it takes large amounts for them to reach toxicity. Your body is designed for you to be able to breathe air, drinking water, and eat food of many different kinds. You will encounter all kinds of chemicals, substances, and particulates in your daily life that your body is prepared to process.
Your liver and kidneys are designed to filter out unwanted items that make their way into your body. And they are pretty good at their job. Alcohol can be toxic at much lower doses than oxygen, but even that can be successfully filtered out when you moderate how much you consume.
People report feeling focused and clear-headed during the master cleanse. People who use detox say they helped allow them to pass drug tests with flying colors. If detox cleanses are all fake, why do they seem to work? There are several reasons that detox methods seem to have some effects.
For instance, the Master Cleanse involves dramatically decreasing your calorie intake. When your body is low on calories, it can divert some of the energy it would use to digest food and use it to fuel your brain. This physiological feature allows you to focus and find food when it’s most important. However, a calorie deficit will result in fatigue and other issues if it goes on for too long.
Intermittent fasting, which is what some of these cleanses encourage, does have a few proven benefits. However, it has less to do with removing so-called toxins from your system and more to do with calorie restriction and giving your digestive system a break.
Everyday living and eating usually don’t leave harmful toxins in your system that your liver and kidneys can’t take care of. But what about when you don’t moderate well enough with substances like drugs or alcohol? Your liver cleans your blood by removing chemicals that might harm the rest of your body. However, when you drink too much alcohol or take drugs, the psychoactive chemical gets past your liver and makes its way to your brain. Most drugs then affect your brain’s communication pathways and cause or influence the release of feel-good chemicals in your body. After repeated use, your brain will get used to the presence of these chemicals in your body and come to depend on them.
If you stop using your drug of choice abruptly, you will start to feel uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms aren’t necessarily occurring because of the existence of a toxin, but because of the lack of one. When your brain adapts to the presence of a psychoactive substance, it will balance your neural chemistry around the drug. When you stop using, your brain chemistry will become unbalanced, leading to withdrawal.
Medical detox lasts for about a week (between five and 10 days). After a few days, most drugs will have left your system. For instance, alcohol has a half-life of about four hours, and you will stop feeling its effects after six to 16 hours depending on how much you drink. However, after developing a chemical dependence, you will continue to feel withdrawal symptoms long after the drug has left your system. Even though the so-called toxins have left your body, it takes time for your brain to re-adapt to life without the chemical.
A drug may become toxic in large doses, which leads to an overdose. Alcohol may slow your breathing, impair your concentration or cause an irregular heartbeat or pancreatitis. During an overdose, medical attention is needed to alleviate the toxic effects of a drug.
Addiction is a chronic disease that primarily affects the brain’s reward center. On your own, severe substance use disorders can be incredibly difficult and even dangerous to overcome.
Because some drugs can be potentially dangerous during withdrawal symptoms, it’s important to speak to a medical professional before attempting to detox. The safest way to achieve sobriety is to go through a medical detox program, and the most effective way to prevent relapse is to go through addiction treatment.
To learn more about your addiction treatment options, you can speak to an addiction treatment specialist at Serenity at Summit. Call 844-432-0416 at any time to hear about the therapy options that are available to you. Addiction may be a chronic disease, but it’s one that’s treatable. Call anytime to start your road to recovery.
Hsu, C. (2019, January 08). I Survived the Master Cleanse-Then Gained All the Weight Back. Retrieved from https://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20409931,00.html
Mattson, M. P., & Wan, R. (2005, February 26). Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095528630400261X
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016, February). 8: Medical detoxification. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification
Rusyn, I., & Bataller, R. (2013, August). Alcohol and toxicity. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3959903/