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Detox Shouldn’t Be a Punishment for Addiction

Addicts and non-addicts alike may hold the belief that detox is supposed to be some kind of punishment. Whether you believe in divine retribution, karma, or just physics, the law of cause and effect is central to how we think. If addiction is the fault of the addict, then the discomfort of detox is the punishment. Unfortunately, this line of reasoning is deeply flawed, and worse, it’s counterproductive.

The belief that detox should be a punishment  begins with the faulty premise that addiction is a moral failing. The more we learn about addiction, the more we understand that this just isn’t true. Addiction depends on a complex interplay of genetics and circumstances. Your genes are completely beyond your control and addiction often takes root when your circumstances are beyond your control too. There may be some room left to blame moral failing, but not much.

Addiction often stems from trauma or abuse. Although no one chooses to be abused or traumatized, victims often blame themselves and internalize a deep feeling of shame. They feel inherently bad because of what happened to them and that shame often drives addictive behavior. If an addict believes she deserves to suffer through detox because of her addictive behavior, it’s really just an extension of the belief that she is inherently bad. The feeling that she deserves to be punished only validates and compounds the original shame and makes recovery more difficult.

The more painful detox is, the more it reduces likelihood of getting help. It can be hard to work up the courage to detox. Imagine how much harder it would be if detox meant locking you in a room for a week, sliding your meals under the door, and letting you endure whatever withdrawal decided to throw at you. That’s punishment, but it’s not what anyone wants. If that was detox, fewer people would try it–at least voluntarily–and if you did happen to relapse, you would be less likely to try again.

Detox isn’t just shaking, nausea, and sweating. Withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, sometimes fatal. Addicts may sometimes feel like they deserve to die, but their families don’t. Detox is the first step toward a better life and you can’t have a better life if you’re dead.

Finally, less painful doesn’t mean easy. Some people do have a relatively comfortable detox and some people have a much rougher time. It depends on the severity of your addiction, how you body adapts to withdrawal, and how you respond to medication. No two people have exactly the same experience and whatever discomfort you feel in detox has little to do with what you “deserve.” The important thing is recovery, not satisfying some abstract notion of what’s fair.

The Serenity Recovery Center at Encino Medical Hospital is offering your loved ones a new way to begin their journey of recovery. Excellent clinical care, medical management, and the highest levels of comfort are our priority at Serenity. Call us today for information: 866.294.9401