The Role of Hydration in Detoxification and Addiction Recovery
The importance of being adequately hydrated can not be understated. And this concept is certainly nothing new. Most of know that hydration is important for a variety of reasons related to proper functioning of the mind and body.
However, there are other reasons why hydration is an important component in substance abuse treatment – during detox, withdrawals, and addiction recovery.
Withdrawal symptoms occur when a person halts the use of an addictive substance. They occur most often when someone is dependent on a drug, but temporary symptoms can manifest themselves after a period of abuse. For example, after a night of drinking, the hangover you encounter the next day is partially due to withdrawal effects.
The symptoms of substance withdrawal are typically the opposite of the desired effects garnered from drugs or alcohol. Withdrawal from stimulants makes one feel moody, lethargic, and tired. Withdrawal from depressants make one nervous, shaky, and agitated.
Depending on the amount and frequency of use, withdrawal symptoms can last hours or days. Withdrawal symptoms are not usually fatal, but it does happen. Withdrawals from from alcohol and benzodiazepines and especially dangerous.
For many long-term users, detoxing in a medical facility is preferable to ensure safety and increase comfort.
How Water Helps with Detoxification
Drinking water helps with detox (and addiction recovery) because it flushes the body of toxins using the urinary and digestive system, as well as through sweating and perspiration. Electrolytes are particularly important to bring the body back into balance.
Simply put, proper hydration (along with nutrition) gives your body the tools it needs to be efficient during detox and withdrawal.
The faster and more efficiently the body rids itself of toxins, the sooner withdrawal symptoms will end. Many withdrawal symptoms are manifestations of the detox process.
During this time, many symptoms arise or increase in intensity. This is largely because the body just can’t rid itself of the substance fast enough for its own liking. Consuming significant amounts of water during this time can hasten the process.
During withdrawals, cravings for the substance can be quite intense – a big reason why relapse is so common during this stage. Because drinking water hastens toxin elimination, it thus decreases cravings, since cravings are a product of withdrawal.
When exposed to the detoxifying effects of water and electrolytes, our body’s cells attempt to revert back to their normal healthy state. It is the substances that cause an abnormal state, but fortunately, cellular memory kicks in once the substance has been removed. It’s sort of like a “reset” button.
What is Dehydration?
Dehydration occurs when the body has lost fluids (mostly water) which exceeds the amount ingested.
When the body is attempting to recover from addiction, vital fluids will be expended out of the body. The body uses these fluids to remove the toxins which remain after addiction.
Alcohol is a diuretic, and stimulants suppress appetite and increase body activity. Thus, dehydration is very common.
Symptoms of Dehydration
When you are undergoing detox and withdrawals, you may not even realize the effect that dehydration is having on your body. It can be well-disguised beneath other troubling symptoms.
- Increased thirst
- Dry mouth and swollen tongue
- Dry eyes
- Heart palpitations
- Inability to sweat
- Decreased urine output
Recovering can cause dehydration very quickly, not only due to expended water, but also via vomiting and diarrhea. For this reason, many people who undergo medical detox are put on an IV.
How To Stay Hydrated During Addiction Recovery
If you undergo a medical detox enter a treatment facility, this won’t be a problem. Water intake (in addition to IV) is something that will be highly stressed by medical staff.
However, if you detox at home or must continue recovery after detox on your won, here are some good ways to keep yourself hydrated.
#1 Meet or exceed the daily water intake noted above.
#2 Utilize other means of ingested water, including soups, broths, juices, and foods high in water (i.e. watermelon).
#3 Avoid caffeinated beverages because they increase fluid loss.
#4 Increase water intake during exercise and period of increased activity.
#5 Drink a large glass of water as soon as you wake and right before bed.
#6 Use reusable bottles. Tap water is cheaper and often more easily accessible.
#7 If you want more taste, use lemon or try flavored vitamin water. Be creative if you need to. Whatever provides you more incentive to drink water is a good thing.
#8 Hunger is sometimes confused with thirst. Drink water when your hungry and with meals.
If you are doing the above and still feel hydrated at times, don’t get discouraged. Keep it up, especially in the early phases of detox and withdrawals.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A, Psychology