The COVID-19 pandemic challenged us in many ways, and one worrisome result has been that people dealt with the often overwhelming stresses of the past two years by adopting some unhealthy coping mechanisms, especially with regard to the use of alcohol and drugs.
According to USA Today, nearly one fifth of adult respondents who participated in a survey about their drinking habits reported that they had participated in “heavy drinking” during the previous 30 days. A heavy drinking day is defined as one during which a woman consumes four or more drinks and for men, five or more drinks.
We know that isolation usually exacerbates drug and alcohol use, and if anything has defined the past two years, it is social isolation. A more distressing fact is that alcohol may weaken the body’s immune response to COVID-19, per the World Health Organization (WHO).
Unfortunately, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that both substance use and overdose rates have increased since the pandemic was declared a national emergency in March of 2020. The chaotic conditions we have lived with also present special challenges to people who are in recovery. Similar to those who drink unhealthy amounts of alcohol, people struggling with substance use disorders tend to have poorer COVID-19 outcomes.
The fact that alcohol and substance use disorders are epidemics at this point, treatment programs are much needed across the country, and in western North Carolina. In response to this, I’m pleased to announce that Transylvania Regional Hospital (TRH) is offering a Medical Detox Services program for our community.
What is medical detox and what does it involve for participants? Medical detox is the initial step one takes in their journey toward recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction. Patients going through the process are eliminating addictive toxic substances from their systems. In order for this to be done safely, medical supervision is necessary.
It’s important for patients to be evaluated and monitored medically as they detoxify, because once a person starts the process, they experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms as their body goes through the steps to be independent of the substances they’ve become addicted to. Irritability, fatigue, shakiness, vomiting, muscle pain, and mood changes are just some of these difficult-to-endure symptoms.
People who are addicted to alcohol, benzodiazepines (drugs that are prescribed for anxiety, panic disorders, seizures, sleep disorders, and as muscle relaxants), and opiates benefit from a medical detox program.
Every person’s needs are unique during detox, but our patients’ average length of stay tends to be three to five days. A patient must be referred to the program and go through a screening process to determine if the program can appropriately meet their needs.
Once a patient is admitted into the program, they receive a call from our Intake Coordinator confirming that they meet the required criteria to participate and to inform them that a bed is available at the hospital. The opportunity to speak with the Intake Coordinator is offered seven days per week, from 7am to 2pm. The next step is for the patient to register in person at TRH. They settle into a private room with various comforts, including internet capabilities, TV, and nourishing meals.
Detox program patients receive 24-7 care, as well as telehealth support, by highly skilled medical providers and nurses and get referred to post-detox programs as well, as part of their customized after care plan. Every participant’s medical history and current health are reviewed and monitored for the duration of their treatment.
As I mentioned earlier, medical detox is the pivotal first step on the road to recovery. A patient can’t start that journey in earnest until their body has been cleared of substances. To learn more about the program, contact us at 828-777-3821.
As with every service line at TRH, our stellar core of nurses drive our success, and our Medical Detox program is no exception. We celebrate these extraordinary caregivers in May during Nurses Week, May 6-12.
No matter whether you’re an inpatient or outpatient, our nurses provide you with the most highly sophisticated and safe care, delivered with efficiency and great compassion. They balance so many competing demands in the best of times, but we owe them special thanks after all they have done for us during the pandemic. Their dedication is unmatched at TRH.
Michele Pilon, MS, BSN, RN, NE-BC, is the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Transylvania Regional Hospital. Her diverse professional experience includes service as a bedside nurse and over a decade as a leader at healthcare institutions in Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina. Ms. Pilon earned a Bachelor’s in Nursing from Ohio’s University of Akron and a Masters in Health Services Administration from the University of St. Francis in Illinois; she is also a Board-Certified Nursing Executive.