Going through detox is the first step in drug or alcohol addiction recovery. Detox is the detoxification process of the chemicals from alcohol and drugs leaving your system. It’s physically uncomfortable and can be emotionally overwhelming, but it’s the critical first step on your recovery road. The good news s that the detox phase doesn’t last very long – if you can hang on through the first few days, especially if you opt for supportive medical detox, then many of the worst withdrawal symptoms wane, and your body is free from the addictive substance.
How Long Does the Detox Process Last?
It depends on the substance or substance you’re getting treatment for, and it can last as little as 72 hours or as long as a couple of weeks. At Baystate Recovery Center, we offer intensive, supportive drug and alcohol rehabilitation and can help you find the right detox facility before starting one of our evidence-based rehab programs. Many of our clients are referred by our counselors and begin the program right after detox.
How Long the Detox Period Lasts, By Substance
While many of the most serious withdrawal symptoms, like headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea, may make you feel like you’re dying, elevated heart rate and rapid dehydration can actually be life-threatening. If you’re detoxing from two substances at the same time, then you may have mixed symptoms or more intense symptoms. Complications from alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal can be deadly, so medical supervision is necessary if you’re detoxing from one of these.
|Substance||0-2 Days||3 – 5 Days
|After the First Week|
|Alcohol||Withdrawal symptoms begin||Symptoms peak at 72 hours/ risk of DTs the highest||Withdrawal symptoms taper off||May experience cravings throughout withdrawal|
|barbiturates||Anxiety, insomnia, shaking, or heart circulation problems||Withdrawal symptoms peak||Some users experience delayed withdrawal symptoms||Rebound insomnia is possible and may be worse unless treated|
|Nausea, muscle pain, and irritability||Peak intensity including dry heaves, anxiety, and shaking or heart palpitations||Rebound insomnia possible||Severe withdrawal lasts about 10-14 days and includes weight loss and difficulty concentrating.|
|Cravings, sweating, and headaches||Peak symptoms, but tapering off around day 3||Altered mood until dopamine levels stabilize||Cravings throughout recovery for PCP users|
|Heroin or opiates||Muscle pain, teary eyes and runny nose, sweating, nausea, and insomnia||Diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramping; blurry vision and rapid heart rate||Loss of appetite and dehydration, digestive issues; seizures are possible||Heavy users may see persistent symptoms for up to 6 months, including insomnia and irritability, cravings, and depressive symptoms|
|Marijuana||Mood changes and reduced appetite||Headaches, stomach problems, irritability, and mood swings||Mental symptoms include depressive symptoms, difficulty concentrating, and loss of focus||Cravings often subside once the body resumes making its own THC|
|Stimulants like meth and cocaine||Body aches, altered mood, and irritability||Depressive or psychotic symptoms from brain damage||Erratic sleep patterns and lethargy, intense cravings, poor concentration||Cravings are the most persistent symptom and can continue for months|
Medically supervised detox for all addictive substances is available, though, and can help ease the physical pain of early withdrawal. And, medical detox facilities are usually safe and supportive, so you can rest and sleep as much as you need. Your body has been through a lot with your addiction, and healing takes a lot of energy out of you. Medical detox facilities can provide the nutrition you need while you’re detoxing.
Changes in Your Brain During Detox
When someone is addicted to alcohol or drugs, their brain chemistry changes, instead of relying on the natural chemicals in the brain for elevated mood or mood regulation or feelings of joy or accomplishment, an addict’s brain relies on the substance. Their brain reduces the production of chemicals like serotonin and dopamine because the drugs or alcohol they use to act on the same pleasure receptors as those hormones.
When someone stops using drugs or drinking, it can take a while for the brain to resume hormone production. The first few weeks and months after detox can leave someone feeling a lack of joy or pleasure in activities they once used to like – many people describe the first weeks in recovery as profoundly “meh.” The good news is that your brain will heal if you stay sober and resume creating mood-boosting and regulating hormones.
Detox is the First Step in Recovery
For people suffering from Substance Use Disorder (SUD), detox can help ease them through the painful withdrawal symptoms and may even save their lives. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, we can help. Baystate Recovery Center offers compassionate, evidence-backed treatment options, including intensive outpatient therapy, relapse prevention strategies, and family counseling which can help families come together after addiction. Contact us today to learn more about your options and for a referral to our partner programs for medical detox.