How Long Does Drug Detox Take

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Detoxing from any substance requires a period of abstinence to allow the body to cleanse and  return to a balanced state. Detoxing from commonly misused drugs such as alcohol, opiates, methamphetamines, and benzodiazepines is the first step in the recovery process, but the amount of time it takes to detox depends on the individual. A person’s age, weight, and physical health as well as the intensity, length, and type of substance use in question will determine how long a drug detox takes. 

Understanding Drug Detox 

A drug detox is necessary when someone has become physically dependent on a substance and needs to keep using it to function or feel normal. The detox process begins with ‘acute’ withdrawal symptoms, which may be intense and even life-threatening, and then progresses to what are known as ‘post-acute’ withdrawal symptoms, which tend to be less severe. 

The human body is designed to detox naturally and reject substances like alcohol, but drugs can overwhelm these natural detox systems and stress your organs and nervous system, which is why attending a medically supervised detox is the gold standard when it comes to treating addiction. A medically supervised detox provides you with peace of mind knowing that professional help is nearby to get you through any withdrawal symptoms you may experience as safely as possible. 

Five Top Misused Drugs & Thier Detox Timelines

Although different drugs affect the brain and body in different ways, it’s still helpful to have an overview of what the detox process might look like. Continue reading for more information on the detox process for some of the most commonly misused drugs.

Alcohol Detox

Detoxing from alcohol can be very dangerous and requires medical supervision. Withdrawal symptoms tend to kick in 24-72 hours after a person’s last drink and intensify at the 48-hour mark. The entire detox process usually takes up to eight days in total, but heavy drinkers may take longer to detox and may also begin experiencing more intense detox symptoms within just a few hours of thier last drink. 

Delirium tremens is a severe and potentially lethal alcohol withdrawal symptom that can last for three to five days and usually begins on the second or third day of an alcohol detox. Delirium tremens is a medical emergency that can be accompanied by seizures, tremors, and hallucinations, and requires hospitalization.

Cocaine Detox

Cocaine withdrawal can begin a few hours after use and is often described as a “cocaine crash.” This crash or letdown period can last for ten days and includes a range of withdrawal symptoms including fatigue, anxiety, paranoia, and irritability. The post-acute withdrawal period can last for ten weeks and includes symptoms such as depression, sleep cycle disturbances, and appetite changes. 

Some long-term withdrawal symptoms include headaches, depression, and drug cravings for at least six months after the initial detox process. Severe or long-term cocaine use can alter a person’s brain and body chemistry to the extent that they need to be tapered off the drug little by little, sometimes with the help of another opioid like Methadone to avoid shocking the body. This practice of using drugs to help people detox is known as medication-assisted treatment and is used in many addiction rehab programs. 

Prescription Opioid Detox 

Prescription opioid medication is highly addictive and dangerous to detox from. Withdrawal symptoms kick in 6-30 hours after use and may include physical aches and pains, fatigue, high blood pressure, insomnia, and anxiety. Withdrawal symptoms tend to intensify at the 72-hour mark and can last for up to a week,  including stomach pain, drug cravings, depression, and nausea. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms can last for two weeks and may include severe nausea, depression, and other psychological side effects. 

Methamphetamine Detox 

Detoxing from meth is dangerous and requires professional supervision. People often experience a range of intense psychological withdrawal symptoms including hallucinations, paranoia, drug-induced psychosis, violent outbursts, severe depression, and suicidal thoughts. Withdrawal symptoms kick in 24 hours after use and continue for a week to 10 days. Mild detox symptoms may continue for another three weeks, and meth cravings can persist for several weeks or months after the initial detox process is complete.

Benzodiazepine Detox 

Detoxing from benzos is extremely dangerous and should never be done without the supervision of a medical professional. Stopping benzos cold turkey can cause grand mal seizures, which is why people must be slowly tapered off of these drugs. Withdrawal symptoms kick in 24 hours after use and intensify at the 48-hour mark. Acute withdrawal symptoms can last for up to four weeks, and post-acute withdrawal symptoms can continue for up to eight weeks. Withdrawal symptoms include muscle pain, headaches, panic attacks, anxiety, psychosis, and suicidal thoughts. It’s important to note that there are fast-acting benzos like Xanax, that have more intense withdrawal symptoms, and long-acting benzos like Valium that tend to have less severe detox symptoms. 

Find Your Path to Recovery

At Quest 2 Recovery, our holistic treatment philosophy is focused on the unique needs of the individual. Our knowledgeable and professional team members offer incredible support and guidance to everyone who attends one of our programs and also help oversee the practical details involved with attending treatment to make your path to recovery as smooth as possible. With a trauma-based approach in a safe, family-like environment, we offer medical detox and tailored treatment plans to help people of all ages learn more about and resolve the underlying issues that cause substance abuse. If you or someone you love is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, contact us today.

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