Drug And Alcohol Detox: Process, Side Effects & Timeline

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The process of detox from drug and alcohol use can last up to a few weeks but is essential in building a foundation for long-term sobriety. There are several factors to consider before you or a loved one begins a detoxification program.

Drug And Alcohol Detox: Process, Side Effects & Timeline

The journey to addiction recovery starts with detoxification. This process rids the body of harmful toxins ingested while using drugs or alcohol and helps people regain control of their lives.

While the prospect of detox can be daunting, with adequate preparation and a general understanding of what to expect, people in need of addiction treatment can enter detox with the tools they need to succeed in sobriety.

The information below may assist you in gaining a more thorough understanding of the detox process including side effects, different types of detoxification, how to help a loved one in withdrawal, and more.

What Happens During Drug And Alcohol Detox?

In drug and alcohol detox programs, medical personnel will monitor the process to ensure that clients are safe, stable, and getting the emotional support they need during withdrawal.

Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms that may require monitoring include:

  • inability to sleep
  • irritability
  • depression
  • diarrhea
  • sweating
  • nausea and vomiting
  • paranoia
  • disorientation
  • confusion
  • elevated heart rate and blood pressure
  • seizures
  • sedation
  • high body temperature
  • intense cravings
  • auditory, visual, or tactile hallucinations
  • shaking or tremors
  • anxiety
  • aches and pains

The process may begin with a thorough physical and psychological assessment, which will determine the treatment plan and level of care going forward.

People with severe substance use disorder may need to attend a residential detox program, which entails admittance to a hospital setting and 24-hour care and support.

Treatment may include administering medications to make withdrawal symptoms less severe, as well as therapy and other types of support to address the underlying causes of addiction.

How Long Does Detox Usually Last?

The length of time it takes to detox from alcohol or drug abuse will vary widely depending on several factors.

Influencing factors may include:

  • the type of substance abused
  • the overall health of the person detoxing
  • personal history of alcohol or drug addiction
  • any underlying medical conditions or health problems

Withdrawal symptoms for substances such as alcohol or opioids may start within hours of last use and last three to seven days, while stimulant withdrawal symptoms may take several weeks to fully subside.

Detoxing At Home Versus In A Medical Detox Center

While detoxing in a medical setting is the safest way to endure the withdrawal process, some people may wish to try at-home detox for privacy, comfort, and lower cost.

It’s important to know that detoxing at home comes with a host of risks that may prove to be dangerous and even life-threatening, particularly with substances such as alcohol.

Severe withdrawal symptoms such as seizures and hallucinations require medical supervision. If complications arise, immediate medical assistance may not be available at home.

Detox Process By Substance

If you or someone you care about is considering medical detox, you may be wondering what to expect.

The primary goal of detoxing is to provide a safe place to physically withdraw from substances while learning new coping techniques to deal with the psychological toll of substance abuse.

The detoxification process and timeline will differ for each person depending on the type of substance being abused and the severity of the addiction.

Alcohol Detox

Seeking medical detox for alcohol addiction is very important, as the sudden cessation of alcohol use may trigger a wide range of dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • tremors

The effects of alcohol withdrawal syndrome may include delirium tremens (DTs), which is a disruption in the central nervous system that can cause cardiovascular collapse and death.

Detoxing from alcohol use disorder may take three to seven days, with the worst of the withdrawal symptoms occurring in the first 48 hours after alcohol consumption ceases.

Meth Detox

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant that requires specialized care during the detox process due to the intense physical and mental effects associated with its use.

Withdrawal symptoms from meth may include agitation, extreme paranoia, depression, and fatigue. The most critical stages of meth withdrawal occur in the first 10 to 14 days.

Cocaine Detox

Medical care is crucial during cocaine detox to monitor vital signs and provide any clinical support for severe withdrawal symptoms.

Most people will see cocaine withdrawal resolve within three to four days of quitting. Acute withdrawal symptoms may include suicidal thoughts and depression.

Heroin Detox

Heroin is a highly addictive illicit opioid that often requires close medical attention during detox. Inpatient treatment is recommended for people seeking heroin detoxification.

Withdrawal from heroin may include symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and anxiety. Medications such as buprenorphine, methadone, or naltrexone may be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms.

Opioid Detox

Opioids besides heroin, which may include prescription painkillers such as fentanyl and oxycodone, can cause severe physical dependence that requires medical supervision during detoxification.

Opioid detox typically takes at least seven days, with withdrawal symptoms lasting up to 14 days or longer depending on the severity of the opioid use disorder.

Common Side Effects Of Drug And Alcohol Detox

There are a range of side effects that may occur as the body adjusts to the absence of a substance. The side effects of drug and alcohol detox may be mental, physical, or emotional in nature.

Physical Side Effects

Physical side effects will differ depending on the substance used and length of abuse.

Some of the most common physical discomforts may include nausea and vomiting, muscle aches and pains, and mild to severe tremors.

Mental Side Effects

The most common mental side effects of detox include anxiety and restlessness, particularly in people detoxing from stimulants.

Feelings of sadness or difficulty with focus and cognitive function may also occur while the brain adjusts to changes in neurotransmitter levels.

Emotional Side Effects

Mood swings, feelings of isolation, heightened emotional sensitivity, and other emotional fluctuations are common during detox.

Appropriate mental health supervision and support from loved ones are critical in helping alleviate the emotional side effects of withdrawal.

How To Find A Drug Or Alcohol Detox Facility

Choosing the right detox facility is crucial in the journey to recovery. Below are some of the most important considerations when choosing a drug or alcohol detox center.

Considerations may include:

  • location and accessibility
  • level of accreditation and licensure at the facility
  • whether the program provides transition plans for continued care after detox
  • the cost of the detox program and what types of health insurance plans are accepted
  • how previous clients have reviewed the experience of detoxing at the facility
  • any specialized care offered at the facility

The Difference Between Medical And Social Detoxification

While medical detox is the most widely adopted method for detoxification, some people may benefit from social detox.

The difference between medical and social detox is that social detoxification does not utilize medications, and emphasizes the use of counseling to help people through withdrawal.

Medically monitored detox involves medical professionals overseeing the process and administering medications to manage uncomfortable or dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Social detox is often the most cost-effective, as it does not require clients to stay in a hospital setting, but can be very dangerous without a trained clinician present.

Prior to beginning detox, an assessment will occur to help determine the severity of the addiction and which detoxification method would be most effective.

Preparing Yourself For The Detoxification Process

It is crucial to thoroughly prepare for the detox process to ensure that the experience will be safe and successful.

Talk To A Healthcare Professional

Consult with a doctor or addiction specialist prior to detox to receive guidance and any recommendations they have for the safest approach to take.

A healthcare provider will also go over your personal risk factors, health conditions, and any other important information you may need to know before entering treatment.

Packing For Detox

Depending on whether you’ll be in a residential or outpatient setting, you will need to gather essential supplies to take with you.

These items may include prescribed medications or supplements, hygiene items, clothes, and more. You can learn about what you’re allowed to bring by contacting the detox center directly.

Taking Care Of Work Or Family Obligations

Detox can take several days or weeks, followed by intensive therapy and support. It’s important to plan ahead and notify friends, family, and employers before beginning the process.

If you have family responsibilities, be sure to make arrangements for a trusted relative or friend to help with them during your absence.

How To Support Yourself Through Drug Detox

There are several ways you can support yourself through the detox process that can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and build a strong foundation for continued treatment.

Eat A Healthy, Balanced Diet

Nutrition plays a vital role during detoxification.

A balanced diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and plentiful water intake can help replenish the nutrients that were diminished during substance abuse.

Get Plenty Of Sleep

Restorative sleep can help immensely in the body’s healing process.

Creating a calm and comfortable sleep environment, as well as using relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or mindfulness meditation, can help enhance sleep quality.

Minimize Stress

Detoxing is inherently stressful on the mind and body.

Engaging in stress-reduction activities such as yoga, reading, meditation, or listening to soothing music can help alleviate unnecessary stress.

How To Help A Loved One Experiencing Drug Or Alcohol Withdrawal

If you have a close friend or family member who is entering detox, there are several ways you can be a source of encouragement and strength.

Some of the ways you can help include:

  • offering emotional support through non-judgmental, open communication
  • educating yourself on the substance that your loved one is detoxing from and the potential challenges they may face
  • being patient with your loved one, celebrating small victories, and offering encouragement
  • fostering a positive environment by removing any triggers that may tempt your loved one to relapse
  • engaging in activities such as puzzles, walks, or other hobbies that can help take their mind off of cravings and discomfort

Our detox FAQ page can answer any additional questions you may have about detoxification, including what to expect, the risks of drug detox, the process of detox, and more.

How To Help Your Partner Going Through Withdrawal

Supporting your partner through withdrawal can make a profound difference on their path to recovery.

Below are some of the best ways to offer assistance when your partner enters detox.

Learn About Addiction

Learning more about addiction, its causes, and treatment options will help you provide more effective support to your partner.

Visit Them In Treatment

If your partner is in an inpatient treatment center, visiting them regularly is important.

Being physically present will provide comfort and motivation to your partner during the most challenging moments of detoxification.

Participate In Therapy

Drug and alcohol rehab programs will usually include some form of family or couples therapy.

Participating in therapy, where appropriate, can help you and your partner navigate the challenges of recovery and strengthen your relationship in the process.

Provide Space For Recovery

Sometimes providing your partner space is one of the most effective ways to help them during recovery so that they can focus on themselves and the underlying causes of their addiction.

It’s also helpful to establish healthy boundaries to protect your own well-being so that you can effectively support your partner.

What To Expect After Drug And Alcohol Detox

After completing drug and alcohol detox, most people will need to transition to a residential or outpatient recovery program to continue treatment.

Residential Treatment Facilities

People with moderate to severe addiction will likely be encouraged to transition from detox to a residential treatment program.

Residential programs provide structured environments that offer various types of behavioral therapy, counseling, and skill-building activities to assist people in regaining control of their lives.

Other evidence-based services may include:

Outpatient Addiction Treatment Programs

Some people may prefer an outpatient treatment center after detox. Outpatient care allows for more flexibility in where a client lives and how much time they spend in therapy.

Outpatient programs typically involve individual or group therapy to learn and practice healthy coping skills, dual diagnosis treatment, and more.

Regardless of the level of care, all people seeking sobriety will be encouraged to build a strong support network of friends, family, and peers in recovery.

A strong support network is essential in preventing relapse in the months and years following the completion of a substance abuse treatment program.

Find A Drug And Alcohol Rehab Program Today

Reach out to DetoxRehabs.net today for more helpful information about substance use disorder treatment services.


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