How Long Does Addiction Detox Last?

There are many different factors that will affect the duration of your addiction detox process. In fact, the length of this process will largely depend on you as an individual person, the intoxicating and mind altering substances that you were abusing, the duration of your addiction, and the existence (if any) of additional co-occurring mental health disorders, among others.

Factors Affecting Detox Durations

Detox can be taken to mean many things. For starters, it is the process by which intoxicating and mind altering substances are eliminated from the body. It can also mean the process of managing withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings.

Irrespective of the definition, you can be sure that addiction detox is an important first step that you have to take once you get started on the journey to recovery from a substance use disorder.

That said, detox often takes anywhere between a couple of days to some months. The duration will largely depend on a wide variety of factors, such as how long it takes for you to achieve physical stability. Other factors that could have a role to play in the duration of this process include but are not limited to:

  • How often you used to abuse these substances
  • If you have been through a detox program in the past
  • If you were abusing multiple substances
  • The dose of drugs that you used to take at any given time
  • The existence of co-occurring mental health and medical disorders over and above your addiction
  • Your age
  • Your favorite substances of abuse
  • Your gender
  • Your history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Your medical history

Often, a medically managed detox program would be designed in such a way that it can help you go through withdrawal in a safe and controlled way. Although the time that it would take for drugs to start leaving your system will vary from one person to another, detox could take anywhere between 3 and 7 days.

That said, addiction detox is now considered to be an important first step to addiction recovery. To this end, you should not consider it to be a substitute for addiction rehabilitation services.

On its own, addiction detox cannot address all the behavioral, social, emotional, and psychological issues linked to substance abuse and addiction. As such, it cannot produce the lasting behavioral changes that are essential to your full recovery.

Detox Durations for Commonly Abused Substances

As we mentioned above, the type of drugs that you take will play a role in determining how long it takes for you to completely detox your body, brain, and system. This is because different intoxicating and mind altering substances will be lodged in your system for different time periods. As such, they can affect the duration of your addiction detox program.

In many cases, you may find that you are able to achieve stability after about a week of treatment if you are enrolled in a medically managed addiction detox program. However, your drug cravings might still continue persisting for several months after your treatment.

Some of the serious withdrawal symptoms that you experience during this process might not seem to be fatal, especially if you develop diarrhea and vomiting. However, these symptoms can also cause rapid dehydration that could prove to be life-threatening.

To this end, you should always go through detox after checking into a medically managed and supervised program. This is the only way you can be sure that you will be safe and secure during your addiction detox.

In the following paragraphs, you will learn more about the durations of detox for different intoxicating and mind altering substances:

1. Alcohol

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms like shaking, insomnia, and anxiety will begin 24 hours to 2 days after you get started on the addiction detox program. These symptoms will then peak within the first 72 hours of your last drink. 3 to 5 days after, you may develop more severe symptoms, including hallucinations, fever, and seizures. After the first week, these physical withdrawal symptoms will start tapering off. However, you might still continue experiencing cravings until you check into an addiction rehabilitation program.

2. Sleeping Pills and Barbiturates

24 hours to 2 days into your detox, you may develop withdrawal symptoms like circulation problems, shaking, insomnia, and anxiety. A few days after your last dose of these substances, these symptoms might start peaking. This will largely depend on the severity of your substance use disorder and the strength of the doses you used to take at any given time.

In some cases, however, your withdrawal symptoms might be delayed and only start about a week after your last dose of barbiturates and sleeping pills. When they come up, however, you will probably experience rebound insomnia that could be worse than your initial diagnosis until it is treated.

3. Benzodiazepines

Within the first 24 hours of quitting these drugs, you may experience early withdrawal symptoms like muscle pain, headaches, nausea, and irritability. About 72 hours later, you could develop peak symptoms, including but not limited to palpitations, dry retching, restlessness, shaking, irritability, and anxiety.

After a week, you may experience rebound insomnia. However, this withdrawal symptom only affects a small percentage of patients who are going through addiction detox for benzodiazepine abuse.

If you suffer severe withdrawal, it could last anywhere between 10 and 14 days. Often, it will be accompanied by changes in your perception, difficulty concentrating, and weight loss.

4. Hallucinogens

Some hours after your last dose of hallucinogens, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, drug cravings, and headaches. If this happens, these symptoms will most likely start peaking before tapering off during the first week of your addiction detox program.

About a week after, you may suffer changes in the dopamine reward system in your brain. This could lead to altered mood up until your normal and natural levels of dopamine start stabilizing.

5. Marijuana

One of the best ways to undergo addiction detox for marijuana is to ensure that you continue exercising, eating healthy foods, and staying hydrated. All these activities could potentially ease your initial withdrawal symptoms.

These symptoms often include physical effects like stomach issues, insomnia, headaches, reduced appetite, and mood changes. However, you might also experience some psychological symptoms of withdrawal. They include higher levels of depression, loss of focus, irritability, and intense marijuana cravings.

Most of these systems, however, should abate once your body has started producing THC on its own to the natural levels that it used to produce before you started engaging in marijuana use.

6. Heroin and Opioids

Opioid withdrawal is largely dependent on the type of opioids that you were abusing, as well as how fast acting they were. If you were addicted to heroin, withdrawal might start a couple of hours after your last dose. It will often be accompanied by frequent yawning, insomnia, sweating, runny nose, teary eyes, anxiety, and muscle pain.

This drug could also cause you to develop peak withdrawal symptoms like rapid heart rate, blurry vision, goose bumps, abdominal cramping, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. However, they will often taper off after you have been in an addiction detox program for while.

Even when this happens, however, you could still experience seizures, dehydration, loss of appetite, and digestive issues, among others. If you have been diagnosed with a severe opioid use disorder, it is highly likely that you will experience anxiety, depression, sweating, cravings, irritability, and insomnia that could persist for over 6 months after your last dose of an opioid drug.

7. Stimulants

Examples of stimulant substances of abuse include methamphetamine and cocaine. When you stop using these drugs, you may go into an initial withdrawal crash. This crash could be accompanied by altered mood, irritability, body aches, and fatigue.

If your substance use caused brain damage, there is a high risk that you could develop psychotic or depressive symptoms. In such a case, your poor concentration, depression, drug cravings, erratic sleep, and lethargy may persist for a long time.

However, intense drug cravings are among the most persistent of all the withdrawal symptoms that arise after a period of stimulant abuse. In many cases, they often continue for several months even after you have been through a comprehensive addiction detox program.

Getting Help

Irrespective of how long addiction detox takes, it is essential that you continue with the program for as long as possible. Detox is the first - and one of the most important - step to recovery.

While struggling with a substance use disorder, checking into a professional addiction detox could end up saving your life. This is because the program could provide you with medications and other essential services to manage your withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings.

A medically managed addiction detox program is also ideal because it could raise your chances of achieving full sobriety after a period of substance abuse and addiction. The services provided would also prove useful in preparing you for further treatment and rehabilitation.

Over the long term, it does not really matter the amount of time that you would typically have to spend in an addiction detox program. The important thing is to ensure that you have been able to overcome your physical dependence, and that your withdrawal symptoms have been properly and professionally managed.


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