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Entering a medical detox center is one of the most important steps on the road to recovery, but exactly how long is detox? The thought of putting responsibilities, like work, to the side for a period of time may prevent some from entering a drug/alcohol detox facility. Even when it is obvious that person should admit to a detox facility they will delay it until the inevitable happens. Some of those struggling with drug or alcohol abuse issues will use their responsibilities as an excuse as to why they can’t go get help at that time. The truth is, life will always be happening. There is never a time where absolutely nothing is going on, the best time to enter a medical detox center is always now.

When someone delays and postpones entering a medical detox program they will only dig themselves deeper into the pit of addiction/alcoholism. Detox is a necessary step, one must rid their body of the toxins that have built up during their use. Drug and/or alcohol abuse will disrupt brain chemistry and create a serious imbalance. While in a facility they will be able to stabilize themselves, overcome painful withdrawals and get their brains back to normal. With the help of a professional medical staff and comfort medications, the withdrawals will be minimalized, making it much easier to comfortably get the body back to the way it used to be.

What is the Hardest Substance to Detox From?

There is no definitive answer to this commonly asked question. All mood and mind altering substances have unique obstacles that one must overcome. Drugs like meth, cocaine and Adderall have extreme mental withdrawal symptoms with minimal physical withdrawals. While drugs like heroin, Percocet and Vicodin have both physical and mental withdrawals. Some withdrawals can actually be life-threatening. Benzodiazepines, like Xanax and Klonopin, have various physical and mental withdrawal symptoms plus the person struggling is at risk of having a grand mal seizure which can be fatal. The detox from alcohol can also lead to death if one doesn’t get proper medical assistance.

Withdrawal times will vary from substance to substance. Even people using the same drugs will experience different detox lengths. The amount of time the detox will take is determined by a few main factors:

  • What substance was being abused?
  • How much of that substance was used on a regular basis?
  • How long that person has been abusing that substance.
  • The method of use ie smoking, snorting, ingesting or injecting
  • Age, height and weight of the user.

Prior to entering a drug detox center, it is typical for one to do an over the phone assessment and intake. This is a great way to make sure that the potential client will be a good fit for that specific medical detox program. If they are approved and will do well there the staff will begin to design a treatment plan based on that client’s specific use history. Nothing is set in stone until the client actually enters the facility and completes a few simple tests. This includes, but is not limited to; urine test, blood analysis, a biopsychosocial and a one hour sit down with a primary therapist. After completing these steps the medical staff will be able to correctly prescribe the medications necessary to ensure a safe and comfortable detox.

What Does it Feel Like to Detox From Drugs?

Each drug class, stimulants, CNS depressants and opiates have their own unique withdrawals that are associated with the abuse of those specific substances. Some of these withdrawals will last a few days, while others can last over a month. While some are more physically demanding, others can be primarily mental.

Multiple substances come with both physical and mental withdrawals. Some mood and mind altering substances can cause cold sweats, muscle cramps, joint pain, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, headaches, goosebumps, a runny nose, tremors and hallucinations. The abuse of any narcotic substance or alcohol will result in mental withdrawals, including; anxiety, mood swings, intense cravings, racing thoughts, insomnia, restlessness and depression.

Let’s take a look at different substances and the average length of time it can take to completely detox and what symptoms are associated with the withdrawals. As mentioned before this will vary from person to person, this will not be the definitive amount of time spent in a detox center.

3-7 Day Detox

Stimulants, like cocaine, crystal meth, crack and Adderall typically has the shortest detox. These substances are short-acting, meaning they have a short half-life and are in and out of the mind and body quickly. The withdrawals associated with stimulants are primarily mental, but some users might experience varying levels of physical withdrawals. Intense cravings and mood swings are typical. The first week without the substance is usually the hardest, extended care after completing a detox facility is strongly suggested.

5-10 Day Detox

The detox from some prescription painkillers like hydrocodone, Percocet and Vicodin is usually around 5-10 days. Other opiates and synthetic opioids, like heroin, morphine and fentanyl also fall into this category. The withdrawals from opiates are physically and mentally demanding. It is highly recommended anyone struggle gets professional help from an opiate detox center. Comfort medications will help to greatly reduce the physical pain and flu-like symptoms. The type of medications used in each program with differ from detox to detox.

Make sure you notify any potential detox centers about any allergies prior to taking medication. Never be afraid o ask what type of meds are given to ensure they administer medications that will keep one comfortably through this difficult time. Suboxone and Subutex are used in a variety of centers to help with an opioid detox. 

7-12 Day Detox

CNS (central nervous system) depressants like alcohol and benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan etc) are very dangerous and painful to detox from. Alcoholics can experience delirium tremens, one of the most terrifying and difficult symptoms to overcome without proper help. Auditory and visual hallucinations are common as well as grand mal seizures. No one should EVER detox from alcohol without medical assistance. Benzos also come with a high risk of seizures occurring. Proper medications will ease the physical pain and greatly reduce the chance of a life-threatening seizure occurring.

12+ Day Detox

Methadone, Suboxone and Subutex are great medications when used properly for a short period of time. These substances are commonly prescribed to those struggling with an addiction to other opiates and are used to ease withdrawal symptoms. When done correctly and one is tapered off these drugs in a week or two, they are extremely beneficial. Anyone who abuses these meds or takes them long term will find themselves facing an extremely long and painful detox. Withdrawals associated with methadone, Suboxone and Subutex are very similar to that of heroin and other opiates. These symptoms don’t last for a week though, they can last over a month.

What is Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome?

Typically called PAWS, post-acute withdrawal syndrome is the term given to describe the withdrawal symptoms felt a while after the substance is out of the body. PAWS can last up to a year for some drugs. These withdrawals are nowhere near as painful and difficult to overcome when compared to the first week or two of detox. PAWS symptoms vary from substance to substance and will occur randomly during the first few months that one is off their substance of choice. Common symptoms include; chills, racing thoughts, drug cravings, mood swings and restless legs.

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome is one of the main reasons that aftercare is strongly recommended by most addiction professionals. Detox takes care of the surface issue, the one that everyone can see, but it is common for addicts/alcoholics to struggle with other underlying issues. When left unaddressed these issues can lead to a relapse, putting the user back at square one. Continued care, like partial hospitalization, residential or intensive outpatient treatment is always suggested. There is still a lot of inner work that must be done once the toxins are out of the user’s body. It can take 6 months for the brain to repair the chemical imbalance that has occurred. Entering some type of aftercare will make it much easier and greatly increase the user’s chance of achieving long-term success.

Do You or a Loved One Need Help?

Are you or someone you care about currently struggling with drug abuse or alcohol abuse disorder? If so, please do not hesitate to reach out for help. Our toll-free line is open 24/7 and an addiction specialist is always standing by ready to help in any way they can. Whether you have more questions about how long a drug detox is or if you just need someone to talk to, they are there to help; free of charge. Far too many innocent lives have been lost due to drug abuse and addiction, don’t wait to get help until something happens. Not everyone needs to hit a rock bottom before they turn their lives around. Reach out to us today, calls are free of charge and completely confidential.