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Detox is one of the most important steps on the road to recovery. Without detox, the body will never be able to rid itself of the harmful toxins that have built up while substances were abused. Without the body being able to repair itself the mind will never heal and long-term success will become a near impossibility. If you or someone you care about are struggling you may ask yourself, when does someone need detox? Sadly, this isn’t a question that has one simple answer. When someone needs detox will vary on a case to case basis based on each person’s individual situation. There are a few things to keep an eye out for that may help you identify when detox is necessary.

What Substances Require a Detox?

Some mood and mind-altering substances are far more addictive than others. While some substances are primarily addictive mentally, some are also physically addictive. Any drugs that can create both physical and mental dependence will require a detox once the user is hooked. Without the help of a medical detox center, the person struggling will have to face the withdrawals head on. A cold turkey (without medical assistance) detox is not only very difficult it can also be dangerous.

Mental Addiction

Cocaine, crack, crystal meth, Adderall and marijuana are all addictive substances, but the withdrawals associated with these drugs is primarily mental. If the person struggle with abuse issues has been using these substances for an extended period of time they may have some minor physical withdrawals. The intensity of the mental withdrawals is determined by a few main factors, including how much, how often and how long the substances have been abused.

Crack and Powder Cocaine Withdrawals

Cocaine and crack have very similar withdrawal symptoms. The high from these substances will last around 10-20 minutes, as soon as the high wears off the user will begin to crash and withdrawals will start. Anxiety, mood swings, intense cravings and depression are all common. It isn’t rare for those who are addicted to these substances to binge use them or use a large amount of them over a short period of time.

Some users can easily spend over $1,000 in a day or two on the drugs, the withdrawals will become more intense the longer they use. After a day off of these substances mental cravings, anhedonia, lack of energy and depression will occur. The thought of getting high will rule their mind, most will not make it more than a week or two before returning to their drug of choice. Most withdrawal symptoms from cocaine will last around a week or two, but mental cravings and other symptoms can continue for around a month.

Crystal Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

Methamphetamine is an extremely dangerous and addictive drug. The withdrawals associated with the abuse of this drug are similar to that of cocaine, but more unsystematic. Since crystal meth is a purely man-made substance, what it was created with can vary batch to batch. Purity levels, potency and its chemical makeup will vary. Some of those who struggle with meth addiction report intense physical withdrawals including cold sweats, lack of appetite, tremors, insomnia and nausea. While others say they never felt anything but mental anguish, depression, anxiety and drug cravings. Anyone who is abusing crystal meth should seek professional help, a detox center is a good place to start their journey to a better life.

Heroin and Prescription Painkillers

Opiates are addictive. It doesn’t matter if a doctor prescribed the pills for pain management issues, one is still at risk of becoming physically and mentally addicted. Some of the most commonly abused prescription painkillers include; Percocet, Vicodin, methadone, morphine, fentanyl and codeine. When someone seeks out opiates for recreational use they are almost guaranteed to become dependent after just a few days of continued use.

The withdrawals associated with opiates are among the most painful and challenging to overcome. If someone struggling with these substances they will have to use multiple times a day to avoid entering withdrawals. The longer someone uses these substances the higher their tolerance will become. It will now take more and more of the same drug to produce the desired effect and avoid any withdrawals.

Heroin is a short-acting opiate, meaning its effects are felt quickly and fade quickly. The high from heroin typically last around 3-6 hours, as it wears off the user will start to feel “sick”. The withdrawals associated with heroin addiction are nearly identical to prescription painkillers. Insomnia, cold sweats, nausea, vomiting, mood swings, diarrhea, muscle aches, joint pain, racing thoughts, drug cravings, restlessness and depression are all common opiate withdrawal symptoms.

Once physically dependent users can easily be woken up in the middle of the night by symptoms. They will need to use their drug to stop the symptoms from becoming more intense. This can lead to their addiction progressing and their tolerance rising, only digging their hole into addiction deeper and deeper. Anyone who is physically dependent on opiates should seek professional help from a detox center.

The withdrawals associated with opiate addiction typically last around 5-10 days. If the persons struggling has been using for a long period of time or if they were using large amounts of opiates they will feel residual side effects for some time. It can take weeks for their sleeping patterns and appetite to return to normal. Other common PAWS (post acute withdrawals symptoms) include; hot/cold flashes, mood swings, drug cravings, depression, restless legs and random sweats.


Benzodiazepines or benzos have become some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the country. They are used to treat anxiety and panic disorders and can also help those struggle with seizures. Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan and Valium are some of the most commonly prescribed benzos, they also have the highest rate of abuse and addiction.

When used short term and on an as-needed basis these pills can be very helpful, but if abused or used long term they are very addictive and very dangerous. Someone who seeks out these pills strictly for their mood and mind-altering effects is at a much higher risk of becoming mentally and physically dependent. After just a week of Xanax (short-acting benzo), abuse one can develop a small tolerance and will begin to experience withdrawals when they go without the pills.

The withdrawal symptoms from short-acting benzos (Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin) are very similar to long-acting benzos (Librium, Valium). Withdrawals from short-acting benzos can be felt within just a few hours after the last dose, while long-acting can take over a day. The duration of the symptoms will also vary. The withdrawals from short-acting benzos typically last around 7-10 days, while long-acting benzo withdrawal can last over two weeks. Even though the length of time varies, the symptoms are very similar.

The most common benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms are similar to that of opiates. Cold sweats, racing thoughts, anxiety, insomnia, muscle aches, joint pain, a runny nose etc. The biggest difference between opiate and benzo withdrawals is the fact that a cold turkey benzo detox can be life-threatening. You need to go to detox if you are physically dependent on benzos. Anyone hooked is at a heightened risk of having a grand mal seizure which can easily lead to brain or heart failure and death. Professional help and a medical detox is a necessity.

What are Alcohol Withdrawals?

If someone is physically dependent on alcohol it is essential that they enter a detox center. There are varying levels of alcohol dependence, ranging from heavy drinking to binge drinking and full-on alcoholism. Anyone physically hooked will feel the most intense withdrawals around the 4-6 day mark. Many medical professionals will classify alcohol detox into three main stages. These stages are marked by the level of severity of the symptoms that occur.

Stage 1:

  • Headaches
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Numbness and tingling in fingers, toes and other body parts
  • Muscle tremors
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Stage one typically takes place for the first 1-2 days of the detox. Anyone heavily affected by alcoholism, this stage can also include hallucinations. Symptoms of alcoholic hallucinosis can include touch-related, vision-related and sound-related hallucinations. The drinker can also experience delusional thinking which can lead to paranoia and confusion.
Stage two alcohol withdrawal symptoms can start within one to three days after the last drink was consumed. This stage will not be felt by everyone struggling, but it is common for around 70% of problem drinkers. Like benzos, alcohol withdrawals come with a risk of a seizure. Stage two also includes:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Restless legs
  • Uncontrollable sweating

Around 33% of people who experience stage two will enter stage three. This part of alcohol withdrawal is by far the most intense and very dangerous. This stage is noted by delirium tremens or DTs. Common symptoms of delirium tremens include:

  • Delirious mental state
  • Intense auditory, touch and visual hallucinations
  • Paranoia/fear
  • Memory loss
  • Intense confusion
  • Grand-mal seizure
  • Nervous system instability.
  • Changes in heart function, brain chemistry and body temperature.

Do I Need to Go to Detox?

If you or a loved one are struggling with drugs and/or alcohol and experience any level of withdrawals, then yes, you should enter a detox center. There is never a time where nothing is happening in life, when all the stars align and the time to enter detox is perfect. The right time to get help is always now, before it gets worse. If you want advice or would like more information about detox centers near you feel free to contact our toll-free line. An addiction specialist is standing by ready to help you through this difficult time in any way they can.