Understanding the Process of Detox

The Process of Detox - Freedom From Addiction

When deciding on a path to recovery, the first step in a rehab is always detox. Detoxing can be a scary step when you have no idea what to expect. The symptoms of each drug or addiction vary, but they all run through the same steps. Similar to how the plot of a novel has to go through a beginning, middle and end, so to do detox and withdrawal symptoms.

Time it Takes for Withdrawal to Start

Detox is usually a delayed reaction. Depending on what your addiction was, you can feel fine for minutes, hours or even days after cessation. Do not think that just because you feel fine now that the entire duration of the detox will be comfortable because after you pass this phase, the symptoms hit. This delayed reaction is why it helps to be in a rehab facility or under some supervision, as this is when it is likely to go back to your substance of choice.

  • Cocaine: less than an hour
  • Heroin: 1-4 hours
  • Alcohol: 8 hours
  • Opiates: 8-12 hours
  • Benzodiazepines: 1-4 days

Peak & Total Duration of Withdrawal

Your withdrawal symptoms will hit a peak at a certain point in your detox. As previously stated, this is counted from the time you stop feeling “fine” until you hit the peak for whatever your substance is.

  • Cocaine: 48 – 72 hours (Total: 1 – 3 weeks, even several months)
  • Heroin: 24 – 48 hours (Total: 1 – 2 weeks or months)
  • Alcohol: 24 – 72 hours (Total: several weeks)
  • Opiates: 12 – 48 hours (Total: 5 – 10 days)
  • Benzodiazepines: 2 weeks (Total: Several months to a year)

Typical Symptoms of Withdrawal

Every substance has different withdrawal symptoms. However, there are some symptoms that can apply to most substance detox situations.

Physical Symptoms

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tight chest
  • Sweating
  • Palpitations
  • High heart rate
  • Tight muscles
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

Emotional Symptoms

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Panic attacks

Dangerous (Rare) Symptoms

  • Heart attacks
  • Stroke
  • Grand mal seizures
  • Hallucinations

Depending on the substance, detox is best done under the care and supervision of a certified rehab facility that specializes in your addiction. If you need help finding a facility that is right for you contact FFA and they will assist you on your path to recovery.

Developing an adequate treatment plan is essential to achieve recovery. A free service like Freedom From Addiction can be of help to explore the different treatment options available. For 24/7 assistance, call 1.855.RECOVER or 1.855.732.6837.


Sydney DeZinno is a writer from Tucson, AZ. A graduate of the University of Arizona, she an active advocate that is passionate about addiction recovery and helping those in crisis. 

| Twitter @sdezinno

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