How Long Does Drug Detox and Withdrawal Last?

graphics of common withdrawal timelines

Updated on August 11th, 2020

The fear of withdrawal is one of the main reasons people suffering from substance abuse problems don’t go to detox. If you’re entering a detox program for the first time, you’ll most likely want to know how long you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms, what you can expect them to be like, and how long detox will last. The answers depend on several different factors, but first, let’s review the basics of withdrawal.

What Is Alcohol and Drug Withdrawal?

When you are dependent on a substance, your body becomes accustomed to maintaining a certain amount of it due to consistent substance abuse. If you suddenly stop using it, you will experience unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms. These symptoms are called withdrawal.

Physical symptoms can be mild to severe and include shakiness, nausea, vomiting, sweating, hallucinations, insomnia and muscle aches. Seizures can occur in severe cases. Psychological symptoms may include depression, anxiety, strong cravings, irritability and trouble concentrating.

Factors that Affect the Duration of Withdrawal

The type of withdrawal symptoms you experience, as well as their severity, are determined by several different factors.

  • How you used the substance: Did you snort, swallow, inject or orally consume the substance? Snorting or injecting a substance may lead to more complex withdrawal symptoms.
  • Other substances taken simultaneously: If you used multiple substances at once, you may be at risk for a more complicated and severe withdrawal.
  • How long you’ve been abusing the substance: Has it been a few weeks? Several months? Ten years? Typically, the longer you have been abusing a substance, the more likely you are to have severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • How much of the substance you took each time: In many cases, consistently taking high dosages of a substance leads to longer-lasting, more severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Your physiological makeup: Your metabolism and genes will play a role in how you react to removing an addictive substance from your body.

Withdrawal Timelines for Commonly Abused Drugs

The type of symptoms you experience, their intensity and the duration of withdrawal will vary based on the drug(s) you are taking. It’s impossible to predict exactly how your experience will be, but these timelines may give you an idea of what you can expect.

 

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

  • The first symptoms of withdrawal typically begin about 8 hours after your last drink.
  • Within 12-24 hours, you may begin to experience more mild symptoms such as nausea, sweating, headaches, shakiness and anxiety.
  • More extreme withdrawal cases may result in seizures within 1-2 days or the development of delirium tremens within 2-3 days.
  • In most cases, symptoms usually peak between 1-3 days and generally fade within 5-7 days.

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

  • Six to 24 hours after ceasing use, you may begin to experience mild physical symptoms like abdominal cramps, sweating, headaches, nausea and vomiting, irritability and insomnia.
  • The most severe symptoms will likely peak between day 2 and 4 but most people’s withdrawal symptoms subside after one week.

Vicodin Withdrawal Timeline

  • Early withdrawal symptoms begin to appear after 6-12 hours of the last use. During this time you may experience sweating, anxiety, watery eyes and runny nose, muscle aches and insomnia.
  • Symptoms typically peak around 1-3 days and include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea.
  • Vicodin withdrawal symptoms usually begin to fade after 5 days and are usually gone within a week, although some people may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) for weeks or even months after getting clean.

Xanax, Klonopin and Valium Withdrawal Timelines

Withdrawal symptoms for these benzodiazepines are often similar to that of alcohol.

  • The first signs of withdrawal will occur during the first 6-8 hours after the last use. This usually includes anxiety and insomnia.
  • During days 1-4, these symptoms may peak and other symptoms may develop, such as nausea, increased breathing and heart rate and sweating.
  • Your symptoms will eventually fade after 10-14 days, although withdrawal symptoms of long-acting benzodiazepines may take 3-4 weeks to fade.

Methadone Withdrawal Timeline

  • Unlike other opioids, methadone stays in your body for a very long time, so your first symptoms of withdrawal may not appear until up to 30 hours after the last use. These early symptoms may include anxiety, excessive yawning, insomnia and muscle aches.
  • Symptoms usually develop into nausea, vomiting, dilated pupils and goosebumps, but tend to fade after day 10.
  • According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, withdrawal may last 14-21 days.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline

  • Withdrawal symptoms typically begin 6-12 hours after your last use and usually include muscle aches, insomnia, sweating, anxiety and runny nose.
  • Your symptoms may peak within 2-4 days and bone pain may be very severe during this time. Other withdrawal symptoms you may experience include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps.
  • Your physical symptoms should fade between 5 and 7 days.
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Managing Withdrawal Symptoms with Medically-Supervised Detox

Withdrawal symptoms can be managed in a clinical setting to make the detox and withdrawal process very comfortable. This can be achieved with safe tapering medications that gradually ease you down into a stable, sober state. Regardless of the intensity of your withdrawal symptoms, an experienced professional team of addiction specialists can help make detox easier so you can move forward with your recovery.

Clinical detox is always the safest way to stop using an addictive substance for good, regardless of how long you’ve been taking it. In a luxury facility like Briarwood Detox Center, you’ll be cared for by a team of clinical, medical and psychiatric professionals with medical staff on-site 24/7 to tend to your needs. Our staff is trained to recognize and treat the symptoms of withdrawal for all types of addictive substances and we will make sure you are comfortable at all times.

How Long Does Drug Detox Take?

Typically, drug detox takes anywhere from five to seven days, but it is impossible to say exactly how long drug detox will take without first completing a comprehensive physical and psychological assessment. This takes place on the first day of detox. The duration of each person’s detox program will vary depending on the current status and circumstances of their physical and psychological health. These details will help our staff develop an appropriate detox protocol that will properly address the client’s needs.

How to Treat Drug Withdrawal

Medical alcohol and drug detox programs are intended to help people cope with withdrawal and manage uncomfortable symptoms. A drug and alcohol detox program has three main objectives. They are:13

  1. To help you achieve sobriety.
  2. To treat uncomfortable physical withdrawal symptoms.
  3. To treat any co-occurring medical or psychiatric conditions.

In order to thoroughly understand the significance of detox within the larger scope of a comprehensive addiction program, it’s essential that you also understand the difference between treating withdrawal and treating addiction. This may also help you understand why detox alone is not a cure for addiction.

At a detox center such as Briarwood, the medical staff’s primary objective is to help each client safely reach a stable and sober state, which will require that they experience withdrawal.

Naturally, a large part of the drug detox and stabilization process is treating withdrawal. But what does this entail?

  • Reducing discomfort. Medical staff at a high-quality detox center are trained to recognize and treat the physical symptoms of withdrawal. This is achieved with appropriate doses of tapering medications that work to comfortably ease a person into a state of sobriety while reducing the discomfort caused by withdrawal symptoms. Clients are also housed in a quiet, relaxing environment during this time to reduce discomfort as much as possible.
  • Monitoring. Throughout the duration of a drug detox program, medical staff will also monitor each client’s progress closely. This may involve checking the patient’s vitals, carefully monitoring them several times a day, and providing on-site medical staff who are available 24/7. Throughout the detox process, the treatment plan will also be adjusted as the client’s needs change.
  • Individual and group counseling. Addressing the psychological symptoms of withdrawal is also an essential part of drug detox. Consistent drug and alcohol abuse can cause short and long-term changes in the brain, which often lead to mental health issues like anxiety, paranoia, depression, hallucinations, and aggression.14 As you detox from these addictive substances, your body will undergo many physical changes that may impact your moods, emotions, and mental health. During detox, clients work individually with a clinical counselor to address these complex emotions and learn about how drugs and alcohol affect the brain and the body. Clients may also attend group therapy sessions during detox to address these issues.

Drug and alcohol detox is only the first stage of addiction treatment but it plays an important role in preparing the client for entry into a drug and alcohol rehab program.4 Treatment for withdrawal is an important and essential part of the overall process that should not be skipped.

How to Treat Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Treating addiction is not the same thing as treating withdrawal symptoms. The main difference between treating addiction and treating withdrawal are the primary objectives of each.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse outlines three main goals for addiction treatment programs. They are:15

  1. To help a person stop using drugs.
  2. To help a person stay drug-free.
  3. To help a person be productive in the family, at work, and in society.

While drug and alcohol detox works to help clients get sober and prepare for drug rehab, addiction treatment programs help clients develop a foundation for their ongoing recovery by helping them achieve the following things.

  • Accept that they have an illness. A person may go through many different stages of denial and gradual acceptance before genuine and lasting change can be made16 In drug and alcohol rehab, clinical counselors will work with clients to help them accept the fact that they have an illness and begin to take steps towards making the necessary changes.
  • Address the root causes of the addiction. In detox, the physical, emotional, and psychological effects of the addiction were addressed, but in rehab, more focus is placed on the root causes of the addiction itself. Drug abuse and addiction is often a symptom of a much larger problem, such as unresolved trauma, stress, or an inability to cope with certain life situations.17 By addressing the root causes of addiction, individuals can work to resolve those underlying issues and as a result, reduce their need to rely on drugs and alcohol.
  • Modify negative behaviors. Addicted people often lack the skills to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, and other life issues in a healthy way. Additionally, drug abuse inhibits a person’s ability to make sound decisions and judgments, making it even more difficult for them to adjust to these life changes18 In drug and alcohol rehab, clients focus on addressing negative behaviors and replacing them with more positive ones that will support a life of sobriety.
  • Heal damaged relationships and learn how to build healthy ones. Substance abuse harms relationships in countless ways. It causes arguments, fuels trust issues, produces stress and harmful codependent behaviors, and can also lead to isolation and physical or sexual abuse.8 A major part of treating addiction is healing the damage caused by substance abuse and helping the client and their family learn how to develop healthy, meaningful relationships in sobriety.
  • Maintain their abstinence. Another primary aspect of addiction treatment is to help clients maintain long-term or lifelong abstinence from all addictive substances. This is achieved with a blend of therapeutic interventions, ongoing participation in individual and group therapy sessions, and recovery support services.

Although the processes of treating withdrawal and treating addiction have differing objectives, each aspect of treatment plays a vital role in overcoming addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Drug and Alcohol Detox in Texas

If you’re ready to start your recovery journey with drug detox, Briarwood Detox Center offers medically-managed drug and alcohol detox programs in Houston and Austin. Our individualized programs are designed around your needs and our executive detox program in Houston offers enhanced privacy options and deluxe amenities.

Please call (888) 857-0557 to learn more about drug detox programs at Briarwood or to get started today.

References:

  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs-charts
  2. http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-or-drug-withdrawal
  3. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000764.htm
  4. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0315/p1443.html
  5. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm
  6. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
  7. http://www.healthline.com/health/opiate-withdrawal
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7841856
  9. http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/benzos.asp
  10. http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA10-4554/SMA10-4554.pdf
  11. http://drugabuse.com/library/post-acute-withdrawal-syndrome/
  12. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/which-classes-prescription-drugs-are-commonly-misused
  13. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-1/44-46.pdf
  14. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/health-consequences-drug-misuse/mental-health-effects
  15. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2880942/ 
  17. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/science-drug-abuse-addiction-basics
  18. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain

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