How Long Does Drug Detox Take?

Drug Detox Opens Doors to Your Recovery

There are no real shortcuts to drug addiction recovery. Everyone who seeks a fresh start after addiction must first go through withdrawal. After all, withdrawal is the body’s process of cleansing the abused substances from its systems. Although no one enjoys this transitional period between addiction and sobriety, it is easier with the help of a licensed drug detox program. But how does a detox center help and how long does drug detox take?

Although most resources group drug types together to report that detox takes about seven to 10 days, the precise detox timeline varies, just like the symptoms each person experiences. There are many factors involved in determining how long you will feel the effects of withdrawal. Some of those factors include:

  • Type of drugs abused 
  • How long the drugs were abused 
  • Age 
  • Physical health 
  • Psychological health 
  • Type of detox process used 

Regardless of the type of drug used, how long you have suffered addiction, and other factors, a medical detox center can help. Medical detox is the safest and most comprehensive type of program for this first stage of recovery. 

White Light Behavioral Health in Columbus, Ohio is an example of a quality licensed detox center. At White Light Behavioral Health, you receive the care and support you need for a safe transition to your journey to sobriety. 

How Do You Know If You Need Drug Detox?

Most people know they have a drug addiction because they feel ill or experience other troublesome symptoms if they stop using their substances. Then, using their drug makes the symptoms go away for a short period of time. These physical symptoms are the trademark of withdrawal. Which drug you use affects the type of withdrawal symptoms you feel. 

Types of Drugs That Cause Withdrawal

Some of the types of drugs causing withdrawal symptoms after addiction include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Barbiturates
  • Cannabis
  • Depressants
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants
  • Opioids
  • Stimulants

Common Symptoms of Withdrawal

While each type of drug causes its own withdrawal symptoms, many substances share multiple withdrawal symptoms in common. Some of these withdrawal symptoms that make it clear you need help from a drug detox center include:

  • Appetite changes
  • Mood changes
  • Chills, shivering, or sweating
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches or pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Shakiness or tremors
  • Sleeping difficulties

Signs You Need to Quit Drugs or Alcohol

Beyond feeling ill effects of withdrawal, there are other ways to know whether you need help from a drug detox center. To start, you can look for other signs of addiction within your daily life. These signs include:

  • You keep using despite knowing you should quit
  • Drug use or drinking holds great importance in your daily life
  • You prefer to drink or use drugs over spending time with family or friends
  • You no longer pursue your favorite activities or hobbies
  • Drinking or drug use affects your work
  • It takes more alcohol or a higher dose of your drug to feel its effects
  • Your health is suffering because of alcohol or drugs
  • You have tried quitting on your own but failed in doing so

Dangers of Quitting Drugs “Cold Turkey” at Home

Once you know you need to quit abusing substances, you must decide whether you quit on your own or in a licensed detox center. At face value, going “cold turkey” at home sounds like an easier method. But the reality is very different. 

Unfortunately, too many people going cold turkey discover that they need support or treatment well into their process of withdrawal. At that point, their biggest risk is a deadly relapse in an effort to stop their ill symptoms. Sadly, most people suffering from a substance use disorder know at least one friend, acquaintance, or family member lost to a fatal relapse in situations like this.

Medical professionals recommend against going cold turkey at home. Multiple drugs prove particularly dangerous for people detoxing at home or without medical support. Abruptly quitting these drugs can cause health problems. Substances that you should not quit using without help from a licensed detox center include:

  • Opioids
  • Alcohol
  • Benzodiazepines

The biggest risks of quitting drugs at home include:

  • Not having immediate medical support in an emergency
  • Harsh symptoms that push you to use your drugs again
  • Easy access to your drug network or substances in your home
  • Potential for deadly relapse because your body cannot handle the same dose of drugs after withdrawal begins

These risks of going cold turkey on your own are just too significant to overlook. Being in a drug detox center provides safety, security, medical support, guidance, nutrition, and the helpful medications that you need for your easiest pathway from addiction to early recovery.

Benefits of a Drug Detox Center

Without a doubt, a licensed drug detox center provides the easiest pathway from active addiction to “clean and sober.” Professionals working in these facilities understand the ill effects of drugs and what they can do to make you feel better. Addiction specialists in a detox center provide guidance and support so that you do not feel so alone in this part of your journey. 

Beyond relieving symptoms, a detox center therapeutically supports individuals seeking long-term recovery by providing access to therapy and counseling, such as group therapy among peers who are also seeking lasting sobriety. This support is critical in helping you stay sober in the long term. Without support, you risk falling back into the same old cycle of substance abuse.

How Long Does Drug Detox Take?

How long you must stay in your drug detox program depends on which substances you used and other individual factors. Some substances require more time for cleansing from the body than others. For most substances, you can expect your drug detox to take somewhere between seven and 10 days. 

Below are several commonly abused substances and their withdrawal timelines:

  • Alcohol withdrawal typically starts eight hours after the last drink, but symptoms can last several weeks.
  • Marijuana withdrawal symptoms typically start one to three days after quitting and can last between four to 14 days.
  • Opioid withdrawal varies widely according to which opioid is abused but typically starts by the time you would take your next dose (a few hours) and improves in a week to 10 days. However, long-term symptoms can last for months.
  • Benzodiazepine withdrawal varies according to the specific drug used, but symptoms usually start between eight to 48 hours after the last dose and continue for five to 14 days.
  • Meth withdrawal occurs in two phrases. The worst symptoms occur within the first 24 hours, but the acute phase can last for about a week. The subacute phrase, the next phrase, can last approximately another two weeks, for a total of three weeks.

Drug Detox Program Length

As you can see from these examples, the drug detox process is very different for each type of abused substance. But most detox centers structure their programs for clients according to the average withdrawal duration.

Some people get through the detox process more quickly, such as in only three or five days after only short-term substance abuse without any other complicating factors. Someone else might need a longer, multi-week stay in a detox program because of long-term substance abuse, multiple-drug addiction, co-occurring health problems, or other issues. 

Is Drug Detox All I Need for Long-term Recovery?

After 10 to 14 days in drug detox, the majority of clients experience few withdrawal symptoms and feel ready to start their new lives. The acute phase of withdrawal is over, and only some protracted, longer-term effects may exist by this point in their sobriety. Transitioning into a licensed rehab program enables individuals to continue seeking support for any remaining withdrawal symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, or insomnia. In rehab, you also gain access to the therapies needed to form a strong foundation for recovery.

It is very important to remember that drug detox is the first step in recovery. But lasting recovery is not built on physical wellness alone. After prolonged substance abuse, you need rehab treatment to learn why you turned to substances in the first place. You also must learn how to live a clean life and face daily struggles in healthier ways. 

Important Therapies After Drug Detox

While detox helps your body recover from substance abuse, rehab treatment helps you heal your heart and mind. All of this healing takes place in therapies, such as:

  • Individual counseling
  • Addiction education
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy and couples counseling
  • Behavioral therapies, such as CBT and DBT
  • Trauma therapy, such as EMDR
  • Dual diagnosis treatment

Types of Rehab Treatment Programs

Types of rehab treatment programs available after drug detox include:

  • Hospital inpatient rehab, lasting several days to weeks
  • Residential rehab treatment, lasting from one month to a year
  • Outpatient rehab programs, lasting from two months to one year
  • Interim care, short-term treatment as a bridge when other programs are not yet available
  • Transitional care, such as sober housing, for temporary living after rehab treatment

As the U.S. government and most medical professionals assert, drug detox alone is not rehab treatment. Rehab is important for disrupting how addiction affects your thoughts and behaviors and regaining control over your daily life. But detox is your first step into recovery. 

Call a Drug Detox Center Now to Start Your New Life

Getting on the right path in your life after addiction is easier than you might think with the right support. You can find that support in a drug detox center. Whether you choose a detox in your local area or far from home, this type of program serves you well beyond “getting clean.” Your detox center provides an array of services that help identify the types of support and treatment you need, from your last drug dose through rehab and into the rest of your life. 

As early as your first call with a detox center, you receive a complete addiction assessment to determine the levels of care you need. This initial assessment also helps identify how long your drug detox might take. The addiction specialist talking to you can answer your questions and help you find peace in the decision to put drugs and alcohol abuse behind you. They can also connect you to nearby rehab treatment programs suited to your individual needs. 

Never underestimate the power of experienced support in your life. When you want recovery, you only need to reach out to a drug detox center to start receiving that support.

Reviewed By:

Dr. Ryan Wakim, M.D.

Dr. Wakim is a board-certified psychiatrist with a passion for and expertise in addiction, mood disorders, trauma-related disorders and the subspecialty of interventional psychiatry. He obtained his medical degree from West Virginia University where he also completed his residency training, finishing as chief resident. Dr. Wakim co-founded and served as the CEO of Transformations leading to a successful merger with Shore Capital in May 2021. He is purpose driven towards improving the standard of and removing stigma related to behavioral healthcare. Dr. Wakim enjoys golf, traveling and time spent with his two dogs, Lulu and Rayna.

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