How Long Does Drug and Alcohol Detox Last?

female doctor comforting female patient in her office during drug and alcohol detox

The epidemic of drug addiction and dependence continues to rage in the US, and every day it contributes to devastation not only in the lives of those addicted but also to those who love and care for them. In most cases, alcohol or substance abuse is coupled with significant psychological and physical dependence, and these can lead to considerable withdrawal symptoms during the detox stage. Understanding how long this detox might last can be crucial to an effective recovery.

Understanding detox

When referring to detox, it’s common for it to be used to refer to not only the act of detoxing from alcohol or substance use but also reference to a professional treatment program or center. When you go through detox, you are allowing your body and mind to heal from the alcohol or substance use that has made it dependent on those substances. 

While many people are successful in going through detox by themselves and without any professional help, some are only able to weather the uncomfortable and even painful withdrawal process by leaning on a professional addiction resource. There are many reasons to seek help when preparing to detox. Among them are the efficiency and ease of the process, comfort, and even medical safety.

What happens during detox?

The detox process and the length of drug and alcohol detox will be different for everyone, even if they have used the same drugs. The individual detox experience will be based largely on how long the individual has used or abused the drugs or alcohol, as well as the amounts and frequency they were accustomed to using. This is because as the body becomes dependent on larger amounts or more frequent use, stopping that use will send the individual’s system into shock, and it will struggle to perform in the normal way without the substances it has come to depend on.

Those who consume larger amounts of substances or use them for longer periods are more likely to experience severe withdrawal symptoms during their detox. Light users or those who use less frequently will generally have a comparatively easier time with their detox and will find that their symptoms are less severe.

During the detox process, there will be a variety of physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms the individual will experience. Once the initial detox stage is done, there will often be a post-acute withdrawal stage as well. During this stage, the physical symptoms, cravings, and emotional instability will mostly subside, but there will often be lingering psychological symptoms and mental health challenges that will persist for weeks or months, depending on the individual.

How long does it take to detox from alcohol?

Each case of alcohol detox will be unique to the individual experiencing it. Some of the most significant factors that will determine the severity of the detox will be the length of time that the individual was abusing alcohol and how much alcohol was regularly consumed. Those that drank smaller quantities or who drank for shorter periods overall can expect a less serious detox process. On the other hand, those who drank significant amounts for many years can expect a very challenging detox.

In most cases, the physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms will reach their peak severity between 48 hours and 72 hours after the last drink. In relatively minor cases, these symptoms will be considerably reduced or even absent in seven to 10 days, but in severe cases, they may persist for up to two weeks.  Following this initial detox process, individuals being treated for alcohol addiction can expect psychological symptoms to persist for months.

How long does it take to detox from drugs?

The length of time it will take to detox will greatly depend on what substance is being used. Here are some of the most commonly abused substances and their corresponding average detox durations.

  • Opiates – Opioids can take 4-10 days to detox, with symptoms beginning sooner for short-acting drugs and taking longer to begin for others
  • Benzos – Detoxing from benzodiazepines can take 10-14 days
  • Methamphetamines – The most serious detox symptoms will fade within about a week
  • Hallucinogens – Depending on the hallucinogen, detox can take up to a week, sometimes longer
  • Synthetic drugs – Depending on the type of drug, it can take up to two weeks to detox from synthetics.

Is it safe to detox at home?

In many cases, whether due to shame, embarrassment, or any number of other emotions, an individual may feel it’s best for them to detox at home. This can be dangerous and unproductive in several ways. Not only can it be more challenging than it should be since there won’t be any substantial support for them, but it can even be lethal in some cases. 

This is particularly true for those addicted to drugs like various benzodiazepines or opioids like OxyContin. The dependence on drugs like these, and many others, can cause medically significant side effects during detox, including seizures and psychosis. If an individual isn’t in an environment with medical supervision, these can be deadly.

What is the safest way to detox?

The absolute safest way to make it through the detox timeline is to leverage professional help. There are several reasons for this, including comfort, safety, and support. A treatment facility will not only have medical support nearby in the event of serious withdrawal symptoms, but it will also offer an environment that is tailored to the comfort of the individual. Additionally, they will have the necessary resources to address the underlying causes of addiction and to work on building more effective and healthy coping mechanisms with the individual. 

What is detoxing in a medical facility like?

When you choose Agape as your treatment center, you won’t need to worry about being in a cold, boring, isolating environment. You’ll be treated in a warm and comforting environment, with activity rooms and therapy sessions centered around comfortable seating, welcoming rooms, and an overall healing setting. 

With rooms that more closely resemble living rooms and socialization hubs, your comfort and safety will always be the central focus. Since physical activity has a strong contribution to successful recovery, you’ll be able to enjoy a variety of ways to spend your free time, including table tennis and relaxing dockside. Reach out today if you feel it’s time for you or a loved one to get some professional help.

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