How Long Is The Detox Process?

When people talk about detox, they’re typically referring to one of two things: the act of detoxing from a substance or a detox treatment program. Detoxing from drugs or alcohol involves clearing the body of substances and managing any withdrawal symptoms that occur. The entire process may take anywhere from a few days to several months. For instance, alcohol leaves the body after a few days but detoxing from cravings may take much longer. How long detox takes depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Which substance was abused.
  • If multiple substances were abused.
  • How often the user abused the substance.
  • How much of the substance the user took.
  • The presence of underlying co-occurring mental health conditions.
  • The user’s medical history.
  • The user’s age.
  • The user’s gender.

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How Long Is A Detox Treatment Program?

Detox treatment programs are designed to assist individuals during the process of withdrawal. While the time it takes to detox from substances varies from person to person, detox programs are generally 3, 5, or 7 days long. Detox is considered the first phase of recovery from addiction and should not be considered a substitute for any necessary rehab or therapy to follow.

Detoxification alone does not address the psychological, social, and behavioral problems associated with addiction and therefore does not typically produce lasting behavioral changes necessary for recovery.

- National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018

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The Length Of Detox By Substance

Different substances stay in the body for differing periods of time, affecting the detox time for each. For the most part, an individual can detox from substances within a week (though cravings may persist for months afterward). Some of withdrawal most serious symptoms seem nonfatal, such as vomiting and diarrhea. However, rapid dehydration caused by these symptoms can be life-threatening. Accordingly, most addiction treatment programs include and strongly encourage medically-supervised detox.

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The table below illustrates the approximate time it takes to detox, and typical withdrawal symptoms associated with each phase.

 
24 hours – 2 days
3 – 5 days
First week
After first week
Alcohol
Withdrawal symptoms begin, such as anxiety, insomnia, and shaking. Symptoms peak within 72 hours. Seizures, fever, and hallucinations may occur. Physical symptoms of withdrawal taper off. May experience cravings until treated through therapy.
Barbiturates, Sleeping pills
Some symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, shaking, or circulation problems may begin within hours. Depending on the strength of dose and severity of abuse, symptoms may peak after the first few days. For some, withdrawal symptoms may be delayed, beginning a week or more after the last dose. May experience “rebound insomnia”–the return of initial diagnosis, but worse­–until treated.
Benzodiazepines
Irritability, nausea, headache, and muscle pain are early symptoms. Depending on the strength of dose, peak symptoms may include anxiety, irritability, shaking, restlessness, dry-retching, and palpitations. Rebound insomnia occurs in many cases of withdrawal. Severe withdrawal may last 10 to 14 days and include some weight loss, difficulty concentrating, and changes in perceptual abilities.
Hallucinogens
Depending on the particular hallucinogen, withdrawal may include headaches, drug cravings, and sweating. If withdrawal symptoms occurred, most should peak and taper off within the first week of detox. Changes in the brain’s dopamine reward system may result in altered mood until natural levels return to normal. PCP is known to produce drug cravings in individuals following use.
Marijuana
Staying hydrated, eating healthy foods, and exercising can ease initial symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms include mood changes, reduced appetite, headaches, insomnia, and stomach problems. Mental symptoms like irritability, loss of focus, drug cravings, and increased feelings of depression may occur. Most symptoms should abate after the body resumes normal production of its own THC.
Opioids, Heroin
Withdrawal depends on how fast-acting the opioid is. Heroin withdrawal may begin after a few hours and include muscle pain, anxiety, teary eyes, runny nose, sweating, insomnia, and frequent yawning. Peak of symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, goosebumps, blurry vision, and rapid heart rate. Symptoms taper off but may still experience digestive issues, loss of appetite, dehydration, or seizures. For severe addictions, insomnia, irritability, cravings, sweating, anxiety, and depression may persist for 6 or more months.
Stimulants (Cocaine, Meth)
Initial withdrawal “crash” may include fatigue, body aches, irritability, and altered mood. Brain damage caused by drug abuse may lead to depressive or psychotic symptoms. Lethargy, erratic sleep, intense drug cravings, depression, and poor concentration may continue. Drug cravings are the most persistent symptoms of stimulant withdrawal and may continue for months.
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Find A Detox Program

Detox is the integral first step of recovery. For individuals suffering from a Substance Use Disorder (SUD), entering detox can be life-saving. Medication-assisted treatment can reduce painful withdrawal symptoms and increase your chances of successfully moving on to an inpatient or outpatient rehab program and therapy. Contact a treatment provider today for information about available detox options.

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Destiny Bezrutczyk

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  • Destiny Bezrutczyk is a Digital Content Writer from west Iowa. She earned a Bachelor’s in English Language and Literature from Texas Tech University. After working as a freelance script and blog writer, she began writing content for tech startups. Maintaining a passion for words, she took on a variety of projects where her writing could help people (especially those battling mental health and substance use disorders).

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Clinically Reviewed:

Certified Addiction Professional

David Hampton

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  • David embarked on his journey into sobriety in June of 2005, which led him to his current career path as a Certified Professional Addiction Recovery Coach in private practice in Greater Nashville. David is also a public speaker and the author of two books. David is cohost of the weekly Positive Sobriety Podcast, as well as being a frequent contributor to various articles and recovery based materials. As a member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC), David works closely with area treatment centers, recovery orientated nonprofit organizations, as well as being a keynote speaker for various recovery-focused events.

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  • All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.