Drug Detox: Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment

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Drug detox (also known as drug detoxification, substance detox, or addiction detox) is a detoxification process that involves eliminating addictive substances, toxins, and by-products from the body. 

The goal of detoxification treatment is to manage the withdrawal symptoms that present when someone stops using drugs or alcohol.

Everyone will have a different experience with drug addiction detox, depending on the type of substance used, and the duration and scope of substance abuse. Alcohol and drug detox may take days or months. The following factors may all influence the duration of detox treatment for drugs or alcohol:

  • Type of addictive substance.
  • Duration of substance abuse.
  • Route of administration (smoking, snorting, swallowing, or injecting).
  • Amount of substance used.
  • Family history of addiction.
  • Underlying physical health conditions.
  • Co-occurring mental health conditions.

If you are one of the 40 million U.S. adults with substance use disorder (drug addiction), maybe you’re wondering, “How do I detox from drugs” and “what does a drug detox do?” This guide will show you how to detox from drugs effectively by engaging with a drug detox program.

What is drug detox, then?

Drug Detox

Detox for drugs or alcohol is a process by which all traces of addictive substances and their by-products are eliminated from the body. Detox ensures that you are physically stable and prepared for ongoing therapy to overcome the psychological component of drug or alcohol addiction.

Drug detox programs are not a substitute for inpatient or outpatient rehab, but rather the first vital step in the ongoing recovery process.

If you become physically dependent on drugs, prescription medications, or alcohol, your body becomes accustomed to the continuous presence of these substances. If you moderate or discontinue their use, your brain struggles to adapt to a sudden drop in levels of brain chemicals like dopamine that are released when you ingest addictive substances. Withdrawal symptoms are a physical and psychological response from a system adapting to change.

Detox treatment aims to mitigate the adverse impact of the withdrawal symptoms associated with drug or alcohol withdrawal. The most effective form of detox is supported and assisted by medical professionals. Attempting to quit using addictive substances at home is inadvisable and potentially life-threatening.

Detox Symptoms

As your body gradually eliminates the substance from your system, you may begin to experience a range of withdrawal symptoms. While drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be similar, the severity and type of symptoms depend on factors such as your addiction history, the substance you were using, and your overall physical and mental health.

Each person’s experience with detox is entirely different, even if they’ve previously gone through drug or alcohol withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms can manifest both physically and psychologically, including:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Shaking and chills
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Exhaustion
  • Vivid and unpleasant dreams
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Intense cravings for the substance

In severe cases, withdrawal can also result in:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Seizures

Detox Timelines

Here’s an overview of some drugs and their characteristic withdrawal timeline:

  • Alcohol detox: The first signs of alcohol withdrawal may present within a few hours of the last alcoholic drink, peaking over the next 24 to 72 hours. DTs (delirium tremens) may develop 48 to 72 hours after the discontinuation of heavy drinking, persisting for 3 to 4 days.
  • Short-acting opioids detox: Withdrawal symptoms from heroin and some short-acting prescription painkillers) manifest 8 to 24 hours after the last use, persisting for 4 to 10 days.
  • Long-acting opioid detox: With long-acting opioids like methadone, withdrawal symptoms may emerge 2 to 4 days after the last use, persisting for up to 10 days.
  • Benzodiazepine detox: Withdrawal from benzos like Valium or Xanax present within 1 to 4 days of the last use, peaking in intensity during the first two weeks of benzo detox. In some cases, protracted benzo withdrawal may persist for months or years without proper treatment.

Detox Treatment

Drug detox treatment will be different for each individual, but the core process involves these three steps:

  1. Assessment and evaluation: The treatment team will screen you for physical and mental health complications. A blood test will measure the amount of alcohol or drugs in your system. Healthcare professionals will also review your medical, drug, and psychiatric histories. Your long-term treatment plan will be based on the results of this initial assessment.
  2. Stabilization: The next phase of detox aims to stabilize you with medical treatment and behavioral therapy. The treatment team may prescribe medications to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms and to prevent complications.
  3. Bridge to ongoing treatment: Once you are stabilized, the treatment team can prepare you for ongoing treatment in an inpatient or outpatient rehab center.

Detox Programs for Drug Addiction

Detox programs are an essential component of drug addiction treatment. These programs are designed to help individuals safely and effectively rid their bodies of drugs and other harmful substances.

There are several types of detox programs available, including:

  • Medically supervised detox: This type of program is conducted in a medical setting and is supervised by healthcare professionals. Patients are given medication to help manage withdrawal symptoms and are closely monitored throughout the process.
  • Outpatient detox: This type of program allows patients to detox from drugs while still maintaining their daily routines. Patients typically receive medication to help manage withdrawal symptoms and attend regular check-ins with healthcare professionals.
  • Holistic detox: This type of program focuses on the whole person, including their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Patients may participate in activities such as yoga, meditation, and massage therapy to help manage withdrawal symptoms and promote overall wellness.
  • Rapid detox: This type of program is a relatively new approach that involves putting patients under anesthesia and administering medication to rapidly eliminate drugs from their system. However, it is not recommended due to its risks and lack of proven efficacy.

To reiterate, detox is only the first step in drug addiction treatment. After completing a detox program, you should continue with ongoing therapy and aftercare to help maintain your sobriety.

Detox Treatment Programs

Supervised medical detox is a highly recommended method for drug addiction treatment, as it provides a number of advantages, including: 

  • Safety: Withdrawal from drugs can be physically and emotionally challenging, and in some cases, dangerous. With medical supervision, patients are closely monitored throughout the process, ensuring that any potential complications are addressed promptly.
  • Comfort: Medical detox programs can provide medications to help manage withdrawal symptoms, which can greatly reduce discomfort for patients. This may include medications to help ease anxiety, depression, and other withdrawal-related symptoms.
  • Professional support: Medical detox programs are typically staffed by healthcare professionals who have experience in managing addiction and withdrawal. This means that patients have access to expert support and guidance throughout the process.
  • Reduced risk of relapse: Successfully completing a medical detox program can help reduce the risk of relapse by removing the physical dependence on drugs. This can provide patients with a foundation for long-term recovery.
  • Smooth transition to addiction treatment: After completing a medical detox program, patients can transition to addiction treatment programs, such as therapy or counseling. This can provide patients with the support they need to maintain their sobriety and address underlying issues that may have contributed to their addiction.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment is a type of addiction treatment that combines medications with behavioral therapy and counseling. MAT is proven effective for treating both alcohol addiction and opioid addiction.

For alcohol addiction, MAT involves the use of FDA-approved medications acamprosate, naltrexone, or disulfiram. These medications work by reducing cravings for alcohol or making drinking alcohol less pleasurable. They can also help patients stay motivated to abstain from alcohol.

For opioid addiction, MAT involves the use of FDA-approved medications methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone. These medications work by reducing cravings for opioids and preventing withdrawal symptoms. They can also help patients stay motivated to abstain from opioid use.

MAT for both alcohol and opioid addiction is most effective when combined with behavioral therapy and counseling. This can include individual counseling, group therapy, and support group meetings. The combination of medication and therapy has been found to be effective in helping patients achieve long-term recovery.

MAT is not a universal approach to addiction treatment, and not all patients will benefit from medication. That said, for those who do, MAT can be an effective way to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms, reduce the risk of relapse, and improve overall quality of life.

Where Can I Detox from Drugs?

There are various options for drug detox, including:

  • Licensed medical detox centers: Licensed medical detox centers offer medical supervision and support during the detox process. Detox centers are similar to inpatient rehab facilities but may be more specialized in detox services.
  • Inpatient rehab facilities: Inpatient rehabs offer a structured environment where patients can receive medical supervision and support 24/7 during their detox and recovery process. These facilities provide a safe and supportive environment for those struggling with drug addiction.
  • Outpatient clinics: Outpatient clinics provide medical supervision and support during the detox process, but patients do not stay overnight. This option is suitable for those who have a strong support system at home and are at low risk of complications during detox.
  • Hospitals: Hospitals may offer medical detoxification for patients who require intensive medical care during the detox process. This option is typically reserved for those with severe medical conditions related to their addiction.
  • Doctor’s office: A doctor’s office may offer medication-assisted detox for patients who have mild to moderate addiction and are at low risk of complications. This option can be convenient for those who have busy schedules and prefer a less formal setting.

You should consider factors such as the severity of addiction, personal preferences, and support systems when choosing a detox program. It’s also essential to seek out an accredited healthcare provider who can help determine the most appropriate detox program based on individual needs.

Get Treatment for Drug Addiction at Ohio Recovery Centers

At Ohio Recovery Centers, we specialize in the outpatient treatment of addictions to prescription drugs, alcohol, and illicit narcotics. We can connect you with licensed medical detox centers throughout Cincinnati, OH if you require assistance with substance use detox.

After you complete drug detox treatment at a drug detox center, you can transition into one of the following programs:

  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment programs

Our team of medical professionals and addiction specialists combine science-based treatments like MAT (medication-assisted treatment), behavioral therapies, and counseling with holistic interventions. All treatment programs at our Cincinnati rehab include a robust aftercare component to maximize your chances of sustained recovery without relapse.

Whether you need help with drug addiction or alcoholism, we are here to help you from detox to discharge and beyond. Call (877) 679-2132 today for immediate assistance with supervised drug or alcohol detox in Ohio.

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn