The Typical Length & Process of Detox

Determining the Length of Detox

Before committing to a detox program, many prospective patients want to know what to expect from the process. The exact details of detox can vary depending on the person and their addiction. However, knowing more about the length and typical format of a detox can help prepare patients for the beginning of the recovery process.

Begin Detox With Medical and Mental Health Evaluations

In virtually all cases, a drug or alcohol detox will begin with a health evaluation. This is a critical step that ensures the health and stability of patients. Detox can be stressful on the body, and patients should be healthy enough to carry out a detox without serious negative effects.

Most patients will have no issues during this initial assessment of health. In some cases, however, patients with health concerns will receive recommendations to detox in a hospital-like environment. This guarantees access to emergency care in seconds, and it is vital for those with an increased likelihood of health risks.

The initial assessment might also discover serious mental illness. While having a mental illness doesn’t make detox any less necessary, it can guide medical professionals to offer the best possible care and to be prepared for any specific mental health concerns that may appear.

Typical Detox Timeline

It is important to note that the exact timeline for detox can vary depending on a whole host of factors. Age, type of addiction, severity of addiction can all impact how long the detox process takes. In addition, some patients will use tapering or weaning methods, and these can lengthen detox. Overall, however, the timeline for a drug or alcohol detox follows four key stages.

The first stage is when the body first enters withdrawal. This can happen in as few as six or eight hours for some individuals. While symptoms might appear at this time, they are typically very mild.

The second stage is when withdrawal symptoms come out in full swing. This typically happens around 24 to 48 hours into the detox process. Many patients report symptoms that are similar to having the flu. This is typically an uncomfortable but short-lived stage.

The third stage of detox is called the peak or climax. Around 72 hours into the process, depending on the patient and the addiction, withdrawal symptoms will become severe. This is a challenging part of the process for patients. However, the good news is that following this stage, symptoms will gradually improve.

The fourth stage is what comes after a detox. While detox is a critical step toward recovery, most patients will need ongoing assistance to maintain their newfound sobriety for a lifetime.

Objectives of Detox

When going into the details and timeline of a detox, it is important not to forget about the objectives of the process. The primary goal of a detox is to break the chemical and physical ties that patients have to addictive substances.

Detox won’t be the only necessary element of addiction treatment, but it is a critical first component. Once patients are free from the chemical bonds of addictive substances like drugs and alcohol, they can begin to work on maintaining sobriety and guarding against future relapse. In short, detox is a way to prepare for successful rehab and further addiction treatment.

Detox Duration by Addiction Type

On average, detox typically takes a week for most patients. However, the duration of detox will depend significantly on the addiction in question. Some drug addictions require a longer detox period than others.

Heroin and prescription opiates are known to have some of the more dramatic withdrawal symptoms, but they are often concentrated in a 48-72 hour period. In addition, withdrawal is rarely longer than five days in total.

A detox from cocaine is often accompanied by agitation, restlessness, depression and insomnia. A cocaine detox may last slightly longer than a week, with patients requiring up to 10 days to complete the withdrawal.

For the five percent of patients who struggle with delirium tremens during an alcohol withdrawal, the timeline might be extended. In rare cases, patients might need to detox for a full two or three weeks until they are strong enough to move to rehab.

Individuals who detox from benzodiazepines may find that the symptoms are not as profound as expected. However, users of this class of drug may struggle with an extended withdrawal period. Occasionally, patients may feel withdrawal symptoms weeks or even months after consumption of the drug has ended.

How Detox Varies Depending on the Severity of the Addiction

The length of a detox, as well as how severe any symptoms might me, will have much to do with individual patients. The severity of an addiction will play a direct role in how challenging the detox will be.

Individuals who have been using a drug for multiple decades, for example, will have a greater chemical, physical and emotional dependence than someone who has only used that drug for a few months. In addition, those with a history of addiction are likely to use more of the substance. As tolerance rises over time, individuals may require more of the drug to function. This, of course, makes detox tougher, and it could extend the withdrawal period.

The Need for a Medically Supervised Detox

Whatever substance individuals are addicted to, it is critical that they complete a detox in a medically supervised environment. There are a tremendous number of risks involved with detox, and virtually all of these risks are mitigated with access to medical professionals.

During withdrawal, patients may suffer from serious symptoms such as seizures, and professionals in the industry will recognize these problems rectify them immediately. Even smaller concerns, such as dehydration, can be targeted through medical professionals who are familiar with detox and the nature of addiction.

No two patients in detox will have identical experiences. Factors like age, health, addiction type and severity all play a role in detox duration. For all patients, however, detox is a critical part of the recovery process.