Detox Symptoms and How to Handle Them

Detox is an important first step on the road to recovery. Detox symptoms are common, but they don’t need to be painful. There are many ways to handle detox symptoms that help mitigate discomfort. Most of these methods are best administered by medical professionals in a detox facility.

Gastrointestinal Distress

Detox symptoms vary greatly from one patient to the next. In addition, the type of addiction makes a big difference. Detoxing from cocaine feels very different from a heroin detox. Across the board, however, gastrointestinal distress is very common.

Gastrointestinal distress comes in many forms. Some patients experience vomiting, abdominal cramping or nausea. Those who are recovering from an opiate addiction will likely struggle with diarrhea, since opioid drugs cause constipation.

Fortunately, there are many different ways to help calm gastrointestinal distress. In a detox facility, patients can take over-the-counter medications that will minimize discomfort.

Patients in a detox facility will also have access to delicious, nutritious food. These meals and snacks are often chosen specifically because they won’t make intestinal distress worse.

Most importantly, addiction experts will know which medications are safe for those in recovery. Imodium, for example, contains a small amount of opioids. Therefore, it is not recommended for a patient recovering from a heroin addiction. This is a small detail, but it can make a big difference on the road to successful and lasting recovery.


Dehydration is another very common detox symptom. Dehydration happens for a number of different reasons. To start, many patients in detox just don’t feel thirsty, or their cravings are more pronounced than their thirst.

In addition, many detox patients struggle with vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. This makes dehydration worse, and it can also discourage patients from drinking liquids.

To top it all off, temperature fluctuations are likely. That means patients might be sweating even if they are not exercising or in a hot room.

Combined, these factors add up to serious dehydration. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to combat this particular detox symptom. Patients can drink electrolyte beverages. Sipping them slowly can increase salts as well as hydration without upsetting the stomach further.

In a medical environment, patients can also receive an IV of fluids. This is the most effective way to quickly rehydrate. Hydration is very important, and dehydration worsens symptoms and makes detox seem harder than it needs to be.

Muscle Aches or Overall Pain

Withdrawing from drugs or alcohol can lead to pain. This is especially common among those who are detoxing from opioid painkillers, but it can happen to anyone. People who detox at home may think that pain is a part of the process. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be.

One of the major benefits of medically supervised detox is being able to take prescription or over the counter medications. While it is possible to take certain medications at home, it helps to have them administered by someone who knows their full effects.

Medical professionals are careful to monitor patient intake. Plus, they know which medications are most effective during detox. It can be hard to explain the severity of symptoms, so it helps when experts know exactly what patients are describing.

Medical professionals also know which medications could potentially hamper recovery. They will be careful to avoid anything that might be contraindicated or that could worsen cravings and temptations for patients.


The majority of detox patients report some kind of sleep issue. This is completely normal, and it should be expected. Detoxing doesn’t end at night, and symptoms can make it tough to fall asleep or stay asleep.

Discomfort is one of the biggest reasons for insomnia. However, there are other issues to consider. Some patients are simply worried about the future, which is a normal part of the recovery process. However, it does make it harder to fall asleep.

Some patients find it easy to fall asleep, but they aren’t getting restful, quality sleep. Temperature fluctuations or discomfort means more tossing and turning. After waking up in the night, it can be hard to get back to sleep.

A safe, comfortable accommodation is a great way to improve sleep. Patients who have a comfy bed, a quiet environment and a secure room will often report better sleep overall. Medical professionals can also administer non-addictive sedatives or sleeping aids that make it easier to feel rested each day.

Irritability and Mood Swings

The process of detox isn’t easy. It can feel overwhelming to patients, and it can impact emotions in a severe way. It is common to experience irritability, and it is normal to be upset.

There are many ways to improve mood. Detox is tough, but certain amenities can make it easier. Having a comfortable environment is key.

It also helps to have access to activities. Something as simple as a walk outside or few minutes of socializing with peers can lift moods. Patients also benefit from structure, since surprises can be upsetting. Knowing what the day’s schedule looks like in advance can make it easier to prepare for every step of the process.

Mental Health Concerns

Many people mistakenly believe that all detox symptoms are physical. In reality, that could not be further from the truth. In fact, some patients almost exclusively struggle with psychological and emotional symptoms. Mental health needs to be a priority during any drug or alcohol detox.

During detox, patients may experience depression or anxiety. Some patients may even struggle with feelings of paranoia or have suicidal thoughts. Although these feelings can occur for anyone, they are most likely to crop up among patients who already struggle with mental illness.

Experiencing these mental health conditions at home, or alone, is never safe. In a detox program, patients will have the necessary support and attention. Some patients may benefit from counseling or pharmacological assistance to help ease these mental health detox symptoms.

Detox symptoms can seem scary, but they don’t have to be. The right support and help in a medically supervised detox can make the entire process much safer and more comfortable for patients.