drug detox

How Long Does Detox Take?

Drug and alcohol addictions cause a great deal of damage and pain to users and the people around them. That’s why is it’s always good news when an addiction sufferer steps forward and asks for help.

When someone finally decides to ask for help with an addiction issue for the first time, they do so with little knowledge about what to expect from treatment. This lack of knowledge often stands in the way of some people seeking help in the first place. The very idea about detox and how long does detox take are scary concepts to a lot of people. BTW: The short answer is five days to several weeks, depending on certain factors, as discussed below.

To educate people about the drug and alcohol addiction process, it’s necessary to start at the very beginning and go through the entire process. For the most part, there are three distinct steps in the addiction treatment process. They include the following:

  • Detox programs
  • Therapy and counseling
  • Aftercare programming

Going forward in this discussion, the focus is going to fall primarily on the detox process.

What Role Do Detox Programs Play in the Addiction Treatment Process

Most people decide to ask for help with their addiction issues; they are still in the throes of addiction. Their bodies crave certain drugs to maintain healthy functioning. It’s this dependency that treatment professionals seek to address with detox programs. 

The goal behind detox programs is apparent. Treatment professionals must create a safe and secure environment where addiction sufferers can deal with their oncoming withdrawal symptoms with a minimum of pain and discomfort. How dangerous can withdrawal be?

Take a look at this list of standard withdrawal systems related to heroin addiction:

  • Significant respiratory issues
  • Drastically increased blood rate and blood pressure
  • Severe cramping in the stomach region
  • Body convulsions and shaking in the extremities
  • Hallucinations and nightmares that interrupt sleep
  • Psychological problems like depression and anxiety
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

This list presents clear evidence that some withdrawal symptoms can be just as dangerous as the associated addiction. This is why addiction treatment professionals tend to recommend a medically monitored detox program for clients who enter rehab with a significant addiction issue. It allows medical professionals to intervene when clients start suffering unnecessarily. 

How Long Does Detox Take?

Before trying to answer the titled question of how long it takes, it is essential to point out that many different factors come into play when discussing how long it takes for an addiction sufferer to detox off their drug or drugs of choice. The list of relevant factors would include:

  • The length of time the individual has been dealing with their addiction
  • The depth of the addiction
  • The specific drug they are abusing
  • The amount the individual is using a day and dose

Since the detox process can vary based on these factors, we will focus on the withdrawal process for someone who is addicted to heroin, the most dangerous of all addictions.

Generally, the entire process will take about a week under normal circumstances.

Within about 6 to 8 hours of their last dose, a heroin addict will typically begin feeling anxious. Shortly after that, some of the physical symptoms of withdrawal will start to set in. The addiction sufferer might experience nausea to the point of vomiting.

Going into the second day of withdrawal, the discomfort will begin increasing. Nausea and vomiting will continue. The individual’s blood pressure will start to grow along with their blood pressure reaching dangerous levels. There is also a good chance they will begin to experience breathing problems at this point.

Into days 3 to 5, the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms will come into play. The individual will likely be fighting body convulsions and tremors in their arms and legs. They could also find themselves having to deal with a desire to relieve their discomfort and pain by using again. This is also when hallucinations, nightmares, cramping, lack of sleep, and depression/anxiety will start taking its toll. 

Once the individual can get themselves past the 5th day, there is a good chance they will begin feeling better. Some of the symptoms will continue causing issues, but the worst problems should be in the past. If everything follows this schedule, there is a reasonable chance the individual will be ready to start thinking about therapy and counseling by the end of the first week.

Detox for the Worst Cases

The detox, as mentioned above process, is applicable under normal circumstances. If someone has an extreme addiction issue to alcohol or a drug like heroin, the detox process becomes more complicated. For these folks, the withdrawal process could involve weeks of pain and suffering. 

In a rehab facility, these people would likely get placement in a drug tapering program. Such a program would include doctors prescribing tapering drugs such as methadone and suboxone. These drugs are narcotics themselves. However, they aren’t nearly as addictive. Doctors will use these drugs as a substitute for the addiction source and then begin slowly decreasing the dosage over a more extended period. This gives rehab clients more time to wean themselves off their drug or drugs of choice safely. 

If you are suffering from a significant addiction issue, you can expect to encounter substantial withdrawal symptoms when you finally stop using drugs. If you want to avoid the pain and discomfort that comes with withdrawal, you need to seek assistance. Why? You now understand how long does detox take. After detox, you should also think hard about getting therapy and counseling to avoid relapses.