Detoxification has a prevalent meaning in our popular culture, best expressed here by Gaiam, the popular online shop for all things yoga: “Basically, detoxification means cleaning the blood.”
But we are not speaking about the detoxes that involve sludge-like smoothies, burdock root salads and drinking several quarts of water each day, we are speaking about ridding the human body of substances we take to get drunk or high through detoxification.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines “detoxification” as “a medically supervised treatment program for alcohol or drug addiction designed to purge the body of intoxicating or addictive substances and used as a first step in overcoming physiological or psychological addiction.”
Yes, this is the dictionary for us; this is the kind of detox that we want to focus on here – the kind that rids the human body of the addictive substances that have been put into it but are no longer wanted there.
Alcohol Detoxification: What is its Typical Timeline?
According to sources such as , alcohol detoxification involves three stages, each characterized by a specific set of symptoms and following a general timeline. It is, naturally, impossible to predict exactly how any individual alcohol detoxification will unfold, though these stages, and their accompanying symptoms, have been observed as highly common.
Stage 1 of alcohol withdrawal usually begins about 8 hours after the last drink of alcohol the addicted person had. It is usual to experience nausea, anxiety, and abdominal pain during this stage, and it is important to know that it is possible to experience withdrawal symptoms after drinking for a short time – a matter of weeks.
Stage 2 follows on the heels of Stage 1 and usually begins within 24-72 hours after the last drink the addicted person had. Many people feel confused during stage 2, and their body temperature and blood pressure rise, while their heart rate becomes erratic.
Stage 3 follows directly behind stage 3, usually about 72 hours of the last drink the addicted person had and is generally characterized by seizures, fever, hallucinations and an intense agitation.
For most people addicted to alcohol, withdrawal symptoms fade away in about 5-7 days. What then? Safely navigating the three stages of withdrawal, with medical support, is a hopeful beginning, though it is through understanding their personal story of addiction that a person with an alcohol addiction will finally be free.
Detoxification looks different for different drugs:
Heroin withdrawal usually begins about 12 hours after the addicted person takes their last dose, and is expected to peak within 24-48 hours. Heroin withdrawal is expected to take at least a week, but it sometimes takes much longer – as long as a few months.
Symptoms of heroin withdrawal include nausea, abdominal pain, sweating, shaking, agitation, nervousness, depression, muscle spasms and drug cravings.
Withdrawal symptoms from opiates like OxyContin, Vicodin, Methadone, and Morphine usually begin about 8-12 hours after the last dose and peak in about 12-48 hours after that dose. The entire withdrawal process usually lasts between 5 and 10 days, though Methadone withdrawal takes a little longer, between 2-4 weeks, and also peaks a little later, within 24-48 hours.
Opiate withdrawal begins with flu-like symptoms, such as aching muscles, tearing up, runny nose, insomnia, yawning, agitation, anxiety and sweating, and then move on to more intense symptoms like nausea, vomiting, chills, stomach cramps, diarrhea and dilated pupils.
Withdrawal symptoms from Benzodiazepines like Ativan, Xanax and Valium usually appear within 1-4 days of the last dose of the substance, and peak within 2 weeks. If untreated, withdrawal symptoms can last for months and even years.
Symptoms of withdrawal from Benzodiazepines include disturbed sleep, anxiety, panic attacks, hand tremors, sweating, nausea, headaches, muscular pain and in severe cases, seizures and psychotic episodes.
Cocaine users can expect withdrawal symptoms within hours of stopping the drug, peaking in a few days, and for the process to take between one and ten weeks.
Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal can include an inability to feel pleasure or to concentrate, exhaustion, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, raging appetite, nightmares, chills, tremors, nerve pain and an inability to be sexually aroused.
Our culture has embraced marijuana use in a way that it has not other drugs: The Pew Research Center tells us that fully half of all Americans have tried smoking marijuana. Our familiarity with this drug had led to a widespread belief that marijuana detoxification is unnecessary, that heavy users can just walk away from their last joint – but over 50% of heavy marijuana smokers will experience withdrawal symptoms.
Generally, about 24 hours after the last dose of marijuana, symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, and insomnia appear. Between 48-96 hours after the last dose, it is common to experience intense cravings for the drug, and it is possible to experience chills, fever and stomach pains. Most, if not all, symptoms should fade away by the third week of being marijuana-free.
Regardless of the chemical structure of the drug one is addicted to, it is common to fear the experience of detoxification of that chemical from their physical bodies: The onset of panic attacks or intense anxiety or unpleasant nausea can trigger an abrupt return to the drug of addiction. But detoxification need not be a process to be feared.
Beachside Rehab offers a detoxification program that is centered on the person who has been living with a chemical dependency and is characterized by the absence of judgment, the presence of compassion and extraordinary medical expertise.
Should you or a loved one be suffering from a chemical dependency we, our community, at Beachside Rehab, want you to know that effective treatment is available to you. Why not chat with one of our staff members online, or call us today at (888) 762-7943, so that we can let you know that you are not alone.