Withdrawal is often the most difficult part of addiction recovery. When your body has become dependent on a substance, it can be extremely painful to grow accustomed to living without it. As you gradually wean off drugs or alcohol, you will begin to undergo a host of physical, mental and emotional symptoms.
These symptoms vary widely based on the type of substance you’ve used, how long you’ve been using it as well as the method of use. The length of the withdrawal process also depends on many of the same factors. Because everyone has a different experience when withdrawing from alcohol or drugs, it’s important to ensure that you receive the right type of care for your needs.
Detox programs are designed to provide recovering addicts with individualized attention and support as they recover from substance abuse. This helps reduce the risk of severe medical complications during the withdrawal process.
It’s important to be familiar with the symptoms of withdrawal so that you’re able to recognize them in yourself or someone else. Here are some of the most common symptoms for both drug and alcohol withdrawal.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal is broken up into three distinct stages. These stages help to denote the severity of a person’s symptoms. While they may not necessarily apply to everyone, these three stages help give a clearer idea of what to expect during the alcohol withdrawal process.
- Stage 1 (Mild symptoms): This is the earliest stage of withdrawal and typically encompasses less severe symptoms. These symptoms include headaches, gastrointestinal upset, heart palpitations, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and hand tremors.
- Stage 2 (Moderate symptoms): Symptoms typically begin to accelerate at this stage. In addition to Stage 1 symptoms, an individual may experience an increased heart rate, high blood pressure, rapid breathing, confusion and hypothermia.
- Stage 3 (Severe symptoms): At this stage, an individual may still be going through Stage 1 and 2 symptoms. However, they will also begin to experience new symptoms such as seizures, visual or auditory hallucinations, disorientation and impaired attention.
The speed at which a person transitions from one stage to the next depends heavily on the type of care they receive. Without proper medical assistance, the progression from Stage 2 to Stage 3 can happen quickly, which may lead to serious health concerns.
It’s crucial to avoid attempting to detox from alcohol on your own. During an alcohol detox program, medical professionals can monitor your symptoms and provide any necessary medication to alleviate discomfort safely and effectively. This also reduces the risk of relapse, which is vital to promoting long-term sobriety.
How Long Does it Take to Withdraw From Alcohol?
The duration of the alcohol withdrawal process is determined by a wide range of factors. Some of these include the severity of symptoms, the type of substance abused, the patient’s medical history and how long they’ve been abusing the substance. An addiction specialist at a detox center can evaluate your unique situation and ensure that you receive the appropriate care for your needs.
That said, there are some general estimates of the overall length of withdrawal. These are determined by the amount of time that passes after your last drink. About 6 to 12 hours after the last drink, a recovering addict may begin to experience Stage 1 symptoms, such as headaches, insomnia, anxiety and heart palpitations.
Stage 2 symptoms and some Stage 3 symptoms may appear after 24 hours have elapsed. In addition to increased blood pressure and rapid breathing, you might suffer from visual, auditory or tactile hallucinations after the 24-hour mark.
The most severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal normally occur within one to three days after your last drink. During this time frame, the risk of seizures and withdrawal delirium (DT) is at its peak. Withdrawal delirium, also known as delirium tremens, refers to a set of severe withdrawal symptoms that include hallucinations, shaking and confusion.
Certain symptoms will begin to fade after two or three days, while new ones may start to appear. For some people, the entire withdrawal process lasts no more than several days. Others, however, might not find relief until weeks or even months later.
Drug Withdrawal Symptoms
The signs of drug withdrawal are much more varied and complex than alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This is because the types of symptoms you develop depend largely on the type of drug you used, as well as your preferred method of use. Different substances have different sets of symptoms, and this can make your own withdrawal experience significantly different form someone else’s.
To better understand how drug withdrawal varies, it’s important to be aware of the different symptoms that are associated with specific types of substances. Below are some of the most commonly abused substances, as well as the symptoms that you can expect from withdrawing from them.
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Opioids are one of the most widely abused drugs in America. Heroin, which is a type of opioid, contains highly addictive properties. Due to the extremely addictive nature of this substance, heroin users tend to suffer particularly uncomfortable symptoms during the withdrawal process. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Body aches/muscle cramps
- Difficulty sleeping
- Excessive sweating
- Hot and cold flashes
The discomfort of these symptoms can drive many to relapse before completing withdrawal. This is an extremely dangerous approach that may be life-threatening in some situations. The urge to relapse is best avoided by taking part in a medically assisted detox program, where you will be closely monitored and cared for throughout withdrawal.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
In terms of addictiveness, cocaine is similar to heroin. It is notorious for being highly addictive and can lead to extreme pain and discomfort during withdrawal. Unlike heroin, though, the withdrawal effects of cocaine are mainly psychological. There are rarely physical symptoms associated with detoxing from cocaine. Examples of withdrawal symptoms are:
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Depressed mood
- Persistent lethargy
- Psychotic episodes
- Thoughts of self-harm
Due to the absence of physical symptoms, cocaine withdrawal is not considered to be as dangerous or life-threatening as heroin withdrawal. However, it’s still crucial to avoid detoxing without any medical care, as this can increase your chances of relapse.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms
Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety, panic disorder and epilepsy. These substances may also play a role in reducing the effects of muscle tremors and spasms. While benzos are extremely beneficial to people struggling with mental health issues and other conditions, they can quickly become addictive if abused.
Possible symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mood swings
- Nausea or vomiting
- Short-term memory loss
These symptoms are mainly influenced by your dosage and the amount of time you’ve been taking the drug. As a result, the withdrawal process for benzos is not a one-size-fits all type of situation.
Methamphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms
Methamphetamine, commonly referred to as crystal meth, is an extremely powerful and addictive substance. Meth has risen in popularity among drug users, making it a more widespread substance overall. There are a number of key symptoms associated with meth withdrawal, including:
- Depression or feelings of hopelessness
- Increased appetite
- Extreme fatigue or lethargy
- Dry mouth
- Hallucinations or delusions
- Thoughts of suicide
It’s also common to experience intense cravings for meth during withdrawal. However, this symptom tends to disappear quickly, particularly with the help and support of a skilled addiction specialist.
How Long Does it Take to Withdraw From Drugs?
It’s important to note that each type of drug has a unique withdrawal timeline. The amount of time it takes for you to fully detox from a substance also depends on personal factors, such as your medical background, your history of using drugs and your genetic makeup. Generally speaking, though, these guidelines can give you an idea of how long the overall detox process takes.
- Heroin: Withdrawal symptoms typically appear about 8-12 hours after your last use. They tend to reach their peak within 24-72 hours and can last up to a full week.
- Cocaine: If you’ve developed a strong dependence on cocaine, you may start to develop symptoms as soon as 90 minutes after your last use. However, most withdrawal symptoms fade after 7-10 days.
- Benzodiazepines: In most cases, withdrawal symptoms begin within 24 hours after your last dose. The total length of benzo withdrawal varies significantly, and it’s largely based on the strength of the drug. Overall, the detox process can last anywhere from several days to a few months.
- Methamphetamine: The majority of meth users find that their initial symptoms appear within 24 hours after their last use. These symptoms hit their peak after about 7-10 days, and they become steadily less powerful as time goes on. The most commonly reported length of time for the entire withdrawal process is two weeks, but it can last up to 20 days.
Because there are so many different possibilities for the length and symptoms of drug withdrawal, it’s important to seek out individualized care as you detox from drugs. This will help ensure that your specific needs are met throughout the process.
The Risks of Detoxing on Your Own
Some people attempt to detox from alcohol or drugs without any professional care. Some may mistakenly believe that it’s faster and more painless to take this approach, but the opposite is true. Choosing to go through the withdrawal process on your own can present a number of serious risks. These complications end up prolonging the entire process and reversing all of the progress you’ve made up to that point.
One of the main dangers of self-detoxing is the the risk of medical complications. Certain types of drugs, such as heroin and benzos, are known to trigger severe symptoms like seizures and psychotic episodes. Without proper medical intervention, you may be putting your health in danger by choosing to go through withdrawal alone.
Another serious concern is the risk of relapse. The urge to use a substance again is often at its strongest at the beginning of withdrawal. During this time, recovering addicts are at their most vulnerable, and this makes them more likely to give in to their cravings.
Because your body’s tolerance begins to shift during withdrawal, you might suffer particularly severe symptoms after taking a regular dose of a substance. As a result, it’s especially important to be monitored by a medical expert until you’ve safely made it through the detox process.
What to Expect During Detox
Before you begin detox treatment, it’s important to understand what the process entails so that you know what to expect. Although every detox program is unique, there are a few essential aspects that most programs have in common.
The first step you can usually expect is a preliminary assessment. This allows addiction specialists to understand the nature of your addiction, which helps them design a personalized detox plan that’s tailored your specific needs. At this stage, medical experts will also assess you to identify the physical and mental effects of your addiction.
Next, you will begin the physical process of detoxing. During this phase, you can expect to be in close contact with therapists and clinicians who will help you manage the severity of your withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the types of substances you’ve used and how severe your addiction is, you may be prescribed medication to reduce the effects of your symptoms.
Another crucial element of drug and alcohol detox is therapy. Most detox programs give patients the opportunity to participate in individual and group therapy sessions. The purpose of these sessions is to help you get to the root of your addiction and to occupy your mind as you fight off withdrawal symptoms.
Get the Help You Need Today
At Mayflower Detox, we’re committed to empowering our patients to come out of their addictions stronger than they were before. To learn more about the services that we offer, feel free to reach out to us today to find the support you need.