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Detox Process: How Long Does It Take To Detox?

Last Updated: March 12, 2024

Authored by Tania Kelly

Reviewed by David Levin

The abuse of illicit and prescription drugs, as well as alcohol, is a significant concern, but many do not realize that an alcohol detox protocol can provide effective results. With this in mind, there is now a need for an effective detoxification program more than ever. More than 15 million people in the US suffer from alcohol use disorder. There are over 130 deaths recorded in the country each day due to an opioid overdose, often caused by substance abuse disorders.

Recovery from this condition is possible, but patients need to undergo drug detox programs before they can effectively recover through a rehabilitation program. Understanding the drug and alcohol detox process is critical for the addict, as well as loved ones. This post takes a look at how a drug or alcohol detox program works and provides detailed information on what the patient should expect during treatment.

What Is A Drug Detoxification Process?

A thorough understanding of drug detoxification is vital for addicts who are looking to recover from the substance abuse disorder that they might be suffering from. Different types of detoxification can be used, and the specific program that will work best may differ from one patient to another.

Individual approach

When looking at how to help someone detox at home, the idea is usually to rid the body of toxic chemicals and materials that might have collected in a person’s system. With a drug or alcohol detox protocol, the idea remains similar, but the process can cause the person to experience adverse effects – usually referred to as withdrawal symptoms.

Benefits of medical assistance

During this time, the individual’s body needs to get rid of the toxins that remain following the last use of the drug. The person may find it challenging to go through this particular option. This is why it is generally advised to seek assistance at a professional facility instead of opting for an alcohol, drug, or opiates detox at home.

Some users resort to dangerous solutions like looking for the Thomas recipe ingredients. However, it is still essential to consider the severity of the addiction disorder and make an appropriate decision on whether professional help might be needed.

nurse and male patient in detox facility

Drug Detox Duration

One of the most common questions asked when it comes to detoxification is how many days does it take to detox from alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. While a three-day alcohol detox protocol may work for one person, another may require a seven-day program instead. There are several factors that an individual with an existing substance abuse disorder will have to take into consideration if they want to get a view on drug or alcohol detox time.

Main factors affecting cleanse duration

Some of the most important factors that will need to be taken into account when asking how long does it take to detox from alcohol or drugs include:

  • The specific substance that the person abused
  • The duration during which the individuals abused the substance
  • The severity of the addiction – how frequently abuse occurred and how much of the substance was taken at a time

While these are the main factors that will impact the drug or alcohol detox timeline, it is important to take note that other elements come into play as well.

Effects of metabolism rates

The current state of the person’s health will have an impact on the detoxification as well. Those individuals with a healthy metabolism and who are not constantly sick due to the effects of the substances that were abused may find that the period is shorter. For others, asking how long does alcohol detox last, or in some cases drug-related detoxification, the answer may be several weeks.

A person who is undergoing an anesthesia detox, for example, should not expect only being in the center for a day or two. 24-hour drug detox or other shorter period options are usually for those individuals with a less severe addiction.

female patient receiving IV detox treatment

Stages Of Drug Detoxification

When a patient needs to undergo detoxification for substance abuse, there are many things to consider. Many tend to ask how long to detox from alcohol or drugs. Apart from this question, it is also essential to understand the stages of detox, which may be utilized in cases where any substance was abused.

The steps listed below are usually required to help a person detox successfully. The individual will also usually have to undergo these procedures before they may consider the types of drug treatment programs that can assist them in achieving and maintaining sobriety.


The initial step that a person will have to undergo before the initiation of detoxification is an evaluation. This is a critical part of the program as it allows the professionals at a rehabilitation facility to determine the patient’s current condition, as well as ensure an appropriate treatment program can be developed for the individual.

These steps are essential to ensure existing conditions or factors are found. For example, safe detox during pregnancy may require special care and a different approach, compared to a person who is not pregnant.

Drug tests will be done to determine how much of the chemical remains in the person’s system. During this step, the professionals in charge of setting up a treatment program should be able to tell the patient how long the detox will take. Some people try to use drinks for drug detoxification to cheat on such tests. This is highly unrecommended, as the distorted results of this check-up may negatively affect the course of detox.

The evaluation phage also helps the professionals who will be overseeing the program determine if the person would be in need of drug-assisted detox.


When asking how long does alcohol detox take, the stabilization phase will usually be the longest part of this particular process. At this point, the person is introduced to the treatment that will be used on them to assist with the detoxification. If inpatient detox programs were advised, the individual would also be provided access to the environment where they will remain throughout the detoxification phase.

Medical services will be provided to the person. Individuals with mental co-occurring disorders might also be provided access to a counselor or psychologist to assist in addressing psychological concerns.

woman talking to a psychologist


The last stage in the process of detoxification is the preparation phase. At this point, the chemicals are expected to have left the person’s body. The stage includes appropriate education to help the individual understand that detoxification is not the only part of treatment. Continued treatment will be required to assure long-term success and to help the person remain drug or alcohol-free.

If a person received detox outpatiently, additional rehabilitation might be provided to the individual to offer them the support needed to prevent a relapse.

What To Expect During Detox

For this reason, the individual who is about to enter one of these treatment programs should ensure they discuss all appropriate factors with the intake counselor during the preparation stage.

The person should also ask any questions that they might have, such as how long for alcohol detox. The person will usually be provided access to a supportive environment, and they will be isolated from any type of substance that may lead to addictive behavior or relapse.

Choosing The Right Detox Center

There are many facilities available that can offer people access to detoxification services. It is, however, important for a person to do thorough research and to choose a good center that will assure the success of their detox and recovery.

It is always a good idea to look for the top rehabs in the US. This will provide the person an indication on which rehabilitation facilities offer a more professional service – which could yield better results throughout the period. Services may also differ between these facilities, which means there is no single center that will meet the needs of everyone. A person looking for a five-day detox cleanse for drug tests will often not need services offered by a residential program in a luxurious resort.

Those who do not have access to medical aid services may also consider searching for free drug detox centers. Several of these facilities exist, and some of them do offer a professional and effective program to assist with detoxification.

Page Sources

  1. Alcohol Facts and Statistics. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
  2. Opioid Overdose Crisis. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis
  3. Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction: What Science Says. 8: Medical detoxification. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification
  4. Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. SAMHSA. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64119/

Published on: March 11th, 2024

Updated on: March 12th, 2024

About Author

Tania Kelly

Tania Kelly, author of Keep Calm and Treat Addiction is a credentialed Mental Health Nurse and Tobacco Treatment Specialist, passionate about addiction recovery. As a senior clinician, Tania constantly shares the concepts outlined in her book with health service providers, aiming to demystify addiction treatment and equip others in evidence-based practice.

Medically Reviewed by

David Levin


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