How Long Does It Take To Detox From Drugs and Alcohol

Last Updated: November 1, 2021

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Detoxification involves getting rid of the harmful substances and managing the associated withdrawal symptoms. Detox programs are the first step towards the recovery process and help ensure safety and comfort for those who intend to quit the addiction. But how long does detox take? Learn more about detoxification from drugs and alcohol to begin the journey of breaking free from addiction.

Why Is Detox Necessary?

Achieving positive outcomes and recovery from addiction needs thorough detoxification along with other therapies. The process of drug detox can be dangerous and painful, so medical detox is essential. While there are many detox drinks on the market which claim they can detox the body just in several days, they do not guarantee any result. Medical detox is supervised by licensed healthcare professionals who ensure medically assisted treatment programs and longer stretches of sobriety. With a medically supervised detoxification program, patients can prevent dangerous complications of drug and alcohol withdrawal.

Stopping a substance altogether is associated with severe withdrawal symptoms, which are challenging to manage and need medical assistance.

How Long Does Detox Take?

The duration might vary from days to months, depending on numerous factors, including the substance of abuse, duration, frequency, comorbidities, etc. How long does detox take on average? In general, detox programs at facilities last for 3, 5, or 7 days. A drug’s half-life will determine how long the drug will take to be eliminated from the body, hence changing the time required for detoxification.

How Long Does It Take to Detox – Duration of Detox by Substance

Detoxification duration depends upon the type of substance abuse and how it affects the body. For example, drugs can be excreted from the body over a week, but cravings might linger for months. Withdrawal in substance abuse is severe, with a risk of relapse, overdose, and even death. Medical detoxification or addiction programs are medically supervised to manage the symptoms associated with the particular substance effectively.

Alcohol

Alcohol overuse is quite prevalent and often requires medical detoxification and medication detox. Duration of detoxification depends upon the quantity and frequency with which alcohol is abused. As the alcohol detoxification begins, patients might experience mild hangover symptoms in the first 12-24 hours to two days after alcohol cessation. Symptoms typically worsen and peak in the next 72 hours with hallucinations, psychosis, and delirium tremens. Though these physical symptoms begin to attenuate after a week, the patient might experience intense cravings and needs therapy later.

Medical detoxification can take up to weeks, depending on the drinking habits. Medical management with benzodiazepines and carbamazepine, prescribed by the medical professionals, will help the patients to continue the outdoor treatment plan. Mild cases of alcohol withdrawal are often reported to be effectively treated as outpatients.

Woman experiencing withdrawal lying in bed.

If the psychological withdrawal symptoms like depression, fatigue, and anxiety are not addressed, patients may take up to months to fully recover without medical help. They may need to relax most of the time, surround themselves with supportive people, and get enough sleep to achieve great results.

Marijuana

How long does it take to detox from weed? It depends upon the amount and frequency being used. Initial symptoms can be managed by exercising and maintaining hydration. The first few days of discontinuation are associated with insomnia, mood swings, loss of appetite, and GI disturbances. The mental symptoms peak in the first week of detoxification; however, symptoms will start to decline after the first week.

Marijuana abusers often rebound to drug use to get over the uncomfortable symptoms. To prevent this and ensure a safe recovery process, supervised detoxification programs are recommended, which may take from a few days to months. Benzodiazepines are the first line of treatment, which can be prescribed to the patient with scheduled follow-up. Without seeking medical help, symptoms of marijuana withdrawal gradually lessen over time. However, sensations of extreme nervousness or anxiety may take up to a few months to become fully controlled.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are the sedatives (bromazepam, lorazepam, alprazolam, clonazepam) indicated in anxiety but are often misused. This drug class produces similar effects on the body as alcohol, hence, has identical withdrawal symptoms. The patient experiences irritability, headache, nausea, and muscular pain for two days after the last dose. However, as the first week passes by, the symptoms start to rebound, i.e., insomnia.

Young woman with insomnia lies in bed.

Followed by severe withdrawal symptoms, which peak in the first two weeks, weight loss, alteration in perceptual abilities, and difficulty in concentration last for up to 14 days. Moreover, protracted withdrawal symptoms persist over months to years.

How long does it take your body to detox? The medically supervised detoxification can last several months, depending on different factors. Choosing inpatient rehab that offers benzo detoxification is recommended to build long-lasting sobriety. People with mild benzo addictions may go for outpatient detox to get treatment sans upsetting their daily schedule. Those who don’t seek medical help can recover in at least a couple of weeks. Joining community support groups also results in quick recovery.

Cocaine and Other Stimulants

CNS stimulants, including cocaine and methamphetamine, are abused, leading to severe depression as stimulant withdrawal. Initial withdrawal symptoms are observed in the first 24 hours to 2 days. These drugs are often associated with neural and brain damage leading to severe depressive disorders.

In the first week of detoxification and even later, severe drug cravings and depression persist. If severe symptoms are reported, inpatient treatment programs are recommended. On the other hand, outpatient detoxification is less time-consuming, in which patients visit the treatment center 10-12 hours a week.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Opioids are prescription drugs (morphine and codeine) indicated in severe pain management. A synthetic derivative of morphine, i.e., heroin, is the most commonly abused drug. Opioid withdrawal is often very uncomfortable but rarely fatal. Heroin withdrawal symptoms start 6-12 hours after the last dose and produce flu-like symptoms, anxiety, muscular pain, and insomnia. These symptoms peak between 1-3 days of withdrawal, reporting symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and blurred vision, which will start to subside in 10 days.

Bottle of pills on the table.

How long does it take to detox from heroin completely? It depends upon case severity as well. In severe cases, insomnia, intense cravings, and depression will persist for six months or over even years. Those who wean off opioids or heroin on their own may recover from symptoms in several months as many people relapse during withdrawal.

Rapid opiate detox is gaining more popularity, but addicts should realize that it’s not a miracle cure. Most of the claims about its effectiveness are pure advertising, and it may be hard to resist the temptation to avoid all pain of withdrawal. In reality, one can’t just wake up cured one day. Recovery is a lifelong process, which required determination and motivation.

What Happens After Detox is Over?

The detoxification might be the initial step towards getting better, but it is not sufficient. Completing a detox or purchasing a detox kit doesn’t mean that life is back to normal as social, behavioral, and psychological problems need to be addressed. Different aftercare strategies are required to prevent relapse, e.g., counseling, support groups, inpatient care, etc. In the case of substance abuse, psychological approaches are recommended to achieve long-lasting positive outcomes. In other cases, rehabilitation is to be considered depending upon the substance abused, condition of a patient, and symptoms observed.

Find A Center

Detoxification is the first and essential step towards the recovery process. It’s never too late to start the journey of recovery from drug and alcohol use. First, start looking for treatment centers that offer suitable detox programs. Opt for a detoxification program that fulfills all requirements and contact the provider. Note that detoxing while pregnant may need another level of care, so always inform the facility in case you are pregnant. In addition, consider IV therapy detox. In case affording a detox program is a problem, search for the free detox centers near you.

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Page Sources

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Published on: November 1st, 2021

Updated on: November 1st, 2021

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.