Updated: June 13, 2023, at 10:31 a.m.
Starting the journey to sobriety can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to the first hurdle: detox. You might think about quitting “cold turkey” or trying to detox at home, but addiction treatment experts warn against this. In this blog post, we will explore medical detox, or medically supervised withdrawal, as a safer and more effective method. By understanding the process, you’ll see why it’s an essential first step on the road to recovery and why medical professionals at certified addiction treatment centers like Landmark Recovery best handle it.
What Is Detox?
Detox, or detoxification, eliminates addictive substances and toxins from the body. Over a period of time, the drug is metabolized and naturally flushed out of your system.
Drug metabolism is the biotransformation of a substance within the body. When the drug is broken down, it changes its chemical composition, allowing it to be broken down and excreted from the system. During this process, the substance loses its inebriating effects, and the individual becomes sober.
The Effects of Detox
Detox is used as a component of drug and alcohol rehab to stabilize individuals dealing with drug or alcohol dependence. However, detoxification comes part and parcel with the symptoms of substance withdrawal. This can be an uncomfortable, even traumatic process. Because it is so mentally and physically strenuous, it should be overseen by a medical professional who can offer medical and emotional support.
What Does Medically Supervised Withdrawal Mean?
Medically supervised withdrawal, often known as “detoxification,” is the carefully guided process of helping people stop using a substance they’re physically dependent on, like alcohol or opioids. The aim is to ease discomfort and ensure safety during withdrawal. The pace can vary, fast or slow, and supervision levels can differ too.
This process is unique to every individual and every addiction treatment plan. Importantly, when under 24/7 doctor supervision, certain medications can be used to make this process safer and less uncomfortable.
How Long Does Detox Take?
Alcohol Detox Timeline
Alcohol users tend to stop feeling the effects of detox symptoms about four to five days after their last drink, says Healthline. A daily heavy drinker may experience a seizure within the first six hours after cessation. Over the next 72 hours, the individual may develop various symptoms.
Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Upset stomach
- Nausea and vomiting
For those experiencing minor withdrawal, these symptoms usually peak at 18-24 hours. Other less common but dangerous symptoms include visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations or delirium tremens (DTs).
With more severe addiction, the worst withdrawal comes at around 72 hours, after which the symptoms tend to taper off. In more severe withdrawal situations, symptoms can persist for days or weeks.
Related Story: How to Detox From Alcohol
Opioid/Opiate Detox Timeline
Withdrawal from opioids can cause deadly symptoms. Within the first 24 hours of quitting, individuals may experience the following:
- Sleeping problems
- Uncontrollable spasms (called ‘the kick’)
- Teary eyes
- Runny nose
- Abnormal sweating
- Aching muscles
More intense symptoms may present after the first 24 hours, including:
- Dilated pupils
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach cramps
- High blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
After around 72 hours, these symptoms will start to subside. Most physical symptoms disappear after a week. However, it’s important to understand that the timeline and experience of opioid detoxification can vary from person to person.
This variability is due to factors such as:
- The specific substance used
- The duration and intensity of use
- The method of consumption (like injection, swallowing, or inhaling)
- Individual health conditions
For example, the body breaks down some opiates like heroin quickly, so withdrawal could start within 12 hours. On the other hand, withdrawal from methadone, often used to manage detox symptoms and ease the tapering process, might not begin until 36 hours after the last dose.
Detox Help is Close at Hand
Taking the step to detox can be tough, but it’s a vital part of your journey toward lasting sobriety. If you or a loved one wants to break free from addiction, it’s important to know that help is just a call away at 888-448-0302. At Landmark Recovery, we offer medical assistance and emotional support that make the detox journey smoother. We care about your health and are eager to guide you toward a sober future.
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We're here 24/7 to help you get the care you need to live life on your terms, without drugs or alcohol. Talk to our recovery specialists today and learn about our integrated treatment programs.