(888) 448-0302 Talk to a recovery specialist 24/7

Choosing recovery close to home means your support system is just a few miles away.

  • 100% Confidential
  • Available 24/7
  • No Pressure to Commit
  • Multiple Financial Options Available
Call (888) 448-0302

We're Here To Help 24/7

Understanding Detox: What is Medically Supervised Withdrawal?

by Landmark Recovery

August 4, 2020
A man thinking about what happens in detox

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?

A nurse thinking about what happens during detox if he quits drugs and alcohol

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?

A man holding a small clock to show how long detox takes

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:

  • Headache
  • Tremors
  • 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

Opioids and opiates come with very serious physical withdrawal symptoms. This class of drugs includes:

Withdrawal from opioids can cause deadly symptoms. Within the first 24 hours of quitting, individuals may experience the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • 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:

  • Gooseflesh
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • 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.

To find a facility near you, visit our locations page or explore our addiction recovery blog.

recovery specialist available 24 hours a day at landmark recovery

Choose Recovery Over Addiction

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.

About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.