Addiction Detox: What To Expect

September 10, 2020

“Detox” is a scary word in the world of recovery. It brings up painful memories, stories of agony, or even death. 

No addict wants to go through the withdrawal symptoms that come with detox and may even use this fear to delay detoxification. The reality is that detox can be alleviated by knowing what to expect and following a few simple reminders as you work towards sobriety and recovery. 

Most withdrawal symptoms are characterized by at least one of the following conditions, which can occur within six to twelve hours after your last high: 

  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Insomnia 
  • Headaches
  • Delirium tremens
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Shakiness
  • Weak or inconsistent blood pressure and heart rate

(Source: WebMD)

The severity of your addiction and dependency on your substance or behavioral addiction of choice can significantly influence your withdrawal symptoms of detoxing. Read on to find out more about the most common withdrawal symptoms for a specific drug and behavioral addictions. 

Where Can You Go for Detox? 

Detoxing is incredibly difficult on your own. You should consult with professionals at treatment centers like Steps Recovery Centers, create and maintain a recovery support community. 

You can get involved with a twelve-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous to increase your chances of being successful with detoxification and eventually, sobriety. Research more about the services available in your area to learn more about the medication, counseling, and support they can offer you. 

You could complete detox on your own at home. The symptoms of your withdrawal may be severe or mild. The rest of this article will give you the information you need to discover the major symptoms you can expect for detoxing from your particular drug or behavior and steps you can take to alleviate them. 

The Minor Symptoms of Detoxing

Even though detox withdrawal symptoms can come on fast and strong, they usually subside from the body in about two to three weeks. This is a critical time for recovery from addiction, and knowing what to expect can increase your chances of sobriety success. 

Anxiety: detox induced anxiety can feel like intense emotion. Talking these emotions out with another, journaling, doing relaxing self-care things for yourself can all help to alleviate the anxiety symptoms.  

Sweating: Sweating is a nervous system reaction to the lack of depressant found in alcohol. Cold, damp rags can deal with the discomfort, but much of the sweating you will just have to ride out. 

Nausea: Nausea is a common reaction to the body detoxifying itself. This can be from the buildup of chemicals from binge drinking in areas of the body where they need to be released. Hydration is critical to flush the body. Some over the counter medication can help with the symptom, but they’ll ultimately prolong the nausea stage by dehydrating the body.

Insomnia: Lack of sleep during the night can make your other symptoms much worse. If you are dealing with insomnia, there are ways to combat sleeplessness without drugs such as meditation, reading before bed, physical exercise during the day, limited caffeine intake.
If all else fails, there are over the counter sleep aids like melatonin that can help you relax and fall asleep. Try not to get involved with prescription medication for sleep while you are in the withdrawal stage of detoxifying.

Headaches: several different factors can influence headaches with detox withdrawal. Headaches that are severe enough may require medication and bed rest. Isolation is dangerous since relapse could happen. However, some of the best things you can do for severe headaches are hydrate and rest in a dark room.

The Major Symptoms of Detox

Major symptoms of withdrawal from detox are more serious. You may want to consult a doctor of a professional addiction recovery program such as Steps Recovery Centers to m guide you through the pain. Significant withdrawal symptoms like these are the biggest cause of failed detox.

Delirium tremens: characterized by severe nervous system and cognitive changes that can cause distress, this symptom of detox is most “common in those who drink 4 to 5 pints (1.8 to 2.4 liters) of wine, 7 to 8 pints (3.3 to 3.8 liters) of beer, or 1 pint (1/2 liter) of “hard” alcohol every day for several months.” (Source: Medline Plus)

Depression: Sometimes, mood disorders like depression can be brought on by the “rebound effect” where detox brings on the opposite feeling that the addictive behavior creates for the user. Dealing with depression requires good sleep, diet, and emotional support from friends, addict fellows, family, or professionals. (Source: Australian

Hallucinations: a rare withdrawal symptom of detox is seeing things that are not actually there or living in a false reality. Hallucinations happen in severe drug addiction cases. Anyone experiencing hallucinations should be under professional observation as they detox. 

Shakiness: tremors and shaking from addiction withdrawal can last from days to weeks and is brought on by the damage to your liver and the shock of sobriety to your nervous system. Individual herbs do a great job with soothing the nervous system, such as:

  • Kava
  • Catnip
  • Valerian
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Hops

(Source: Midwest Recovery Centers)

Weak or inconsistent blood pressure and heart rate: the stress that depressants and stimulants place on the body can cause deterioration of the heart and cardiovascular system — increasing body temperature, heart rate, and breathing, placing the heart and body under undue stress. Diet and exercise can only help protect your cardiovascular system so much. (Sources: American Addiction Centers)

Is Detoxing Safe?

Detoxing is necessary to get you out of addiction. At times, it may seem unsafe, and you’ll undoubtedly feel like something is going wrong. At some point, though, the symptoms will subside. Detoxing in and of itself is not a dangerous process. 

However, detoxing is quite overwhelming. This is where the danger aspect comes in; your body is going to want for that drug or substance you’re detoxing from. Your risk of relapsing while in detox is high, and if you’re not careful, you could put yourself in danger of relapsing. 

Why the Discomfort of Detox is Worth it

It may seem like detox withdrawal symptoms are too terrible to go through. Such a mindset may be all you need to continue in your addiction. However, scientific research suggests that the longer addictive patterns take over the brain, the more severe cravings, and withdrawal. (Source: American Addiction Centers)

Getting help with detox is best done through therapy programs, twelve-step meetings and fellowships, and a sober community close to you. Keep in mind that some of these symptoms of detoxifying withdrawal can place your body under immense stress. 

If you are already in risk factor categories for your health, beginning detox earlier rather than later may be the difference between life and death. 

Final Thoughts

Detoxification is no walk in the park. Your body and mind will be put through considerable amounts of stress. However, the longer you let your addictive patterns and lifestyle last longer and get stronger, the more difficult it will be for you to get sobriety without intense withdrawal symptoms.

Hopefully, this guide of what to expect from some of the most common minor and major detox symptoms will give you enough confidence and courage to start your journey towards sobriety. Remember, professionals like those at the Steps Recovery Centers are standing by to help you through your detox with minimal pain.

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