Addiction is a battle for anyone who experiences it, but the next daunting task for anyone who
wants achieve recovery is the detoxification process. The thought of having to stop the
substance of choice is the first step to finding sobriety and peace.
Everyone is different, and the detox period can last anywhere from 24 hours to weeks. Here is a brief outline that can be used as to what may be expected during the detox process. The most important thing overall is to go into it with a willing attitude, and a positive thought process that you can do this! The first step to freedom!
Alcohol detoxification can be broken down into three stages depending on the severity of alcohol consumption. The first stage involves anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and abdominal pain. These symptoms can be expected 8 hours after the last drink. Next, the body may experience increased blood pressure, increased body temperature and respiration, irregular heart rate, mental confusion, sweating, irritability, and heightened mood disturbances which comes 24-72 hours after the last drink. The last stage involves possibility or hallucinations, fever, seizure, and agitation which tends to begin 72+ hours after the last drink. Alcohol detoxification can be life threatening, so it is recommended that it be done in a supervised setting.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms typically begin about 12 hours after the last use, and can peak around day 1-3 and gradually subside between 5-7 days after the initial onset. The symptoms of heroin detox can be described as “super flu” with some of the symptoms including cold sweats, depression and anxiety, loss of appetite, unstable moods, muscle cramping, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and seizures. The distress during this process can be debilitating, sometimes leading people back to use. In this case the next use can be lethal, especially if the user takes too much of the drug in order to compensate for the withdrawal effects.
Methamphetamine, referred to as “meth”, is referred to as “the most dangerous drug on earth” due to its wide range of availability. Detoxing from meth is not pleasant, however it is not one of the more dangerous drugs to detox from. Symptoms include deep, dark depression, decreased energy, increased sleeping, teeth grinding, night sweats, emotional instability, irritability, resumption of eating leading to weight gain, anxiety, cravings, suicidal ideations or suicide.
It is recommended that whenever someone chooses to come off of substance use, it be done in a supervised detox center or treatment center. Asking for help is the first step, but also knowing what to expect can be helpful. Withdrawal is a challenging process, and no matter how quick or long it is, it is hard not to create expectations that it is not going to be enjoyable.
With strength and hope, anyone struggling with addiction can make this important step in the right direction. Always remember the detoxification process is only the first step. Once clean, long term treatment center will be the next destination. Aftercare can provide the tools to help maintain sobriety and find healthy coping mechanisms.
- Sonia Kulberg is an Addiction Tech at The Foundry, a rehab and substance abuse treatment center in Colorado, and provides support to those in recovery throughout their stay in residential treatment.