People who struggle with the disease of addiction do not just wake up one day and find that they are suddenly hooked on drugs. Instead, drug addiction takes time to develop. In the very beginning, a person starts experimenting with drugs for one reason or another. For example, they might be looking to impress their peers, numb emotional pain, or simply go along with the crowd. When that experimentation becomes less like an experiment and more like a regular activity, the risk for developing a full-blown addiction begins. The more that a person uses drugs in this fashion, the more tolerant they become to them. That means users need to use greater quantities of drugs in order to achieve the sensation of being high. As use continues, a person will need to regularly increase the amount of drugs they are using so they can feel high, because continuing to use the same amount does not give them the desired effect any longer. Unfortunately, the more that drugs are used, the more dependent the body becomes on them. So when someone who has developed a dependency to drugs suddenly stops using or reduces the amount they are used to using, the body produces a set of symptoms that are painful and distressing. By the time the body is dependent on drugs, the psychological aspect of addiction where the person is mentally craving continued drug use is occurring, making it nearly impossible to stop, especially without any help. But, when the user stops for one reason or another, these symptoms kick in and withdrawal begins.
People who want to stop using drugs typically need to detox from them prior to obtaining any therapeutic services. Detoxing refers to clearing the system of any and all addictive substances, meaning that all drug use must cease. And, as mentioned before, ceasing use produces withdrawal symptoms. The amount of time that detox and withdrawal symptoms last is typically dependent on specific factors of a person’s use.
What Factors Determine How Long Drug Detox Takes?
It is presumptuous to assume that everyone detoxes for the same amount of time, as there are many elements that contribute to how long it takes for a person to detox. Every person who detoxes from drugs has their own background that can impact the speed with which they detox. These factors include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The type of drug being used
- How many drugs are being used
- How long drugs have been abused for
- How much of a drug is being abused (quantity)
- The presence of mental and/or physical illness
Additional factors that contribute to how long drug detox takes include one’s age and medical history. Typically, those who are severe drug users are going to experience a longer period of time spent detoxing than those who do not have such a severe case of substance abuse. However, every person is different, which is why only ballpark numbers are usually provided to help give a person an understanding of how long they will likely need to detox.
How Long Will My Drug Detox Take?
Out of all of the factors that can play a role in how long your drug detox will take, the type of drug that you were abusing is generally the best way to determine this. That is because drugs have all different types of half lives, produce different effects on the body, and impact people in ways unique to them. Each drug clears the body at its own pace. Therefore, to gather an estimate on how long your detox may take, consider the following information regarding specific drugs and their detox timelines:
- Opioids — When the use of opioids like heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl, and hydrocodone is stopped, withdrawal symptoms tend to develop anywhere between 8 and 24 hours after the last use. It is during this time that the earliest withdrawal symptoms appear (such as agitation, sweats, hypertension, anxiety). Around the 72-hour mark, more symptoms develop, such as vomiting, diarrhea, cravings, and abdominal cramping. Depending on the severity of abuse, these symptoms can continue for up to two weeks.
- Benzodiazepines — Ativan, Klonopin, and Xanax are some of the most commonly abused benzodiazepines. When detoxing, symptoms of withdrawal can develop as soon as six hours after last use. For the next few days, symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia develop and carry on until more symptoms develop. Symptoms such as hallucinations, seizures, vomiting, twitching, and weight loss often begin around day four of detox and continue for weeks or even months at a time. While the physical symptoms tend to fade within weeks, psychological symptoms can carry on for months, requiring additional care.
- Tranquilizers — Similar to benzodiazepines, tranquilizers such as Ambien and Lunesta can take a few weeks to completely detox from. Symptoms usually begin within 12-24 hours of last use and continue for one to several weeks. The most common withdrawal symptoms include rapid heartbeat, shaky hands, insomnia, irritability, and anxiety.
- Stimulants – Cocaine, meth, crack, and Adderall are all examples of stimulant substances. Detoxing from stimulants can cause symptoms to occur within a few hours after last use. The most pressing symptoms of stimulant detox peak about a week in, and overall symptoms can continue for two full weeks total. When symptoms such as poor concentration, mood swings, and fatigue continue past the two week mark, a person is considered to have post acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS. PAWS related to stimulant detox can continue for months to years depending on the severity of one’s addiction and if they obtain help or not.
While it is most accurate to utilize the type of drug that you were abusing to determine how long your detox might take, remember that there are other factors that contribute to the length of time you will remain in detox. Detoxing in the care of professionals is ideal, especially if you are detoxing from benzodiazepines, as the withdrawal from them can be fatal.
Do You Need Help Ending Your Substance Abuse?
At Genesis House, we understand how difficult it can be to stop using drugs. However, we know that it is possible. If you are ready to stop using and get moving on the path towards recovery, then do not wait another second to reach out to us. We can help you take back control of your life once and for all.