How Long Does It Take to Detox From Alcohol & Other Substances

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What Is a Detox?

Detox

A detox is a process of ridding your body of a toxic or harmful substance you have become dependent on. Most commonly, people attempt to detox from drug or alcohol dependence. During a detox, you can expect to experience some withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, and mood swings. However, it’s essential to stick it through if you are hoping to recover.

Detoxing is typically the first step for people looking to begin their recovery journey from substance abuse. Depending on what substance you are dependent on, detoxing can take some time.

This article explains the general time frames for detoxing from some of the most commonly misused drugs and what to expect during the process. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

How Long Does It Take to Detox From Different Substances?

The time frame for a detox is highly individual. Factors such as your age, gender, what substance you were dependent on, and how long your dependency has lasted all come into play.

Detoxing times can vary. Detoxing may last a couple of weeks to several months, depending on the factors mentioned above.

Below are the most commonly abused substances alongside information about how long detoxing from each can take.

Detoxing From Alcohol

When detoxing from long-term alcohol use, you will likely experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, tremors, and mood swings. Some research shows that alcohol detox usually follows the following timeline: 

  • Within the first 6 hours: You will most likely start experiencing your first signs of withdrawal six hours after your last drink. You can expect a headache, mild anxiety, and stomach upset. 
  • After 12 to 24 hours: Within this timeframe, you will likely begin experiencing more severe signs of withdrawal. Some people report experiencing hallucinations which pass as the detox goes on. 
  • After one to two days: Symptoms such as seizures and tremors will likely show up around this time. 
  • After two to three days: Your withdrawal symptoms will likely ramp up further. Alcohol delirium, hallucinations, hypertension, and fever might occur. 
  • On day three: You will likely experience the most severe signs of withdrawal within this period. These symptoms can persist for up to five days after you begin your detox. 

Detoxing From Stimulants 

Stimulants are synthetic drugs designed to stimulate your body’s central nervous system and speed up brain activity. The most commonly used stimulants are cocaine and amphetamines. Immediately after you stop using stimulants, you might have feelings of anxiety, sadness, or aggression.

Between 24 and 36 hours into your detox, you will feel fatigued and may experience depression. You are likely to go to sleep for a very long time. Research shows that this is the best time for an intervention. Habitual stimulant users can expect to undergo a detox process of up to three weeks or more. Withdrawal symptoms from stimulants include anxiety, fatigue, and paranoia.

Detoxing From Opiods

Opioids are a class of drugs found in the opium poppy plant. Methadone, heroin, codeine, and oxycodone are all common opioids. They are typically used to treat moderate to severe pain.

However, they are highly addictive and commonly misused. People who become dependent on opioids are likely to start experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, and insomnia within the first 12 to 30 hours of their detox. Detoxing from opioids is complex and can take some time.

Detoxing From Benzodiazepines 

Benzodiazepines (Casually referred to as "benzos") are a form of sedative medication. They belong to a class of drugs known as depressants. Depressants are drugs that are capable of slowing down your brain and body. And, they can be used to treat severe stress and anxiety.

The most common types of this drug include:

Detoxing from benzodiazepines can take between 3 and 14 days, depending on the severity of your addiction. In the first four days of detox, you will likely experience short-lived anxiety and insomnia. Between 10 and 14 days, after you stop using benzodiazepines, you will experience the worst of your withdrawal symptoms. Recovery after this period depends on your treatment and how well your body takes to it. 

Detoxing From Marijuana 

Marijuana dependence may cause withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and irritability when you choose to detox.

These symptoms will likely peak on the third day of your detox journey. Most people will probably notice a marked improvement in the withdrawal symptoms at the end of the first week. By the end of the second week, you can expect to feel even more robust and stable.

Your body will typically wholly rid itself of the drug 30 days after you stop using. 

What to Expect When You Are Detoxing 

When detoxing from any substance, you can expect to experience withdrawal symptoms. The type and severity of these symptoms depend on which substance you were dependent on and how long your dependency lasted.

The most common side effects you are likely to experience while withdrawing from most substances include: 

  • Mood swings 
  • Insomnia 
  • Headaches 
  • Fever 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea and vomiting 

What to Know About the Detox Process

It’s highly advisable to go through detox at a detox treatment program or facility. These places provide the support you need to go through the most challenging parts of the detox process, typically at the peak of your withdrawal symptoms.

They provide a structured treatment program tailored to your needs. If you are experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, you might also be given medication to help you cope better. 

Can You Detox on Your Own?

Attempting to detox from a substance dependence can be incredibly difficult to do on your own. Medical experts always advise that you do it in a medically-assisted facility.

However, detoxing from certain substances such as marijuana could be done independently. Other substances, such as opioids, whose withdrawal symptoms can become fatal, require medical supervision.

This can be done either in a hospital or a rehabilitation center. The likelihood of a relapse is also increased when attempting to detox on your own. At the peak of your withdrawal symptoms, you are more susceptible to relapsing.

What Happens When You Are Done Detoxing? 

Detoxing is the first step in your recovery journey. What follows involves months and years of hard work and determination to stay on that journey. Recovering from substance abuse or dependency takes some time, so don’t be too hard on yourself when all doesn’t go as planned.

A Word From Verywell 

Detoxing from a substance is a journey. While timelines can provide a guideline to see how far you’ve come and how far you might have left to go, the most crucial thing is to take the process one day at a time. It’s a highly individual process, and it might not take you the same amount of time to detox from a substance as the next person. What’s most important about your detox process is consistency.

Relapsing can rest your timeline to day zero, and avoiding relapse is most crucial throughout the entire process. There is no single answer to the question, ‘how long does it take to detox?’

Too many factors come into play, most of which is that it’s a highly individual process and no two people are the same. Your recovery journey is a lifelong process that begins the day you start your detox. 

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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