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What it’s Like to Go Through Detox and Withdrawal

Woman laying in bed as she experiences withdrawal symptoms during addiction detox
Going through detox isn’t just uncomfortable, in some cases it requires professional supervision.

Short for detoxification, “detox” is a period of time in which you aim to rid yourself of toxic, unhealthy substances like alcohol, heroin, cocaine or any other substance of abuse. Depending on your drug (or drugs) of choice, detox may be accompanied by withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms during detox range in severity from mild discomfort to severe pain and potentially fatal medical problems.

There is no sugar-coating it; detox is usually unpleasant. But, there’s good news. Your withdrawal symptoms, if you do experience them, will eventually go away. And, when they do, you’ll be one step farther along your journey to recovery.

Do You Need Detox Help?

Whether you need professional detox help depends on a variety of factors. These factors may include your personal DNA, your length of addiction (or dependence), or even the specific substances from which you are attempting to detox. The bottom line, though, is that we are all different. How one person responds to detox and withdrawal could be very different from the way you may respond.

Alcohol Addiction Detox

If you are addicted to alcohol, simply stopping isn’t a good option – even if you could. That’s because alcohol withdrawal is a potentially life-threatening condition that may induce seizures, fever, hallucinations, delirium tremens, and other serious problems. Fortunately, supervised alcohol detox at a professional treatment center often involves the use of prescription medications to reduce the occurrence of such effects.

Minor Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms (6-12 hours after last drink)

  • Shaky hands
  • Sweating
  • Mild anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Insomnia

Delirium Tremens Symptoms (Peaking at 5 days after last drink)

  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Excessive sweating
  • Seizures
  • High blood pressure
  • Racing and irregular heartbeat
  • Severe tremors
  • Low-grade fever

Non-Opioid Prescription Medication Detox

Barbiturates, drugs belonging to the depressant family, are known to have life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in chronic users. Barbiturates include medications like Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal and Phenobarbital. Or, you may know them by their street names: barbs, goof balls, reds, tooies, yellows, yellow jackets. If you are addicted or dependent on drugs like these, you are an ideal candidate for a clinically-supervised detox.

Barbiturate Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Tremors
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • High temperature
  • Seizures

Opioid Addiction Detox

For those addicted to prescription or illicit opioids like OxyContin, Vicodin, oxycodone or heroin, detox and withdrawal is usually not life-threatening. However, seeking professional help from an opiate addiction treatment center is still highly recommended. According to the U.S. government, opioid addiction detox is so unpleasant that 95% of the people who attempt detox on their own fail to complete the process. For more information about how to find a reputable addiction rehab center, check out our post: How to Choose an Opiate Addiction Treatment Program.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Craving for the drug
  • Rapid breathing
  • Yawning
  • Runny nose
  • Salivation
  • Goosebumps
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Muscle aches
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Tremors
  • Loss of appetite

Life After Addiction Detox

If you’ve made it to the end of this post, there’s a good chance you’re thinking about finding a residential addiction rehab program near you – either for yourself or someone you care about. In any case, we understand how difficult a decision like this is. If you missed part one of our 4-part series on what it’s like to go through rehab check it out here: What to Expect during Intake for Addiction Rehab.

Or, if you’re ready to learn more about daily life at a typical residential drug treatment program, check out part 3: What is it Like to Go to Rehab?

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