How Long Do Detox Symptoms Last?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on October 11, 2021

Deciding to stop drinking alcohol or abusing drugs is likely to result in withdrawal symptoms. How long a person experiences detox symptoms may depend on several factors.

Timeline Of Detox Symptoms

How long a person may experience symptoms of detox can depend on the following:

  • substance being abused
  • how long the substance abuse has been going on
  • amount of substance being abused
  • health and wellness of the person

Detox programs that are medically supervised typically last between seven to 10 days that provide a safe environment for individuals dependent on drugs or alcohol.

Without medically supervised detox, withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks or even months.

The following are approximate timelines for withdrawal symptoms for individual substances, without medical detoxification.

Find out more about detoxing from drugs and alcohol

Timeline For Experiencing Alcohol Detox Symptoms

A person who has become dependent on alcohol can start experiencing symptoms of withdrawal within six to eight hours.

In cases of long-term, heavy drinking, a person may have a seizure within six hours.

The stages of alcohol detox include:

  • Stage 1: This stage usually includes mild symptoms that are similar to hangover symptoms, such as headache, stomach issues, heart palpitations, dizziness, insomnia, shaking, or anxiety. Usually within the first 24 hours of the last drink.
  • Stage 2: These more moderate symptoms start around days one through three and include confusion, abnormal breathing, slight hyperthermia, and increased heartbeat or pressure.
  • Stage 3: Alcohol detox at this level is severe, and can be fatal if not treated adequately. Delirium Tremens (DTs) symptoms include hallucinations, disorientation, extreme agitation, and seizures.

Read more about detoxing from alcohol

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Timeline For Experiencing Opioid Detox Symptoms

Opioids include heroin, morphine, fentanyl, Vicodin, and others. The onset of detox symptoms depends largely on what opioid is being abused because they metabolize at different rates.

Typically, detox symptoms peak within the first 72 hours, and are the most intense of the opioid withdrawal symptoms.

The timeline can be outlined as follows:

  • Within 72 hours: Intense flu-like symptoms can be expected, such as body aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, muscle pain, problems sleeping, and irritability, as well as anxiety.
  • Day three to day seven: Over the next week, the physical symptoms start to decrease, and include tiredness, nausea, sweating, and achiness. Also, anxiety and irritability can flare up during this time.
  • Week one to week two: Emotional and psychological symptoms strongly emerge through this week of opioid detox. Experiencing restlessness, continued insomnia, irritability, anxiety, and depression can occur at this stage.
  • After one month: Cravings and depression may continue at this point, especially without treatment, and can last for weeks or months.

Read more about opioid detox

Benzodiazepine Detox Symptoms Timeline

Some of the more commonly prescribed benzos include Xanax (alprazolam), Ativan (lorazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam), and Valium (diazepam).

Even when taken as prescribed, benzos can be habit-forming and stopping them can result in detox or withdrawal symptoms.

Benzo detox can begin within a few hours of the last dose, with symptoms occurring in the following timeline:

Immediate Withdrawal

If a person has been taking benzos to treat a condition like insomnia or anxiety, the most common immediate detox symptom is the reemergence of the condition, followed by acute withdrawal.

Acute Withdrawal

This phase of benzodiazepine detox usually lasts between five to 28 days, but in some cases, symptoms can last for months.

Detox symptoms during acute benzo withdrawal can include:

  • weight loss
  • panic attacks
  • depression
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • sensory delusions (like bugs crawling on skin)
  • grand mal seizures
  • hallucinations
  • cravings

Protracted Withdrawal

Up to 25 percent of individuals with benzodiazepine dependence may experience detox symptoms that last a year or more.

For some, this can lead to another problem, referred to as post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS).

In addition to the detox symptoms listed above, someone with PAWS may experience:

  • loss of sex drive
  • problems concentrating
  • cloudy thinking
  • hostility
  • mood swings
  • depression

Read more about how to detox from benzos

Cocaine (And Other Stimulants) Detox Symptoms Timeline

Cocaine detox can begin within a couple hours of the last use and is usually tracked in stages.

Stage 1 Or “Crashing”

Initially, the person will begin experiencing body aches, sleepiness, and anxiety.

The first three days may also include these cocaine detox symptoms:

  • apathy
  • irritability
  • anhedonia
  • insomnia
  • hunger
  • sleepiness
  • dehydration
  • shaking
  • heart complication, including cardiac arrest

Stage 2 Or “Withdrawal”

At the tail end of the ‘crash’, a person dependent on cocaine will start to feel better until some of the following withdrawal symptoms peak and significantly intensify:

  • cravings — resulting in impulsive behaviors and an increase in irritability
  • apathy — overall intense depression and fatigue
  • insomnia — even though many cocaine detox symptoms lead to feeling exhausted, the person may struggle to sleep, increasing psychological and emotional distress
  • intensified dreams — vivid, unpleasant dreams and nightmares tend to occur during withdrawal, and this usually means this stage is getting closer to the end.

These symptoms of the ‘withdrawal’ stage can last anywhere from one to four weeks.

Stage 3 Or “PAWS”

This stage of stimulant detox may not be as intense as stage one or two, but there is still a significant potential for relapse.

The longer a person struggled with stimulant abuse and addiction, the more likely they will experience PAWS for a longer period of time after stopping cocaine use.

PAWS symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • mood swings
  • anxiety
  • difficulty sleeping
  • exhaustion
  • intense cravings

Medically Supervised Detox May Help Shorten Detox Duration

The timeline for detox symptoms can be managed and, in some cases, significantly reduced by attending a medically supervised detox program.

These programs offer complete supervision, medication interventions, and support for individuals who are struggling with the early stages of recovery.

Seeking Treatment That Includes A Detox Program

Some substance abuse treatment recovery programs offer detoxification at the onset of treatment.

Finding a facility that meets the needs of you or your loved one is an important factor that can influence recovery and relapse rates.

Reach out to our support staff today and let us answer your questions about addiction, detox, recovery, and how to get the help you need.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on October 11, 2021
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