Detoxing from substances is one of the hardest and most painful parts of the journey to recovery. The side effects from alcohol and drug detox can be dangerous and feel agonizing. Different substances require different measures during the detox process, some requiring medical intervention.

Regardless of the substance, know that your symptoms are likely normal. Not only that, but they are also a sign that your body is clearing itself of toxicity. In the same way that your body makes itself sick after eating spoiled food, your body is working hard to rid itself of the matter that is harming you, and this is a good thing.

In the detox process, your body will experience what is called withdrawal, which is the period of time where your body is dispelling the toxic substance. Withdrawal includes the physical symptoms that accompany this purge. There will also be emotional and psychological aspects to your detox and long-term recovery, but most physical symptoms occur within the days or weeks after your last usage.

No two people have the same detox experience. The substance type (or types), frequency of usage, amount of the substance per usage, individual body type and tolerance level all play into the way your body repairs itself. Therefore, the length of time you’ll spend in detox is more of a range than it is an exact prescription. The American Addiction Centers outlines a typical timeline for the detox process based on the substance.

  • Opioids: withdrawal peaks between eight hours and four days after the last usage; detox lasts from between four and 10 days.
  • Benzodiazepines: withdrawal peaks in the first two or so weeks after the last usage; detox typically lasts months, but can last up to years without treatment.
  • Alcohol: withdrawal peaks within one to two days after the last usage; detox lasts around one to two weeks.

Below are lists of common side effects for withdrawal from opioids, benzodiazepines and alcohol. Consult with a medical professional at a detox program if you feel your side effects are excessively severe, or if you have additional questions.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Opioids were first introduced as a pain-management medication. Common opioids include oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl and heroin. It is important to note that although detoxing from opioids is extremely uncomfortable, it is rarely dangerous and does not often pose life-threatening side effects. Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of opioid detox is the discomfort which could discourage an individual from staying sober.

Opioid detox symptoms can include:

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid changes in body temperature
  • Diarrhea
  • Cold-like symptoms (runny nose, goosebumps)
  • Flu-like symptoms (sweating, chills, muscle aches)

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are often prescribed by doctors to address anxiety, panic disorders, seizure and sleep disorders. Whether they are prescribed or used recreationally, they are incredibly addictive.

Benzo detox symptoms can include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling distant or detached
  • Sore muscles or spasms
  • Grand Mal seizures

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Although most people don’t think of alcohol as a drug, it is perhaps the most dangerous substance from which to detox. Alcohol is a depressant, which means that the chemicals in it slow down a person’s functionality. It is not recommended that someone try to detox on his or her own from the substance, as withdrawal can have potentially life-threatening side effects. 

Additionally, detox from alcohol often requires intervention in the form of medical management. This means that under supervised medical care, a person may receive medication to help manage potentially dangerous effects of withdrawal, such as seizures and Delirium Tremens.

Alcohol detox symptoms can include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Hallucinations 
  • Seizures
  • Delirium Tremens

Seizures: What You Need to Know

During alcohol detox, there is an increased risk of seizures. Seizures are likely to occur as the body is coping and adjusting without the presence of alcohol in the bloodstream. On average, seizures will happen between a few hours and two days after the last usage. There may be one or several seizures during this time.

Delirium Tremens: What You Need to Know

The American Addiction Centers defines Delirium Tremens as an intense symptom of alcohol withdrawal that includes severe confusion and impacts blood circulation, temperature regulation and breathing. This is one of the more dangerous withdrawal symptoms, as it can lead to death and requires emergency medical intervention.

Signs of Delirium Tremens include confusion, agitation or nervousness, unconsciousness, hallucinations, fever and an increased heart rate.

The above lists of withdrawal symptoms are by no means comprehensive. Many individuals who struggle with substance abuse also have co-occurring mental health concerns that may compound the strain of detox and sobriety. Individual experiences will differ, so it is crucial to receive help with your detox from professionals. In all reality, your life could depend on it.

If you are nervous or embarrassed about your symptoms, know that you are not alone in experiencing the physical and emotional pain of detox. Medical and mental health professionals are available to help you achieve lasting recovery in a judgement-free environment. Not only will they help with the detox process, but you can expect long-term assistance and resources to keep you sober. Visit Pyramid Walden online today, or call (301) 997-1300 to get the support you need for detox and recovery.