What to Expect After Alcohol or Drug Detox

Detox support group with man recounting difficulties and woman placing her arm on his shoulder in solidarity.

If you’re here, chances are you or a loved one have been struggling with alcohol abuse or drug addiction, but are now considering or currently undergoing treatment.

Because of the complex and multifaceted nature of addiction (not to mention its effects on the body), detoxification from these substances and what it entails is a major concern – and understandably so. 

To better understand what you or your loved one could be facing during detox, we here at Bay Area Recovery have written this post. We hope you will find it helpful in level-setting your expectations surrounding detox.

Detox: What Is It?

Detox is actually a common abbreviation for “detoxification” – the process that happens when the digestive system, lymphatic system, and other key body systems and organs eliminate toxins from the body.

Detoxification can cause relatively mild symptoms, but more often in cases of alcohol addiction, opiate addiction, or drug addiction, symptoms are more severe

What to Expect After Drug Detox: An Overview

Just some of the symptoms you may experience when being treated for substance abuse during the detoxification phase of recovery include:

  • Anxiety
  • Shaking
  • Cravings
  • Hallucinations
  • Dangerous changes in heart rate and blood pressure 

Medical Detox vs. At Home Detox

The only way “out” of substance abuse is “through” recovery, which necessarily includes detoxification. In the overwhelming majority of detox cases, because of the habit-forming, physiological component of addiction, not to mention the risk of relapse, medical detox is necessary.

Medical detox involves the person in recovery staying in a facility so that they can be closely monitored and supervised by medical professionals. This in turn can prevent relapse and serious, life-threatening withdrawal symptoms and health conditions.

At-home detox is generally not a recommended practice for those undergoing recovery from substance abuse. It may be a more appropriate detox from a diet or cleanse. Likewise, quitting drugs or alcohol “cold turkey” solo is also not likely to be an effective method of recovery because the symptoms can be so severe.

The above said, the following expectations following a  drug detox, alcohol detox, or opiate detox assume a medically assisted approach.

What to Expect After Alcohol Detox

If you drink alcohol enough for it to become habit-forming, when you stop drinking and seek treatment for alcohol addiction, you will likely experience a wide range of symptoms including:

  • Beginning 6-12 hours after the last drink, you’ll probably feel anxious, nauseated, and may have trouble sleeping.
  • Beginning 12-24 hours after the last drink, you’ll likely experience fever, confusion, hallucinations, and unusual heart rate.
  •  Beginning 24-48 hours after the last drink, you could experience seizures.
  •  Beginning 48-72 hours after the last drink, you could experience delirium tremens.

It helps during this process to have peer support and a safe environment. Even years after detox, when life happens, you may have the urge to use again. That’s why all of us at Bay Area Recovery offer alumni aftercare for life for anyone that comes through and completes a minimum of 30 days in one of our detox and recovery programs. 

What to Expect After Drug Detox

After drug detox, what to expect can vary depending on the individual or drug used. That said, everything from opiates to benzodiazepines to cocaine and sleep amphetamines can cause serious or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms when detoxing that make medical detox necessary. 

The particulars of what to expect during detox can differ for different drugs. For instance, if you’ve used benzodiazepines, you could experience severe symptoms for 10-14 days after last use. With a drug like THC, on the other hand, withdrawal symptoms may be milder.

While what to expect after opiate detox may be different from what to expect from benzodiazepine detox or THC detox, the bottom line is that you should expect to feel a wide range of symptoms that are difficult to manage without medical supervision and assistance

It’s also important to remember that you can expect to have cravings after any detox period from drugs or alcohol. 

Consider Bay Area Recovery to Help You Through Detox 

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, visit a Bay Area Recovery Center today. We can help. 

We know that addiction is tough. But the reality is that it does not have to be permanent – especially with help. Alternatively, feel free to schedule a callback with us to learn more about our unique medical detox program.

James Havel Sr.

LCDC, Outpatient Counselor

James has been a part of the Bay Area Recovery team for over a decade. He currently provides counseling services at our Pasadena Outpatient location. As a recovered alcoholic and addict himself, James uses his vast knowledge of addiction to help educate those who need it. Anyone around BARC would tell you one of his best qualities is his selflessness. No matter if you’re a client, colleague, friend or family if you need help James will be there regardless of the situation. He is active in the AA community and sponsors alumni meetings outside of work. You can also call him if you ever need a hand with a construction project because he’s a heck of a carpenter too.

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