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Detox Symptoms

October 28, 2021

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Detox, short for detoxification, is the process of removing toxic substances. With addiction, detox involves helping a patient to overcome physical and psychological dependence on alcohol or drugs. People dealing with substance abuse and addiction experience common symptoms of course, but individuals do not always experience the same symptoms across the board. Similarly with detox there are common side effects, but detox symptoms will vary person to person. 

Again, while many symptoms of substance abuse are common – people do not always have the same experiences. There are important factors to consider like genetics, physical health, and mental health among other things. Additionally, the type of substance(s) has an impact on the symptoms a person experiences. For the detox process, it is incredibly important to consider what type of substances are involved.


Alcohol use is incredibly common in most countries and has widespread social acceptance. Even when use results in negative experiences and consequences, people continue to use and overuse it. Many social interactions involve alcohol and it is hard for many to recognize when it has become a problem.

Often when someone, or those around them, recognize it as a serious problem it has already become dependency or full-blown addiction. Subsequently, at this point it is incredibly difficult, and likely impossible, for someone to stop on their own. As a result, depending on the severity of abuse and addiction, alcohol withdrawal is potentially life-threatening. 

often when people realize alcohol use is serious it has already turned into a dependency

Alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances to attempt to detox from, if not the most dangerous. It is important that anyone going through this seek appropriate medical care to ensure a safe process.

Mild to moderate alcohol detox symptoms may include:

  • Tremors
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Trouble sleeping

More severe symptoms may include:

  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium tremens (confusion, shaking, shivering, hallucinations)

The symptoms will vary from person to person and depend on unique factors for individuals. The more severe symptoms occur more frequently when a person has severe, prolonged alcohol abuse. No matter the severity of abuse, it’s important to seek professional care to provide safer and more comfortable care. 

Opiates / Opioids

To start with, the term opiates refers to natural opioids like heroin, morphine, and codeine. Whereas opioids refers to natural, semisynthetic, and synthetic opioids. Semisynthetic includes drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and oxymorphone. Synthetic opioids include tramadol, methadone, and fentanyl.  

Despite the serious risks associated with opioid use, withdrawal and the detox symptoms are rarely life-threatening. However, it is extremely uncomfortable and most people are unable to do so on their own. As with other substances, the symptoms will depend upon individual factors as well as the length and severity of abuse and addiction.

Early opioid detox symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle aches
  • Excessive Sweating

More severe symptoms that appear a few days after stopping use include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • High blood pressure

Severe detox symptoms with opioids can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, and high blood pressure

Typically, the first week is the most intense and uncomfortable. Symptoms may last up to a month. Further, some less severe symptoms may last longer. This all depends on the length and amount of use, as well as individual factors.


Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are a class of drugs that are typically used to treat anxiety, though they are sometimes prescribed for other purposes. 

The longer a person has a prescription, the greater the risk of dependence and addiction. For this reason, most doctors now only offer short-term prescriptions. Of course with misuse and abuse, whether with a prescription or illicitly obtained benzos, there is a risk of developing a dependency faster. 

As with opioids, the risk during detox is not often life-threatening. However, once again the withdrawal symptoms are often so severe that individuals are unable to detox on their own. The severity of symptoms depends on the amount and length of use as well as how suddenly they attempt to stop use of the drug. 

Benzo detox symptoms include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Depression
  • Palpitations
  • Muscle aches

To successfully and more comfortably stop use, it’s important to seek a medical professional’s help. They will help patients taper off of the drug to prevent the severe symptoms that accompany attempts at suddenly and completely stopping use. 

it is safest and most comfortable to stop Benzo use with help of a medical professional


Meth, or methamphetamine, is a stimulant that is highly addictive. The high that comes from meth use is from a rapid release of high levels of dopamine. This feeling is extremely pleasurable, though the feeling is often short-lived. Someone using meth is continually chasing the high and also trying to cope with the painful crash.

The longer a person uses meth, the more severe their dependence and addiction may be. Withdrawal symptoms are not typically life-threatening. Still, they are often extremely uncomfortable. Undoubtedly, this makes detox difficult to do alone. Above all, it is always best to consult with a medical professional for the safest and most comfortable detox.

During detox, physical symptoms may include:

  • Exhaustion 
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle spasms
  • Dehydration

Emotional symptoms may include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia 
  • Low energy

Emotional symptoms of meth detox may include depression, anxiety, paranoia, and low energy

Meth detox symptoms are most intense in the first couple of weeks after stopping use. This initial period is incredibly difficult for most people to do successfully on their own. 

Seeking Help

In short, the danger from detox varies by substance. Some detox symptoms from a drug like alcohol are potentially life-threatening. Others are not as dangerous, but are extremely uncomfortable. Dehydration, a side effect from a number of drugs, has the potential to turn into a much more dangerous situation if not treated appropriately. 

Whatever the drug, withdrawal is often too difficult for many people to complete on their own. Further, with addiction there are often many other factors at play. 

At NACA, we believe in a holistic approach, which means treating each individual as a whole. Importantly, for each patient one should consider family history, genetics, trauma, mental health and many other possibilities. By addressing any underlying causes of addiction, we want to offer each patient the best possible chance at long term recovery.

If you or a loved one needs help, please reach out today.