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The Timeline of Substance Use Detox

Victory Bay

If you’ve made the choice to end your substance abuse, it’s important to know that your journey is just beginning. You’ve made a brave and empowering choice that has led you to take control of your life again. Once you’ve settled on this decision, it’s time to reach out for the myriad resources and help at your doorstep. Step one is detoxification. 

What is a detox? It’s a specialty medical facility that assists you in safely ridding your body of abusive substances. These drug detox centers have 24/7 medical monitoring, medication-assisted detox, therapeutic services, and everything else needed to ensure you get the support you need to end your drug use successfully. 

The first question that those entering detox typically ask is, “how long is this going to last?”. Detox is tough – it comes with varied and intense symptoms that can pose a serious medical risk. Your timeline of detoxification is going to be based on the following factors:

1. The type of substance used

2. The frequency of use

3. The amount being used

4. Whether or not multiple substances were used

5. Any co-occurring medical conditions which may cause complications

From this lens, the detox timeline is highly varied, but most detox centers recommend a fourteen-day stay to ensure you have passed through all your withdrawal symptoms.   


Let’s look at a few categories of substances to give you the best overview of what you may expect during detoxification 


Opiates are described as the most physically uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, with a peak after two days of abstinence. It’s important to note that while it will feel horrible, heroin withdrawal does not pose a life-threatening risk. Symptoms include increased sensitivity to pain, diarrhea, anxiety, sweating, cramping, agitation, nausea, and vomiting. The timeline of heroin and opiate withdrawal typically lasts up to about seven days, but there is a high probability of psychological symptoms for use that can be maintained acutely for up to one month.


This class of drugs includes Xanax, Valium or Klonopin. These drugs of sedation have withdrawal symptoms that are life-threatening. Typically detox length is a minimum of two weeks due to the risk associated with withdrawal. Symptoms include panic, anxiety, insomnia, and life-threatening seizures. Of course, this withdrawal may vary in time based on the amount used.


Stimulants such as methamphetamine or cocaine enter and leave your bloodstream quickly, leaving withdrawal symptoms of depression, agitation, body aches, and fatigue. While the detoxification process is relatively quick with stimulant usage (typically between five to seven days), a drug detox followed by a longer drug rehab is recommended for maintaining a stable environment and limiting access to these highly addictive substances and increased psychological cravings.


Similar to benzodiazepines, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms include delirium tremens (DTs), which can produce life-threatening seizures and hallucinations. The most intense symptoms will occur within a week but can persist for up to a month. Therefore, it’s crucial to seek a detoxification center for alcohol withdrawal. 

The most potent withdrawal symptoms should be able to be medically managed within 14 days on a detox stay, with variation depending on the factors listed above. That being said, many people will continue to experience Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) symptoms in the months following a medical detox. During this time, the brain works to recalibrate pathways and patterns that have been affected by substance use. These symptoms can be brought on by triggers for substance use and include symptoms of substance use cravings, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, poor memory, and sleep disturbance.   


With the addition of PAWS, the withdrawal process of returning the brain to homeostasis can take anywhere from six months to two years. For this reason, it’s always recommended to follow the continuum of care in treatment services, which includes following your medical detoxification with a stay at a long-term treatment center. This could be a residential treatment center or an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). The longer time spent in treatment for substance use correlates to better outcomes for success in recovery.   


Life will change after a detoxification center. The fog will begin to lift around your thinking and urges while critical thinking begins to take its place. The good news is that PAWS symptoms can be easily managed with ongoing treatment support, community, and coping skills.   


Remember, it’s hard to predict the exact timeline of substance use withdrawal. Each individual’s detoxification will vary significantly based on the unique make-up of your use and genetics. What you can expect from a drug detoxification center is a medically sound and professional stay to help you ease into your recovery journey. The journey that follows with beginning to help you lay the foundation for a sober future.   

Recovery with Victory Bay Recovery Center

At Victory Bay Recovery Center, our passion and mission are recovery with love and respect. We offer comprehensive Intensive Outpatient (IOP) and Outpatient (OP) addiction treatment programs. With our modern facility in Southern New Jersey and our experienced staff of healthcare professionals, we’re here to help you achieve a new life with a new start in recovery. To learn more about the variety of treatment programs we offer, contact us today by calling 855.239.5099. 

Recovery with Victory Bay

At Victory Bay we’re here to help you achieve a new life with a new start in recovery. To learn more about the variety of treatment programs we offer, including mental health, eating disorders, and substance use, contact us today by calling 855.239.5099.