Alcohol and Drug Detox Timeline

woman smiling outside after successfully going through the Drug Detox Timeline

Understandably, everyone about to enter detox has concerns about the well-known withdrawal symptoms. How long detox lasts will depend on the substances that you have used, for how long, family addiction, and any co-occurring mental health issues. Often, those suffering from addiction will try to convince themselves that they can quit cold turkey and “get it over with” without expert help. There aren’t any short cuts or easy ways to detox, and any drug detox timeline varies in both length and physical severity. Of course, it is best to be safe and aware.

Professional and medical supervision through a drug detox program is highly recommended.

Drug Detox Timeline

While an individual’s level of dependency dictates the time and physical effects of detox, the following will provide an estimate of the drug detox timeline for each substance.

Alcohol Detox Timeline

It may be surprising to learn that detoxing from alcohol is, in many cases, the most dangerous and difficult. As anyone that has overindulged in alcohol can tell you, the initial onset of nausea, shakes, diarrhea, anxiousness, and sweating can begin in the first eight hours after your last drink. These symptoms can continue in varying degrees for seven days or longer.

Often, alcoholics can experience hallucinations or seizures after the first 24 hours. Without medical assistance during withdrawals, people detoxing from alcohol after a long period of abusing it will experience delirium tremens, more commonly known as DTs. DTs are a severe medical condition, brought on by the sudden absence of alcohol in the system. In addition to hallucinations, DTs can cause rapid heart rate, agitation, impaired thought, dangerously high blood pressure, and fever.

On average, it takes seven days to withdraw from alcohol with symptoms peaking at the halfway mark. However, in extreme cases, symptoms of withdrawal, specifically, DTs can appear up to ten days after your last drink.


If you or someone that you care about has a history with heroin or opioids, you have probably heard the term ‘dope sick.’ Withdrawal symptoms from opiates set in very quickly, affecting the user as soon as six hours after use, peaking at roughly the three-day mark, and lasting for five to seven days. Often, during a medical detox program, the person suffering from addiction will be able to wean off of the drugs slowly with the use of methadone or buprenorphine. Without the help of professionals, they may experience discomfort with any or all of the following:

  • Extreme salivation
  • Painful cramping
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Nausea
  • Stimulants

The class of drugs known as stimulants, often called speed, includes cocaine and amphetamines. Detoxing from stimulants will take approximately seven days. During which time, the individual will often experience mood swings and sleep disruption. While symptoms peak and subside within a week, re-occurrence in the weeks following is common.

Usually, within 72 hours, they will experience a severe depression followed by a “crash,” leaving them physically drained.

Unfortunately, there is a high rate of relapse with stimulant detox, specifically those addicted to meth. Physical and emotional discomfort, mood swings, and cravings for the drug can persist through the first month of sobriety.

Benzodiazepine and Barbiturates

Unlike most other addictive substances, benzodiazepines and barbiturates often require an extended period of detox. In fact, patients that use long-acting benzodiazepines experience symptoms off and on for months after detox.

Depending on the drug of choice and length and frequency of use, detox for benzo and barbiturate users can vary. However, medically supervision is highly recommended for at least the first week. Ideally, someone addicted to benzos or barbiturates will slowly wean off of the drugs with professional guidance, The risks of relapse and seizure are quite high for individuals that attempt to quit cold turkey.

Understanding a Drug Detox Timeline

Attempting to unburden yourself of drug addiction of any kind can be painful and frustrating. Summit Detox has the expertise and tools to help you or a loved one detox with less pain and discomfort. You can contact us today by calling [Direct], and we will help you begin your journey into sobriety and healthy living.

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