Detox Timeline: What to Expect When You’re Preparing for Withdrawal


The detox timeline can vary from person to person and drug to drug. The duration of the withdrawal symptoms will depend on the type of drug and how long you’ve been using it. It is important to chat with a medical professional before making any decisions about detoxing, as there may be serious risks involved with your decision.

Withdrawal symptoms typically start within the first few days after discontinuing an addictive substance, with most symptoms gradually becoming less intense over time. Here is everything you need to know about detoxing from drugs in the form of a timeline.

Why detox?

Detoxing is important for people who have become addicted to substances. To detox means to stop taking a substance to which your body is physically dependent; while undergoing detoxification, your body begins to feel the effects of withdrawal.

Since detoxing can be difficult and stressful, it is important to plan carefully and make sure you have a support system in place. You may want to speak with your physician and mental health care professional about detoxing, as this could be a difficult time for both your physical and mental health alike. 

Detoxing from drugs can help reduce the risk of relapse, as well as help those who suffer from opioid addiction establish sobriety. And while alcohol detox can last anywhere between 3-7 days, it is the start of a long-lasting recovery which will help you, or your loved one who is suffering from an addiction, become a better version of yourself. Going without harmful substances within your blood will make you more attentive, improve your focus, reliability and overall success rate in finding jobs, achieving better results at university, as well as being more present when it comes to your loved ones.

What to expect during withdrawal

The first few days of withdrawal largely depend on the type of drug you’re withdrawing from. The symptoms are also highly dependent on what substitute medications and supporting medications you are intaking while under detoxification. If you’re detoxing from a substance at home, as an outpatient, make sure you keep the dedicated medical personnel informed about any withdrawal symptoms and conditions.

Symptoms of withdrawal can include:

  • nausea
  • cravings for the substance you’re withdrawing from
  • anxiety, irritability, and/or depression
  • muscle cramps
  • mood swings 
  • headaches

For drugs that are physically addictive, withdrawal symptoms will typically peak two to three days after discontinuing use. In these cases, withdrawal symptoms will begin to subside after four to five days. However, for drugs that are also psychologically addictive—such as alcohol or caffeine—the peak period is typically delayed and may last up to two weeks.

Withdrawal timeline for alcohol

The detox process for alcohol can vary from person to person. The symptoms will be different depending on how much you drink, the length of time you’ve been drinking, and your age.

The first step is to keep a diary of your drinking habits. Write down the amount of alcohol you consume every day, as well as how often you have a drink. You should also take note of the days where you don’t drink at all.

If your body is sensitive to alcohol, it might take about one week for withdrawal symptoms to start showing up. In more severe cases, however, as soon as you lower your intake, the withdrawal symptoms will begin. In general, alcohol withdrawal lasts between one and two weeks. In cases with co-occurring mental health conditions, it may take longer.

Some common symptoms for alcoholism withdrawal include: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Headaches 
  • Insomnia 
  • Irritability and restlessness 
  • Loss of appetite and stomach pain 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Sweating and chills

Withdrawal timeline for cocaine

Withdrawal symptoms for cocaine typically start within the first 72 hours after discontinuing use. They may include anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, sweats, and tremors. You may also experience headaches.

Cocaine withdrawal is usually more intense during the first week than weeks two or three. Symptoms typically decrease in severity until they are no longer detectable by week five or six, but it is possible for them to reappear.

Withdrawal timeline for heroin

Heroin addiction can result in some of the most intense withdrawal symptoms, with symptoms starting as early as twelve hours after last use. Withdrawal symptoms for heroin typically peak within the first few days following discontinuing use, and gradually become less intense over time. Heroin withdrawal symptoms generally last two to three weeks.

Detox Timeline for marijuana

Marijuana is one of the most common types of drugs people use, and it is also one of the hardest to detox from because of the lack of physical confirmations of an addiction or detoxification alike. The withdrawal symptoms for marijuana are mostly psychological and usually start within the first week after discontinuing use. There are three stages that can sometimes last up to a few weeks:

  1. Withdrawal symptoms: These symptoms may include restlessness, insomnia, loss of appetite, irritability and depression.
  2. Mental health symptoms: This phase may include increased anxiety, mood swings and paranoia.
  3. Physical symptoms: This phase includes flu-like symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation, headaches or migraines, muscle aches or cramps and more.

Most of the symptoms are also related to the initial conditions for which one may have started taking cannabis.

In conclusion, detox from drugs is a necessary step for many people in order to get clean. Receiving medical supervision and care while detoxing is a valuable element of recovery. At home or within a detox facility, you need to trust your dedicated medical support staff so that you can confide in them whenever withdrawal symptoms appear and until they are completely gone.


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