One of the first steps in treating substance abuse is detox, which is when your body rids itself entirely of a particular substance. Depending on the substance and your length of use, the withdrawal symptoms that manifest during this period can last from hours to weeks. The importance of getting through detox safely and successfully makes it imperative to undergo the process with professional help.
Some people choose to detox at home either because they do not have the resources to get help, while others do so because they are ashamed of their condition and do not want to reach out for medical assistance. No matter your circumstances, it’s in your best interest to avoid home detox whenever possible. Going through detox without professional supervision can be highly dangerous; some symptoms can cause serious injury or even death. If you do not want to detox in a hospital or residential treatment center, you can still get in-home care to help you safely through this stage.
The timeline for detox depends on many factors, including your age, genetics, medical history, overall health, how long you were using the substance, and at what doses. Each of these factors impacts the time it will take your body to thoroughly flush out toxins and begin to recover. However, although each case is unique, there are general timelines for detoxing from the more common addictive substances:
Most treatment centers offer detox programs that last from 3 to 14 days, though some may go longer depending on individual circumstances. You can work with your care team to determine the ideal length of stay for your specific needs.
At-home detox entails increased risk. There is no supervision to keep you safe if your symptoms suddenly worsen. Being at home can also cause cravings triggered by a familiar setting. You are likely to have a harder time transitioning to withdrawal management and aftercare without a team to help you find resources and keep you on track.
At-home detox carries the highest risk for people with a history of past relapse and withdrawal. It is best to undergo detox in a supervised environment whenever possible. Even if you have previously gone through detox on your own, life-altering complications can arise at any time.
The physical, behavioral, or psychological symptoms you encounter will depend primarily on which substance you were using, for how long, and at what dose. The symptoms you may experience during detox and withdrawal may include:
It’s important not to attempt detox without medical supervision. You may experience severe symptoms like seizures, hallucinations, or heart palpitations that can prove life-threatening without proper help.
There are several ways to undergo detox. Work with your medical team to determine which approach best meets your needs. The severity of your substance use and other factors will affect the amount of supervision that your detox may require.
Most patients cannot safely detox on their own. However, mild symptoms and a short detox period allow some people to undergo outpatient treatment. Here are some of the most widely-used detox methods: