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Detox & Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

The first step toward recovering from drug abuse and addiction.

1 Your Role
I want to learn about treatment options for:

2 Basic Information
The Person is:
years old

graduated high school

3 Condition Information
Caron Treatment Centers accepts patients aged 13 years or older. For more information on services available to those 12 and under, please learn more about Caron's Student Assistance Program.

Most drug addiction treatment programs begin with detox, or the process of eliminating chemical dependency by ridding the body of addictive drugs. For most patients (especially long-term users or those with cases of severe addiction), detox is accompanied by drug withdrawal symptoms, or the physical side effects that occur when a person suddenly reduces or discontinues drug use. Drug withdrawal symptoms can last a few days to a few weeks and range in severity from mildly uncomfortable to life threatening, depending on the duration and severity of addiction.

The acute stage of drug withdrawal.

Drug withdrawal occurs in two stages. The first, the acute stage, typically lasts for about 2 weeks and involves the following physical and psychological symptoms:

Physical symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Weight loss due to loss of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing or racing heart
  • Cold flashes

Psychological symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Depression (occasionally combined with suicidal thoughts or hopelessness)
  • Paranoia
  • Social isolation
  • Poor concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Cravings (preoccupation with obtaining drugs)

Symptoms associated with detox from tranquilizers.

More severe drug withdrawal symptoms can occur after quitting abruptly without medical assistance, especially when the patient is detoxing from tranquilizers. They include:

  • Seizures
  • Strokes
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium tremens
  • Heart attacks

The post-acute phase and post acute withdrawal syndrome.

For many, the more difficult stage of drug withdrawal is the second, post-acute phase. Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) is likely to occur during this stage. The symptoms of PAWS can severely impact the recovery process. They include:

  • Inability to process and organize thoughts
  • Emotional instability or inability to feel emotions
  • Memory problems
  • Sleep disorders
  • Lack of physical coordination
  • Inability to cope with stress

Medically assisted drug detox.

Drug withdrawal symptoms can be quite painful for and potentially dangerous to patients—so much so that, sometimes, addicted persons attempt to self-medicate. For these reasons and more, medically assisted detox is strongly recommended. 

Medical detox safely manages the physical symptoms of drug withdrawal. Although detox alone is rarely sufficient to help patients achieve long-term abstinence, it is a strongly indicated precursor to effective drug addiction treatment.

Medically assisted detox can take place in outpatient and inpatient settings, but the latter is preferable (and often more successful) for several reasons. For starters, inpatient facilities are able to dedicate teams of specialists to care for the addict 24 hours a day. They’re well equipped to handle severe drug withdrawal symptoms. Not to mention, they remove the addict from the environment in which they were abusing drugs. Lastly, detoxing in the inpatient setting affords patients the opportunity to remain at the facility as they transition to the treatment stage of recovery. Fully completed inpatient programs have very high success rates.

Detox is just the beginning.

It is important for drug addicts and their families to remember that detox, while essential, is only the first step in an effective treatment plan. In fact, those who do not begin a treatment program following detox are rarely able to overcome addiction. Nevertheless, with the right help and holistic, individualized treatment, there is hope. Contact Caron and explore our programs for more information.