How long does detox take? There’s not an easy answer for that question, unfortunately. The length of detox depends on the individual, type of drug, dose, and speed of withdrawal (The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide). The symptoms of withdrawal also vary depending on the type of drug: alcohol, opiates, and tranquilizers tend to have more physical symptoms, while marijuana, ecstasy, and cocaine have more emotional symptoms.
There are also two stages of withdrawal: acute and post-acute. The acute stage is marked by mostly physical symptoms, such as:
- shortness of breath
- heart palpitations
- tightness in chest
- difficulty breathing
This acute stage of withdrawal can last several weeks, and it is during this phase when many people need treatment from a rehabilitation facility to help manage their symptoms. Most traditional rehab centers admit patients in cycles of 28 days. This is generally enough time to complete detoxification, although there has been some debate as to whether this length of stay is in fact long enough, because more time is taken up by managing withdrawal symptoms than preparing patients for the long-term effects of quitting their addiction. Yes, that’s right. When asked, “How long does drug detox take?” even the experts argue about it.Read more: Drug Detox
How long does drug detox take: Rapid Detox
Recently, some heroin and prescription painkiller addicts have been opting for “rapid detox”, a process that involves patients being anesthetized for several hours while they receive a large dose of a drug to block their brain’s opioid receptors. This process causes severe withdrawal symptoms, and the anesthesia is meant to mask these symptoms so that the patient experiences no pain. However, this method is controversial because it can be life-threatening, is not pain-free, and has not proven any more effective than other treatment methods. It also does not help with post-acute symptoms.
The post-acute stage of withdrawal can last for up to two years (especially for opiate or stimulant abusers), although they tend to peak around three to six months after discontinuing use (Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center).
Symptoms are mostly emotional and psychological, including:
- mood swings
- difficulty concentrating
- disturbed sleep
Symptoms of post-acute withdrawal are worse during highly stressful times but can also appear without any obvious outside stressors. Individuals are more likely to seek out counseling services and support groups to help them get through post-acute withdrawal rather than checking into a residential treatment center for an extended period of time.
So, how long does drug detox take? While the acute phase of detoxification is relatively short, those recovering from addiction should expect to give their body at least a year to return to normal physical functioning and at least two years to return to regular thought process and healthy routines.
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