The Dangers Of Drug & Alcohol Withdrawal & Detox

By Midwest Detox Staff

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The true dangers of detox are those that arise if and when you try to recover alone or without the constant supervision of a medical professional. Drug or alcohol withdrawals are not always predictable, and if you try to do it by yourself, you could face life-threatening consequences. This is why it is imperative to seek out help from the experts at a qualified detox clinic.

But if you’ve never experienced drug or alcohol withdrawals before, you probably have a few very important questions. For example, is detox dangerous? What are the dangers of detoxing at home? What is the timeline for drug or alcohol withdrawal? What kind of symptoms should you expect? Finally, where can you go to detox safely?

In today’s guide, we will answer all of these questions and more, so let’s get started.

In This Article
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    Withdrawal Timelines

    Part of what makes drug or alcohol withdrawal so frightening is not knowing how long it will last. There can be differences in the exact withdrawal timeline from one person to the next, even if two people have been abusing the same drug for the same length of time. That said, there are some general timelines that you can use to gauge how long a withdrawal can last based on the type of substance that has been abused. In the sections below, we’ll go over withdrawal timeline expectations for some of the most commonly abused substances:

    Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

    In most cases, you can expect the worst parts of an alcohol withdrawal to subside after 1 to 2 weeks, from the day that you stop drinking. Just keep in mind that this timeline is highly dependent on the severity of the addiction, as well as other factors such as age and overall health. Nonetheless, there are different stages within this period that most people addicted to alcohol will experience:

    • First 12 Hours - Within the first 12 hours of taking your last drink, you will start to experience mild symptoms like anxiety and cravings for alcohol.
    • 24 to 48 Hours - Withdrawal symptoms will become more severe and may include more physical signs, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure.
    • 48 to 72 Hours - Your symptoms will often reach their peak at this point, and depending on the level of alcohol dependence, you may begin to show signs of Delirium Tremens (DTs), which can be life-threatening; the biggest dangers of alcohol withdrawal are associated with DTs.
    • 3 to 5 Days - You will likely see the severity of your withdrawal symptoms decrease, and some problems like anxiety and insomnia will probably linger.
    • 1 to 2 Weeks - Most withdrawal symptoms will have subsided at this point, but some psychological aftereffects (like depression) may continue.

    Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

    Unlike some other drugs, the timeline for heroin withdrawal is notoriously difficult to predict. The first week looks similar for many people in detox, but after that, the timeline becomes less clear and there is increased variance from one case to the next. That said, here is a timeline that you might expect when detoxing from heroin:

    • 6 to 12 Hours - Starting just 6 hours after your last dose, you may begin to feel strong cravings and even flu-like symptoms.
    • 24 to 48 Hours - During this period, symptoms will get worse and you may experience a wide range of physical issues, such as muscle pain and gastrointestinal issues.
    • 2 to 4 Days - Symptoms often peak during this period and are accompanied by stronger cravings, anxiety, and fatigue.
    • 5 to 7 Days - Many of the worst symptoms will begin to subside, though you will likely still have cravings and varying levels of anxiety.
    • 1 Week and Beyond - Depending on the severity of your addiction, you may experience prolonged withdrawal symptoms that can last for an indeterminant amount of time that will vary based on your commitment to addiction treatment.

    Opioid Withdrawal Timeline

    There are many different types of opioids. The strength of the opioid, as well as the amount of time you have abused the drug, can change your withdrawal timeline. For example, heroin is a strong opioid that causes withdrawal symptoms that can last for a week or longer. Prescription opioids may have a slightly shorter timeline (as short as a few days), but once again, it depends on your age, health, and the severity of your addiction. Finally, synthetic opioids like fentanyl tend to have the longest withdrawals that can last for 1 to 2 weeks, or longer. This is because fentanyl can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin, which can greatly increase the chance of a fatal overdose or a prolonged recovery.

    Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline

    Cocaine withdrawal often has a very quick onset, which is why it is so common for people to “binge” the drug for several hours or even days at a time. As soon as the cocaine high subsides (which may begin in as little as 1 hour), you might start to experience fatigue and strong cravings for more of the drug. While cocaine withdrawal starts very quickly, it doesn’t end quickly. In general, you can expect the following timeline for moderate to severe cocaine withdrawal:

    • 1 to 5 Days - Once you get past the initial cravings for cocaine that can happen within hours of the last usage, you may think that the withdrawal is over. However, most cocaine addicts will experience withdrawal symptoms, such as difficulty sleeping and mood swings, which may worsen with each passing day.
    • 1 to 2 Weeks - The symptoms often peak during this period and can include depression, anxiety, and strong cravings.
    • 2 to 4 Weeks - During this period, you will begin to see your withdrawal symptoms subside.
    • 1 Month and Beyond - You may experience prolonged symptoms, particularly if you have abused cocaine for a long time or mixed it with other addictive substances.

    Xanax Withdrawal Timeline

    Xanax withdrawal is typically not as severe, but it can still be a very dangerous and unpleasant experience. In most cases, you can expect Xanax withdrawal to begin within 12 hours of your last dose, peak after 1 to 2 weeks, and subside after 3 to 5 weeks.

    Meth Withdrawal Timeline

    Like cocaine, meth is a highly addictive drug that often causes users to binge on it for hours or days at a time. Once you stop using meth and begin detoxing, you can generally expect the following withdrawal timeline:

    • 1 to 3 Days - After about 24 hours, the early withdrawal symptoms (like fatigue and increased appetite) will kick in.
    • 4 to 7 Days - Withdrawal symptoms will peak during this time, often with bouts of extreme depression, mood swings, and cravings.
    • 1 to 2 Weeks - Symptoms begin to subside, though anxiety and mood fluctuations may persist.
    • 2 Weeks and Beyond - Depending on factors unique to your condition, you may experience prolonged symptoms after the first 2 weeks of sobriety.

    Withdrawal Symptoms

    We’ve already touched on a few of the most common withdrawal symptoms (cravings, insomnia, anxiety, depression, etc.) that you can expect when detoxing, but since withdrawals can vary so much from one drug to the next, let’s take a closer look at some of the withdrawal symptoms unique to each substance:

    Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

    • Tremors
    • Headaches
    • Sensitivity to light
    • Nausea
    • Increased heart rate
    • Increased blood pressure
    • Clammy skin
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Delirium Tremens (may include seizures, hallucinations, confusion, and fever)

    Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

    • Intense cravings
    • Runny nose
    • Watery eyes
    • Restlessness
    • Muscle pain
    • Diarrhea
    • Nausea

    Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

    • Muscle aches
    • Dilated pupils
    • Chills
    • Rapid heartbeat
    • Bone pain
    • Joint pain
    • Spasms

    Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

    • Fatigue
    • Disturbed sleep
    • Vivid dreams
    • Mood swings
    • Runny nose

    Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

    • Sweating
    • Loss of appetite
    • Blurred vision
    • Tingling or numbness
    • Confusion

    Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

    • Paranoia
    • Intense sweating
    • Mood swings
    • Hallucinations
    • Nausea
    • Restlessness
    • Fatigue

    The Dangers Of Non-Medically Supervised Detox

    Regardless of the nature of your addiction, it is never safe to detox without the help of a medical professional. Even if you think that you’re not at risk of life-threatening complications, it is imperative to have someone trained to treat substance abuse nearby. Not only can a professional help reduce the severity of your symptoms, but they can also ensure that you don’t relapse or go into a dangerous state that could lead to seizures, coma, or death.

    Detox Safely With Midwest Detox

    If you’re looking for a modern facility in which to safely detox, there’s no better solution than Midwest Detox. At Midwest Detox, we help you overcome your withdrawals in a peaceful and comfortable environment. We also have trained professionals monitoring your health and progress 24/7. This way, you can detox and recover from your addiction knowing that you have medical personnel ensuring you remain stable and healthy throughout the process.

    Don’t wait until it’s too late. Reach out to Midwest Detox at 414-409-5200 or send us a message today.