Addiction detox is worth it.

Addiction detox is a hard process, but it has a huge payoff. Once you make it through the physical and psychological obstacles of detox, you will find a new freedom waiting on the other side.

opioid withdrawal symptoms

What is opiate detox like?

Opioid detox is extremely uncomfortable. For many people, the combination of physical pain and discomfort plus cravings can make it difficult to stick with their goal of quitting if they don’t have support during this stage. The good news is, support is available. There are medications available to mitigate the symptoms and cravings.

Here is a rough opiate withdrawal timeline: 

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Dilated pupils
This is the most intense phase of physical symptoms.
  • Tiredness
  • Sweating
  • Body aches
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
The intensity of physical withdrawal will begin to lessen during this time. Remember that you are still in withdrawal, and take it easy on yourself. Be gentle and kind to your body and mind.
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Cravings

As you move past the worst physical symptoms of withdrawal, you may begin to experience more emotional symptoms. Mental health matters, so it’s important to pay attention to these mental and emotional symptoms and, if necessary, talk to your doctor about them.

What is alcohol detox like?

Because alcohol is widely available and often socially acceptable, many are surprised to learn how serious alcohol detox can be. It’s extremely uncomfortable for most, and life-threatening for some. Expect to feel physical and emotional symptoms for several days after your last drink.

Here is a rough alcohol withdrawal timeline:

It is common to have these symptoms:

  • Sweating
  • Tremors (shaking)
  • Vomiting
  • Increase or decrease in blood pressure
  • Quick breathing
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia/trouble sleeping
  • Feelings of anxiety
  • Rapid pulse

These symptoms typically peak within 24 to 48 hours and usually diminish 5 to 14 days after the last drink.

Some people experience more severe and dangerous symptoms. Seek medical attention if you experience these:

  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there)

Hallucinations can last up to 2 days or longer. 

Delirium tremens (DTs) is a very serious and dangerous condition that can arise during alcohol detox. If you experience these symptoms, seek emergency medical care:
  • Hallucinations
  • Mental confusion
  • Rapid mood changes
  • Energy bursts
  • Severe sweating
  • Fever/hyperthermia
  • Seizures, which can cause muscle contractions and loss of consciousness
DTs don’t occur for everyone, but can be fatal for 1 in 5 of the people who experience them. That number drops sharply for people who get medical help, so don’t hesitate to get emergency assistance if these symptoms arise.

Is it safe to detox at home?

For most people, it is safe to detox from opioids at home with proper preparation, like the detox kit listed below. Preparing yourself before you get dopesick will help you avoid a crisis when you’re withdrawing. You probably won’t feel up to running to the drugstore, so plan ahead.

It can also be incredibly valuable to talk to a health practitioner ahead of time about medication-assisted treatment that can help ease your withdrawal symptoms, like Suboxone, methadone, clonidine, or Zofran. If detox and withdrawal hit you hard, medication-assisted treatment can be the difference between relapse and entering long-term recovery.

Because there is a danger of serious health concerns and even death, it’s important to have other people support you if you choose to detox from alcohol at home. It might be tempting to hole up by yourself and detox alone, but that’s not a wise decision.

If you have a history of DTs or if you want to taper off of alcohol over time, you should seek supervised medical detox instead of detoxing at home.

If you do choose to detox at home, prepare a detox kit like the one listed below, and plan some time off. It can be very helpful to talk to a health practitioner about medication-assisted treatment that can help ease your withdrawal symptoms, like gabapentin and topiramate, which are intended for other purposes but have been discovered to be helpful for some people with alcohol use disorder. (There are some physicians who prescribe benzodiazepines—diazepam, chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clonazepam (Klonopin), etc.—to those in withdrawal from alcohol use, but Workit Health providers do not do so.)

Make yourself a detox kit that includes:

  • Over-the-counter meds including Pepto Bismol for diarrhea, Tylenol for muscle cramps, and Benadryl or Dramamine for nausea.
  • Choose a comfy spot to hang out and stock up your toilet paper.
  • Get hydrating drinks like water, Pedialyte, Gatorade, or popsicles.
  • Get some Epsom salts for taking baths.
  • Recruit trustworthy friends or family members to check in on you.
  • Plan low-stress, comforting activities like shows or podcasts, coloring, gentle walks, and baths to keep your mind from spiraling.
  • Have a list of crisis and emergency resources on hand, just in case:
    • SAMHSA National Helpline: 1-800-662-4357 – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides information services and treatment referrals in English and Spanish. 
    • Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 – The Lifeline will connect you with a trained crisis worker who can provide support and direct you to further resources. 
    • Crisis Text Line: 741741 – Connect with a trained crisis-support volunteer via text. They offer non-judgmental support and can refer you to additional resources if necessary.