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Medically Reviewed

How Long Does Drug Detox Take?

- 10 sections

Medically Verified: September 2, 2021

Medical Reviewer:

Sahil Talwar, PA-C, MBA


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

When an individual becomes addicted to a substance, they develop a dependency on the drug. Because of this, if the said person decided to stop using the substance, they would experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, with some severe symptoms being life-threatening. Due to the unpredictable nature of withdrawal symptoms, individuals must attend a professional drug detox when they make the decision to get sober.

Removing a substance from one’s body can be a difficult and painful task. Luckily, individuals have the option to allow medical professionals to help them through the detox process. The length of time an individual will spend in detox depends on the severity and length of one’s addiction. Before beginning detox, individuals will undergo a thorough assessment so addiction specialists can decipher how long the patient needs to stay.

Let’s take a look at what detox is and how long drug detox takes.

What is Drug Detox?

Detox is referred to as the first phase of an individual’s treatment process, as it takes place before rehabilitation and outpatient services. During drug detox, addiction specialists begin monitoring and treating patients who are going through withdrawal. These medical professionals will administer medications as needed to soothe symptoms of withdrawal.[1] This helps patients to overcome their withdrawal symptoms without resorting back to drug abuse, allowing them to continue to the next phase of addiction treatment.

How Long Does Drug Detox Take?

The length of detox varies depending on a variety of factors. For starters, the type of drug that the individual was addicted to heavily affects the detox timeline. The entire detox process may last anywhere from a few days to several months. For example, alcohol leaves the body in a matter of days. However, alcohol cravings may last much longer.

How long detox takes depends on the following factors:

  • Which substance was abused
  • How often the person abused the substance
  • How much of the drug the individual took at once
  • Whether multiple substances were used
  • If the individual has underlying co-occurring mental health conditions
  • The individual’s medical history, age, and gender

Typically, individuals detox from substances within a week or two. However, cravings may persist long after the symptoms of withdrawal subside. While some symptoms of withdrawal seem non-fatal, such as cold sweats and vomiting, they can lead to other serious medical issues. Because of this, professional drug detox programs strongly advise recovering addicts to attend medically supervised detox.

Let’s take a look at how long drug detox takes for each type of addictive substance.


During the first 24 hours, alcohol withdrawal symptoms begin to appear. Symptoms may include anxiety, vomiting, insomnia, and shaking. Once the individual is on day 3, their withdrawal symptoms will begin to peak. Seizures, fever, and hallucinations are all possible symptoms of alcohol withdrawal from day 3 to day 5.

The entire alcohol withdrawal timeline lasts about 7-14 days. After the first week, physical symptoms of withdrawal begin to die down. Unfortunately, most individuals will continue to experience alcohol cravings until they are treated through behavioral therapy.[2]

Barbiturates and Sleeping Pills

In the first 24 hours, symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, shaking, and circulation problems will begin to appear. After the first few days and depending on the dose and severity of abuse, symptoms will begin to peak in intensity. It is important to note that some individuals do not experience withdrawal symptoms until after the first week.


Within the first couple of days, individuals will experience early symptoms of withdrawal such as nausea, headache, irritability, headache, and muscle pain. Peak symptoms will begin around day 4 and may include anxiety, irritability, shaking, restlessness, dry-retching, and palpitations.

Severe benzodiazepine detox may last 10 to 14 days. Sometimes individuals experience weight loss, difficulty concentrating, and issues with perceptual abilities.


Hallucinogen withdrawal varies depending on the particular substance. However, some hallucinogens cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, drug cravings, and sweating. If withdrawal symptoms occur, they typically subside within the first week of detox. Individuals may also experience changes in the brain’s dopamine reward system, resulting in an altered mood until treatment is completed.


Individuals who are detoxing from marijuana abuse should stay hydrated, eat healthy foods, and exercise to ease withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms of marijuana withdrawal begin 3-5 days after the individual quits usage. These symptoms may include mood changes, reduced appetite, headaches, insomnia, and stomach problems. In the first week, individuals may also notice mental symptoms such as irritability, loss of focus, cravings, and depression. After the first week, symptoms will subside on their own as the body begins to produce its THC again.

Opioids and Heroin

How long drug detox takes for opioid withdrawal depends on how fast-acting the specific substance was. Heroin withdrawal may begin only a few hours after the individual stops using it. Symptoms may include muscle pain, anxiety, teary eyes, runny nose, sweating, insomnia, and frequent yawning. Peak symptoms of heroin withdrawal occur 3-5 days into the detox timeline. Peak symptoms can include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, goosebumps, blurry vision, and increased heart rate.

During the first week, symptoms can begin to subside. However, individuals may still experience digestive issues, loss of appetite, dehydration, or seizures. For severe opioid addictions, insomnia, irritability, cravings, sweating, anxiety, and depression can continue for up to 6 months of sobriety.[3]


The initial withdrawal symptoms associated with stimulant detox begin anywhere from 24 hours to 3 days. These symptoms may include fatigue, body aches, irritability, and altered mood. After 3 days, brain damage caused by stimulant abuse may begin to cause depressive or psychotic symptoms. Within the first week, individuals may continue to experience lethargy, erratic sleeping patterns, intense drug cravings, depression, and concentration issues. While most symptoms of withdrawal subside after a week, individuals can continue to experience stimulant cravings for many months.

Start The Drug Detox Process Today at Charlotte Detox Center

If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of withdrawal, you must attend professional drug detox today. No matter how long drug detox takes, your life depends on receiving professional medical attention during withdrawal. Contact Charlotte Detox Centers today for more information on professional drug detox.