Drugs are some of the most powerful substances on this planet. Once addicted, an individual caters to the drug and its effects above all else. They put aside their families, loved ones, careers, finances, health; anything they can compromise in exchange for a fix becomes second nature.

There often does come a point where addicts are able to realize themselves that they need help. But this initial phase of rehabilitation and recovery is one of the most challenging and most difficult. The physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms that addicts experience when they stop using the substance in question, paired with detox, can be extremely hard to cope with. This is so much the case that a person often turns back to the substance and relapses. Rather than fighting through the process, they give up. This is why it’s so important to get help through a medically supervised detox process.

Detox is the first step of treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. The purpose of detox is to find an initial level of physical and mental balance so that a patient is more capable of continuing to abstain from the addictive substance. Below you will find an outline of the detoxification process, what to expect, and how addictions to specific drugs are treated throughout this process.

The Detoxification Process

getting helpOn a basic level, the term “detox” means that the body is expelling all of the toxins that have accumulated as a result of the alcohol or drug abuse. The detoxification process is also fairly easy to understand. The initial process will involve questions regarding your use, the last time you took a hit, what the severity of your addiction was, etc.

When a person has professional medical assistance and treatment for this initial phase of treatment, it tends to be more effective since caregivers will also be attending to withdrawal symptoms. The process will vary from person to person and can take place either at an outpatient or inpatient method.


Withdrawal symptoms will depend on the type of addiction a person has as well as the severity of a substance. It also may depend on various other health factors and the person’s method of use. Detox will not be a smooth ride. In fact, the process almost guarantees some form of mild discomfort. But these symptoms will not last forever, and if you remain clean once you’ve completed this phase you’ll never have to experience them again. That factor alone can serve as a motivation to many individuals going through the detox process.

Some of the most common substance abuse issues treated in detox programs are alcohol, heroin, prescription drugs, and cocaine, and often there is more than one addiction that needs to be treated concurrently. Below are individual descriptions of what to expect during the detox process for each.

Alcohol Withdrawal

People will typically start to feel the effects of alcohol withdrawal after 8 hours from their last drink, and those symptoms may last anywhere from 24-hours for up to a few weeks. It’s quite common for alcoholics to feel mood changes like depression and anxiety, shakiness, along with an inability to focus or concentrate. They may also be nervous, unable to sleep, or in the most severe cases, experience fever and seizures.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Generally speaking, those using prescription drugs can expect flu-like symptoms to appear when you cease use. Benzodiazepine is a type of prescription drug used to treat anxiety, and sometimes it can act as a relaxant. Withdrawal from this type of medication can put a person in a state of severe anxiety, to the point where they have trouble concentrating, experience panic attacks, headaches, problems sleeping, nausea, and hypertension.

Because withdrawal from this class of drug can be so severe, some researchers recommend a graduated and supervised discontinuation process. Do not attempt self-detox if you are addicted to benzodiazepines, as medical supervision during this process is heavily advised.

Cocaine Withdrawal

The US National Library of Medicine reports symptoms of cocaine withdrawal as fatigue, anxiety, paranoia, general restlessness, nightmares, increased appetite, and even suicidal thoughts in extreme cases.

The initial crash typically occurs a few days after the last dose. But cravings, anxiety and suicidal thoughts can last for months. It is often the distinct feeling of darkness and depression that leads users to relapse. Some addicts also describe their longing to use as the need to feel something “more” in order to complete their day-to-day responsibilities.

Heroin Withdrawal

When a person stops using heroin, withdrawal results in a number of symptoms — body pain, diarrhea, and cold flashes are the most common symptoms. Symptoms are usually most severe during the first week after their last dose, and ongoing support is usually needed to manage residual effects as the occur.

Heroin has a reputation to be a very difficult drug to stop using. This is due to the withdrawal symptoms being so severe. Mild symptoms typically include bad stomach pain and nausea, along with other flu-like symptoms. Severe symptoms can range from difficulty breathing, to anxiety, hypertension, severe cravings, and muscle spasms.

Medical Treatment

Detox is typically the first step in addiction treatment. Treatment more often than not involves medical supervision to help ease the painful process of recovery. Medical professionals will also closely monitor blood pressure and other vitals in case of seizures or other serious reactions. Sometimes sedation is necessary.

Even if sedation or other substances are not necessary, and the addiction is not in its most severe phase, it’s important to have a medical professional monitor you at a treatment center to make sure that you are safe and as comfortable as possible.

It is not uncommon for those going through detox to be prescribed medications like antidepressants in order to cope with the emotional changes that are common reactions in almost all cases. Anxiety and depression can be expected as the brain attempts to re-balance itself without the assistance of substances.

Getting Help

Rehab treatment can benefit patients in various ways, and helping them get through the initial detoxification phase is key to a successful treatment plan. In addition, detoxing can be dangerous and even fatal if attempted without medical assistance. Many people resist quitting “cold turkey” for fear that the detoxification process alone will be too much to bear. That’s why it’s so crucial on both a physical and emotional level and is the initial step in almost all kinds of professional treatment plans.

Don’t hesitate to start treatment today. The detoxification process can seem intimidating, but once it has been completed the road to sobriety will be as clear as ever. Scottsdale Recovery Center offers some of the best detoxification and rehabilitation treatment in the country, and our doors are always open to those that need assistance.

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.