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What are the symptoms of detox?

Mina Draskovic, B.Psy., reviewed this content for accuracy on May 10, 2024

During drug or alcohol detox, your body experiences a spectrum of symptoms. These range from tremors and insomnia to severe complications such as seizures and delirium tremens. A 1998 study in Japan revealed that up to 4% of people undergoing alcohol withdrawal faced serious seizures. 

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The detox process may be difficult, but it is a necessary step towards a healthier life free from substance abuse. Our addiction treatment center provides a safe, medically supervised setting to guide you through detox and support you on your journey to sobriety.

8 signs your body is detoxing from substances

Detox symptoms can range from mild to severe and even life-threatening. They depend on factors such as the type of substance used, the duration and intensity of use, and your individual physiology. 

Here are the eight most common signs your body is going through substance detox:

  1. Intense cravings
  2. Nausea and vomiting
  3. Tremors and shaking
  4. Anxiety and irritability
  5. Sweating
  6. Fatigue 
  7. Headaches
  8. Insomnia

One: intense cravings to use the substance

Intense cravings are one of the most challenging aspects of detox. Your body has grown accustomed to the presence of the substance, and when it’s no longer there, your brain sends powerful signals urging you to use it again. 

Megan E. Piper, PhD found that cravings during detox can be triggered not only by the lack of the substance itself but also by environmental cues that act as reminders of past substance use.

Cravings are a normal part of the detox process. They are most intense in the early stages of detox when your body is just beginning to adjust to the absence of the substance. They can persist throughout detox and beyond until your body and mind adapt to a substance-free state.

Two: stomach discomfort, nausea, and vomiting

During detox, your body adjusts to the absence of the substance, causing digestive issues such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea. Because your stomach and intestines have been damaged, your body is trying to repair the lining and eliminate toxins. All of this causes gastrointestinal distress.

As your body works to clear itself of toxins and restore balance in your gut, these symptoms gradually diminish. With time, proper nutrition, and the support of healthcare professionals, your gut will heal. At Ardu, we offer nutritional therapy and IV amino acid infusions to support your body’s healing process and help alleviate digestive discomfort during detox.

Three: uncontrollable shaking and trembling

Tremors and uncontrollable shaking occur because your central nervous system is trying to rebalance itself after being consistently suppressed by substances. Your body becomes accustomed to their presence, adjusting neurotransmitter levels and brain chemistry. During detox, your nervous system becomes hyperactive, leading to tremors and shaking. 

Tremors are especially common in alcohol and benzodiazepine detox

Four: increased anxiety and agitation

During detox, you may struggle with anxiety and other types of mood disorders and feel more easily agitated or irritable. Your brain is trying to adjust to the sudden absence of the substance it has grown dependent on for regulating emotions. 

A group of scientists proposes that anxiety and irritability during alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) arise from glutamate-mediated central nervous system excitation after alcohol use disorder downregulated GABA receptors. Increases in dopamine, glutamate, and norepinephrine during withdrawal and detox can contribute to these psychiatric symptoms.

As your body works to restore its natural balance, you may feel on edge, restless, or even prone to outbursts. These emotions are a normal part of the healing process, and with the right support and coping strategies, you can easily manage and continue progressing towards recovery.

If you struggle with mood-related challenges during detox, our compassionate team of experts can provide support. We employ evidence-based techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness training, and stress management to help you develop healthy coping mechanisms and emotional regulation skills. 

Five: excessive perspiration

As your body eliminates toxins and undergoes the healing process, it may increase sweating to help expel these substances through the skin’s pores. Excessive perspiration (hyperhidrosis) can be uncomfortable, but it’s a natural response that shows that your body is cleansing itself. 

Piper, PhD lists sweating as a common autonomic withdrawal symptom that can emerge when a person stops chronic drug use, likely due to disrupted autonomic regulation.

During detox, it’s important to stay hydrated and wear breathable fabrics to help manage this temporary side effect. Excessive sweating should subside as your detox journey reaches its final stages.

Six: fatigue and muscle pain

Many people in detox experience a lack of energy and muscle pain. Toxins stored in your fat cells get released into the bloodstream. Your body diverts energy towards the detoxification process to eliminate built-up toxins. 

If you’re feeling drained of energy and ached, it’s a clear sign your detox is progressing. Make sure you’re adequately hydrated and rested during this transitional phase of detox. 

Seven: persistent headaches

If you’re detoxing from alcohol or drugs, you’re probably suffering from persistent headaches. It’s the toxins again—the built-up toxins from substance abuse are released from tissues into the bloodstream, causing inflammation and disrupting blood flow to the brain. Toxin and waste product buildup in the liver during detox impairs its ability to properly filter and remove them from the bloodstream, allowing them to circulate and cause inflammation and vascular changes that lead to headaches.

Eight: difficulty falling or staying asleep

Insomnia is a common sign that your body is detoxing. The release of stored toxins in your bloodstream causes muscle aches, nausea, and headaches, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. The sudden absence of alcohol or drugs, which may have previously induced sedation, can disrupt normal sleep patterns. 
  2. The fluctuating levels of chemicals and hormones in your body during detox can affect the production of melatonin, the sleep-regulating hormone. The detoxification process increases the levels of inflammatory compounds and stress hormones such as cortisol, which can interfere with the body’s natural synthesis and release of melatonin.
  3. The body’s heightened state of physical and psychological stress during detox boosts cortisol levels, making it difficult to relax and fall into restorative sleep.
  4. Piper, PhD suggests that insomnia and other sleep disturbances during detox may have something to do with rapid changes in neurotransmitter systems such as GABA and glutamate that were downregulated during chronic drug use.

Experience a safe and supportive detox journey at Ardu Recovery Center. Our program combines medical expertise with holistic therapies to cleanse your body of toxins and achieve healing of both mind and body.

Contact Ardu online or reach us at 801-872-8480 and start your detox journey. It will be challenging, but we won’t give up on you.

Why do people need detox?

Detox is the first step in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD). It allows the body to cleanse itself of the substance and begin healing. People need detox to reset their body’s natural balance and regain control of their well-being.

When you regularly use alcohol or drugs, your body becomes accustomed to their presence. Toxins accumulate over time, leading to health problems and increasing the risk of developing physical dependence and addiction.

Over time, the body adapts and develops a tolerance, requiring more substance to achieve the desired effects. In people addicted to opioids, the drugs flood the brain with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates motivation, pleasure, and mood. In an attempt to maintain balance, the brain adapts by decreasing its natural dopamine production and reducing the number of receptors. You start needing more of that dopamine “high” to feel normal. 

When opioid use is stopped, the altered neurotransmitter systems become dysregulated, resulting in the onset of drug withdrawal symptoms. While withdrawal refers specifically to the symptoms experienced when stopping substance use, detox is the entire process of allowing the body to eliminate the substance and rebalance its chemistry. 

Medical detox manages the withdrawal symptoms in a supervised medical setting to ensure safety, and is recommended for those detoxing from drugs or alcohol.

Koob and Volkow explain that, as the addiction progresses to the withdrawal stage, the function of the brain’s reward system decreases, while stress-related neurotransmitters such as corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and dynorphin skyrocket. This leads to feelings of anxiety, dysphoria, and a compulsion to use drugs to alleviate these negative emotions.

Addiction also affects other crucial neurotransmitters such as GABA and glutamate, which are responsible for regulating brain activity, mood, and cognitive functions. In people with alcohol use disorder (AUD), their GABA receptors have adapted to the constant presence of booze. When they stop drinking, the compensatory changes in the brain’s GABA receptors are no longer sufficient to maintain normal brain function. This leads to an overactive central nervous system, causing distressing withdrawal symptoms.

Prolonged alcohol use leads to the development of tolerance and physical dependence, which may result from compensatory functional changes by downregulation of GABA receptors and increased expression of NMDA receptors with production of more glutamate to maintain central nervous system (CNS) transmitter homeostasis. (Jesse, et al.)

During detox, the body works to eliminate the toxic substances and their byproducts. As your body tries to adjust, you are thrown into a state of physical discomfort and distress, with a range of unpleasant and sometimes painful symptoms. Alcohol and benzodiazepine addiction can cause particularly severe and potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, which is why medical supervision during detox is crucial.

We understand how challenging it can be to take that first step. If you’re struggling with alcohol addiction and feel ready for a change, our alcohol detox program is here to support you every step of the way. 

For those battling addiction to opioids, opiates, prescription medications, or other types of drugs, Ardu’s drug detox program provides a judgment-free, medically supervised environment where you can begin your recovery process with the support and care you need. 

How long do detox symptoms last?

According to a 2019 journal article published in Brain Communications, the timing and duration of detox symptoms depend on the drug’s half-life, with some symptoms emerging within hours and persisting for weeks. The article also suggests that some drugs can cause rebound effects where previous symptoms return more intensely, as well as protracted withdrawal syndromes lasting months.

Here’s what you need to know about drug type and detox timeline:

  • People undergoing heroin or other opioid detox experience peak withdrawal symptoms within 72–96 hours after their last dose, while the acute symptoms may start within hours. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can last as long as 20 days.
  • Detox from sedatives and hypnotics could cause symptoms to last 2–10 days. During this period, you can expect tremors, sweating, anxiety, and potential seizures. 
  • Detoxing from cocaine, amphetamines, or other types of stimulants often involves excessive hunger, fatigue, and psychomotor agitation that can last around 2 days. Mild symptoms such as depression and cravings may persist for up to 2 weeks.
  • For alcohol dependence, mild detox symptoms (e.g., insomnia, tremors, and gastrointestinal issues) typically begin around 6–12 hours after the last drink. Severe symptoms peak around 2–3 days and may require supervised inpatient detox treatment

No matter the substance, detox symptoms typically progress through several stages.

The acute phase of substance detox

In the acute phase, physical symptoms are most intense. The psychological effects such as mood swings, cravings, and mental fog can linger longer. The acute phase can begin within a few hours for alcohol and drug withdrawal symptoms. The physical and emotional symptoms peak around 2–3 days and can last up to 7. 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the acute withdrawal phase brings on severe physical symptoms such as tremors, sweating, insomnia, rapid heart rate, and high blood pressure, with an increased risk of seizures and other medical emergencies.

Stay hydrated, rest up, and don’t be discouraged; you’re making progress.

Post-acute detox phase

Even after the acute phase subsides, many go on to experience a prolonged stage called protracted or post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). During this stage, the most distressing physical symptoms have faded, but psychological effects persist, including mood disturbances, sleep difficulties, strong cravings, and brain fog.

The SAMHSA publication explains that “clients may be affected by less intense versions of the acute signs and symptoms of withdrawal as well as by other conditions such as impaired ability to check impulses, negative emotional states, sleep disturbances, and cravings” during the protracted withdrawal phase. 

By the 4 week mark, you should be feeling much better with improved mental clarity, regulated body temperature and heart rate, and fewer physical symptoms overall. For a full-body reset, it can take 1–2 months to fully cleanse your body of toxin buildups.

Recovery stage

If you can persist through the acute and post-acute phases, the most difficult detox symptoms will resolve. During the recovery period, your mind and body can finally begin restoring their natural balance. With a commitment to your sobriety, you’ll experience increased mental clarity, regulate bodily functions, and return to emotional well-being. 

Many people often struggle with the lingering psychological effects of cravings and negative moods, making the risk of relapse ever-present. Lean on your support system to get through the toughest days. 

Ardu Recovery Center offers relapse prevention therapy and counseling to help you develop healthy coping strategies and stay on track during detox.

How to know if a detox is working

The detox process can be challenging, but there are signs that will indicate your efforts are paying off. As your body rids itself of harmful substances and toxins, you’ll experience positive physical and psychological changes.

Here are some key signs that detox is working:

  • Physical signs: 
    • Increased energy levels 
    • Better digestion with reduced bloating, gas, and constipation
    • Clearer skin and fewer breakouts 
    • Weight loss from reduced water retention
  • Psychological signs:
    • Reduced cravings
    • Improved mental clarity and focus as brain fog lifts
    • Fewer headaches, body aches, and other mild withdrawal symptoms
    • More stable moods and emotions

Compassionate medical professionals at Ardu provide a safe, supportive environment to guide you through the detox process step-by-step.

Detox safely with Ardu Recovery Center

Nestled near the stunning Wasatch Mountains of Utah, Ardu Recovery Center is a premier treatment facility offering state-of-the-art amenities and hospital-level care. Our modern, pristine facility provides clients with a luxurious yet nurturing environment for their detox and recovery journey. 

Our comprehensive medical detox services help you safely and comfortably withdraw from drugs or alcohol under the supervision of trained medical professionals. At Ardu, you can expect:

  1. Medically supervised detox through around-the-clock monitoring and medical care. Our healthcare professionals oversee your vital signs and manage withdrawal symptoms.
  2. Each client receives an individualized detox treatment plan tailored to their specific substance(s) of abuse, level of dependence, medical history, and needs. 
  3. To alleviate uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms, our medical staff may administer medications proven effective for the substance being detoxed from
  4. Our medical team is trained to recognize and properly manage insomnia, nausea, anxiety, tremors, seizures, and other withdrawal effects. 
  5. With 24/7 staffing, medical professionals are available to monitor your progress and immediately intervene if any complications or medical emergencies occur during detox.
  6. In addition to medical detox, Ardu offers complementary holistic therapies such as IV amino acid therapy, therapeutic massages, float spa, vibroacoustic lounge, and more to support physical and emotional well-being.
  7. Ardu’s upscale facility provides a luxurious yet clinical setting for detox, with private rooms, spa-like amenities, healthy meals, and an atmosphere optimized for rest and recovery.

Detox services we offer

Ardu offers the following detox services in a medically supervised, integrated setting.

  • Ardu’s medical team is adept at treating the full range of symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, from mild issues such as runny nose and insomnia to severe complications such as alcohol withdrawal seizures and delirium tremens. We provide medications and supportive care.
  • Substance-specific detox is needed to address the unique issues of each substance abuse. Whether you’re detoxing from alcohol, opioids, benzos, or other addictive substances, Ardu offers specialized detox protocols tailored to the substance and level of physiological dependence.
  • For those requiring a higher level of care, Ardu provides a safe, comfortable inpatient treatment setting for detox with around-the-clock medical supervision and support. In inpatient care, you can reside at the facility full-time to receive comprehensive, intensive care during the detox process.
  • For others who need more flexibility and the ability to detox while still attending work, school, or family obligations, Ardu offers outpatient treatment. Detox in the outpatient setting is well-suited for those with a strong support system at home and a lower risk of severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Many clients have co-occurring mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or others. Ardu’s dual diagnosis program addresses both addiction and mental health conditions simultaneously.
  • Detox is coupled with evidence-based therapies such as CBT, family therapy, and nutritional counseling to address root issues and prepare for long-term recovery.
  • Medications such as benzodiazepines, anti-seizure drugs, and beta blockers are often used to alleviate severe withdrawal effects when medically appropriate.
  • We complement our evidence-based medical therapies with holistic approaches to detox such as yoga therapy, mindfulness-based therapy, and amino acid IV therapy to promote healing of the mind-body-spirit during the challenging withdrawal process.
  • Men’s detox program is tailored to the unique physiological and psychological needs of men going through withdrawal. In a gender-specific environment, men can feel comfortable processing their addiction issues through counseling, group therapy, and male-oriented activities.
  • For women on the recovery journey, Ardu provides a safe, supportive detox setting with female therapists and staff. This program addresses the distinct ways addiction and detox can impact women physically and emotionally through gender-responsive treatment.

Detox is just the beginning. We believe in a comprehensive approach to recovery, addressing not only the physical aspects but also the psychological and emotional aspects of addiction. If you’re ready to take the first step toward a healthier, substance-free life, reach out to us today. 

You don’t have to face this alone. Utah addiction treatment center is here to support you every step of the way.

Detox symptoms FAQ

What are the symptoms of toxins leaving the body?

Some common detox symptoms include the following:

  • Headaches: as your body adjusts to the absence of toxins, you may experience headaches due to changes in blood flow and neurotransmitter levels.
  • Fatigue: feeling tired or lethargic is common during detox as your body works to eliminate toxins and restore balance.
  • Nausea and vomiting: your body may react to the elimination of toxins by causing feelings of nausea or even vomiting.
  • Muscle aches and pains: muscle soreness and aches can occur as your body eliminates toxins and readjusts to a healthier state.
  • Digestive issues: diarrhea, constipation, or changes in bowel habits are common as your digestive system adjusts during detox.
  • Flu-like symptoms: some people may experience symptoms similar to the flu, including fever, chills, and body aches, as the body works to expel toxins.
  • Mood swings: emotional ups and downs, irritability, and anxiety can occur as your body detoxes and adjusts to new chemical balances.

What is one of the first signs of withdrawal?

One of the first signs of withdrawal from alcohol or other substances is typically cravings. These intense desires to use the substance again can begin shortly after the last dose and may persist throughout the withdrawal process. Cravings can be triggered by environmental cues, stress, or even just thoughts of the substance.

Can detox give you flu-like symptoms?

Detoxification can give you flu-like symptoms. This is especially common in the early stages of withdrawal from substances such as alcohol, opioids, or certain drugs. These symptoms can include fever, chills, body aches, fatigue, and even nausea or vomiting. Flu-like symptoms are part of the body’s reaction to the absence of the substance and its efforts to rebalance itself.

How to avoid withdrawal symptoms?

You can avoid withdrawal symptoms by gradually tapering off the substance under medical supervision or using medications to manage withdrawal symptoms. Seek professional help from a healthcare provider or addiction specialist to help you develop a safe and effective detox plan tailored to your individual needs.

What is the most serious form of withdrawal?

The most serious form of withdrawal is known as delirium tremens (DTs). This is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition that can occur during alcohol withdrawal. DTs typically occur 48 to 72 hours after the last drink and are characterized by severe confusion, hallucinations, tremors, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, and seizures. DTs require immediate medical attention and intervention to prevent complications or death.

What are the six types of withdrawals?

The six types of withdrawals are defined by the addictive substance. 

  1. Alcohol withdrawal: characterized by symptoms ranging from mild anxiety and tremors to severe complications like delirium tremens.
  2. Opioid withdrawal: includes symptoms such as muscle aches, agitation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  3. Benzodiazepine withdrawal: can cause symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, tremors, and in severe cases, seizures.
  4. Stimulant withdrawal: involves fatigue, depression, increased appetite, and disturbed sleep patterns.
  5. Nicotine withdrawal: can lead to irritability, cravings, difficulty concentrating, and increased appetite.
  6. Cannabis withdrawal: symptoms may include irritability, insomnia, decreased appetite, and mood swings.

What happens to your body day by day when you stop drinking?

Day by day, when you stop drinking, your body goes through various stages of adjustment and recovery:

  1. Day 1: you may experience anxiety, irritability, and cravings as your body begins to detoxify from alcohol.
  2. Days 2-3: withdrawal symptoms may intensify, including tremors, sweating, and increased heart rate. Severe cases may progress to delirium tremens.
  3. Days 4-7: symptoms peak around this time, with intense cravings, insomnia, and potential hallucinations or seizures in severe cases.
  4. Week 2: symptoms gradually begin to subside, but you may still experience mood swings, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.
  5. Weeks 3-4: your body continues to detoxify, and physical symptoms diminish further. Psychological cravings and emotional fluctuations may persist.
  6. Month 2: your body continues to heal, and you may notice improvements in sleep, energy levels, and overall well-being. Ongoing support and lifestyle changes are essential for long-term recovery.

How long do you feel bad during detox?

Generally, acute withdrawal symptoms peak within the first few days and gradually subside over the course of a week or two. Some psychological symptoms like cravings and mood swings may persist for weeks or even months. The duration and intensity of ill feelings during detox vary depending on the substance, the severity of dependence, individual physiology, and the detox method used. 

Resources

Hayashida, M. (1998). An Overview of Outpatient and Inpatient Detoxification. Alcohol Health and Research World, 22(1), 44-46. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6761814/

Koob, G. F., & Volkow, N. D. (2016). Neurobiology of addiction: A neurocircuitry analysis. The Lancet. Psychiatry, 3(8), 760. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(16)00104-8

Jesse, S., Bråthen, G., Ferrara, M., Keindl, M., Ben-Menachem, E., Tanasescu, R., Brodtkorb, E., Hillbom, M., Leone, M. A., & Ludolph, A. C. (2016). Alcohol withdrawal syndrome: Mechanisms, manifestations, and management. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica, 135(1), 4-16. https://doi.org/10.1111/ane.12671

Piper, M. E. (2015). Editor’s choice: Withdrawal: Expanding a Key Addiction Construct. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 17(12), 1405-1415. https://doi.org/10.1093/ntr/ntv048

Jesse, S., Bråthen, G., Ferrara, M., Keindl, M., Tanasescu, R., Brodtkorb, E., Hillbom, M., Leone, M. A., & Ludolph, A. C. (2016). Alcohol withdrawal syndrome: Mechanisms, manifestations, and management. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica, 135(1), 4-16. https://doi.org/10.1111/ane.12671

Lerner, A., & Klein, M. (2018). Dependence, withdrawal and rebound of CNS drugs: An update and regulatory considerations for new drugs development. Brain Communications, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.1093/braincomms/fcz025

Center for Substance Abuse, Treatment. (2010). Protracted Withdrawal. Substance Abuse, Treatment Advisory, Volume 9, Issue 1

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