How Long Does It Take To Detox From A Drug Problem?

There are many drugs a person can become addicted to—and many options for professional help. Whether you need prescription drug rehab, cocaine addiction treatment or an alcohol detox program, just Googling “drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in San Bernardino CA” can get you millions of results. Once you know what you’re looking for, finding detox rehab centers that meet your needs isn’t too hard. (And whatever your specific addiction, professional medical detoxification is always the safest way to go.)

If you’ve only just made the decision to seek treatment, one question on your mind may be: How long will it take me to detox from this drug problem? When will I be able to go back home, back to work, back to a normal life?

Actually, the question of “how long does it take to detox” depends partly on how “detox” is defined. The process of getting completely clean, physically and mentally, comes in stages.

1. The first stage of detox—the period of acute physical symptoms—lasts from 5 days to 2 weeks.

Most opioid withdrawals fall into the shorter range—around 5–7 days. However, methadone and suboxone detox centers, which help people get off opioids originally prescribed as heroin treatment drugs or as part of prescription drug rehab, report that physical symptoms can persist for two weeks or longer. In these cases, the medications’ longer-lasting effects—one aspect of what makes them effective in detox from other opiates—work against the patient by dragging out the time it takes the body to purge itself of cravings.

With other common addictive drugs, typical time frames for acute physical detox are:

  • Benzodiazepines: 2 weeks
  • Methamphetamines: 4–7 days
  • Alcohol: 5–7 days
  • Cocaine: Few physical symptoms, but intense mental agony for around 7 days

With any drug, the exact withdrawal timeline varies depending on duration of addiction, accustomed strength and frequency of drug doses, the patient’s overall physical condition and specific treatment approaches used by detox rehab centers (despite the publicity surrounding heroin treatment drugs, a benzodiazepine or alcohol detox program is more likely to prescribe medications). Your own treatment center will help you get a general idea of what to expect, but a good rule of thumb is to hope for less than a week, but accept the possibility of feeling sick for two weeks or more. (Staying in the middle between blind optimism and bleak pessimism will help keep you from getting impatient and taking the “easy way out” with more of the addictive substance.)

A few more tips for coping with acute physical detox:

  • Concentrate on resting and minimizing discomfort, rather than counting the days until you’re “supposed to” start feeling better. Impatience will only increase your stress levels and impede your body’s ability to heal.
  • Stay well hydrated and nourished. Take everything in small, frequent, bland doses to keep from overworking your metabolism and making yourself sicker.
  • Remember that, no matter how awful you feel, it won’t last forever. Also that, though you may be sick for longer than you’d like, the really severe period is usually over within 2–3 days.
  • If you’re struggling, ask detox staff for help: they’ll know how to make you more comfortable and provide emotional reassurance.

2. “Detox” from acute emotional dependence takes 3–4 months.

When you’re first investigating detox rehab centers, it may be jarring to find that most of them recommend a 90–day period of inpatient treatment after initial detox. If you’re feeling physically recovered and no longer desperate for your next fix, what’s the sense in being kept away from your everyday world for so long?

As the saying goes, it’s for your own good—and the principle of a long stay in rehab is backed up by science. The primary reason is that while your body may be clean of immediate cravings, the “habit programs” in your brain haven’t learned that there are better ways than drug use for coping with stress, nor have you dealt with the underlying issues that led you into addiction. You need extra rest and therapy to be prepared for the return to your everyday world and its everyday temptations—otherwise, you’re likely to react to old problems with old toxic coping strategies.

Take it as a blessing: 13 weeks in a San Bernardino rehabilitation center is no hardship when you consider the benefits of having extra time to rest in the southern California climate. Here are a few ideas for making the most of your “emotional detox” period:

  • Cooperate with your therapists to get at the key problems behind your addiction—even when it means confronting painful memories and facing up to guilt.
  • Rediscover old dreams. Start a journal of passions, purposes and goals, and don’t worry about whether they’re “practical.” (If your deep heart, as opposed to your surface feelings, tells you something is ideal for you—it probably is.)
  • During your spare time, take leisurely walks, read a good book, work on a craft project, take a long nap, get to know your fellow detoxers—anything that keeps your mind occupied in the moment, without performance anxiety.
  • Before final discharge, write out a plan for how you will minimize relapse temptations, what you will do when they strike—and, just in case, how you will ensure the quickest possible recovery if you do

3. The final stage of detox—reaching the point where you naturally go for months without seriously thinking about a fix—takes at least a year.

And even after one, two, five or forty years, the risk of relapse will probably never leave you completely—the human brain never quite forgets its “old friend” of chemical relief, and sometimes even a tiny dose is enough to kick someone back to full addiction. Don’t let fears of that happening get to you: everyone has some behavioral weaknesses they have to stay on permanent guard against, but temptation doesn’t have to be a constant presence. To ensure a future of lasting sobriety:

Keep up regular attendance at support groups, no matter how long it’s been since you had a serious struggle. If nothing else, opportunities to help those newer to sobriety will keep you from lapsing into self-pity.

  • Set long-term goals that match your natural passions, and do something significant toward a goal at least three times a week.
  • Stay true to your personal values—don’t let “what others think” or the world’s definition of “success” get in the way.
  • Learn to see yourself as a healthy, fulfilled person, and you’ll have too much self-respect to poison yourself with drugs.

At Inland Detox, we pride ourselves on being the top convenient-to-San-Bernardino rehabilitation center for addiction treatment (and we also serve the rest of southern California). If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and need detox help, please call (888) 739-8296.