Breaking Myths About Detox
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Myths about how horrible detox is can keep people from accessing treatment for addiction. The truth is that continuing in active addiction can actually be worse, especially long-term. Unfounded fears about detox should never keep you from accessing treatment for substance use disorder (SUD). 

How does detox work? How long can it take? What are the symptoms really like? Is it worth it? You may be surprised by the answers because they may break some of the myths about detox.

What Can You Expect From Detox From Drugs or Alcohol?

The early symptoms of withdrawal will begin as your body begins the cleansing process from substances. Each person’s experience in detox is different because each person’s situation is different. Common symptoms impact sleep, cause changes in eating habits, and can cause sweating, as well as irritability, anxiety, and depression.

Symptoms vary in duration and intensity based on how long, how often, and the number of substances consumed, as well as your specific health conditions and history. Detox will also last longer if your body needs to cleanse from multiple substances.

How Long Does Detox Last?

There is no one answer to this question. The average initial detox period lasts from about five days to a couple of weeks. However, it can vary widely depending on which substances were consumed, how long you used substances, your medical health, family history, whether or not you have co-occurring disorders, and more.

How Severe Are the Symptoms During the Initial Detox Period?

The severity of symptoms also varies widely based on varying factors. However, most people can tolerate the symptoms with medical supervision. These symptoms often last a short period of time compared to the side effects of substance use itself. A detox facility will do everything to make you as comfortable as possible as your body goes through these initial stages. The severity of symptoms will depend on the type of substance or substances you are detoxing from.

How Does Detox Vary by Substance?

While each person’s experience is unique, there are common symptoms of specific substances in withdrawal. The exact length of time it will take you to detox is impossible to predict. Therefore, all withdrawal times listed are approximate.


Symptoms can include sweating, nausea, tremors, and sometimes seizures. Withdrawal time can last a few days up to several weeks.

Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Librium)

Withdrawal symptoms can include irritability, increased anxiety, and insomnia. Withdrawal time can last weeks to even months.


Symptoms often include irritability, anxiety, intense sadness, and depression. Withdrawal time can last approximately seven to ten days.

Fentanyl, Heroin, or Other Opioids

Symptoms can include strong flu-like symptoms, insomnia, and increased heart and respiratory rates. Withdrawal time lasts approximately seven to ten days.


Withdrawal symptoms may include nausea, anxiety, fatigue, or severe depression. After the initial phase of withdrawal, depression can remain for months.

Prescription Pain Medications (Vicodin, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone)

Withdrawal symptoms can include serious flu-like symptoms, increases in heart and respiratory rates, and insomnia. Withdrawal time is typically seven to eight days.

Is There Anything to Help Lessen the Symptoms?

In very severe cases, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can be used to help reduce severe withdrawal symptoms. This is most commonly effective with opioid addictions or long-term alcohol use disorder. MAT will not remove all of the withdrawal symptoms but will make severe symptoms more tolerable and reduce cravings enough to help you achieve and maintain sobriety.

Can I Detox Without Medical Supervision?

Medical supervision is strongly recommended for the detox process because significant health risks are involved when stopping substances, especially after heavy or long-term use. Having someone available around the clock to monitor your vital signs and administer medical attention in case of a seizure or other potential health complications is essential for your safety. Trying to quit on your own can have serious health consequences.

Is Going Through Detox Worth It?

Whatever your detox experience is, the initial withdrawal symptoms are very short-term compared to the long-term side effects of substance abuse. Chances are that if you have been drinking heavily or frequently or have an opioid addiction, the side effects you have been experiencing regularly are not any better than the short-term withdrawal process. In the long term, what you experience in detox pales in comparison to what you will have experienced in active addiction.

Detox will make you feel ill for a short period of time. It will be uncomfortable short term. However, it will be worth it to be able to become clean and sober and reclaim your life from addiction. Any symptoms of detox should not deter you from seeking help.

There are many myths about detox and how horrible it is that people are too afraid to seek treatment for their addiction. However, the truth is that the symptoms are not as bad as they are rumored to be and do not last as long as the side effects of continued substance abuse. Perceived myths about detox should never stand in the way of accessing the treatment you need. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women is ready to help. Our detox and residential treatment facility for women can help you get through the initial detox process as comfortably as possible and help you get started on your recovery journey. Our Costa Mesa, California facility is a peaceful refuge for healing where you can receive individualized treatment and trauma-informed care. What are your questions about detox? Call us at (714) 581-3974.