Entering detox is a life-changing decision. Detox is always hard, but depending on what’s in your system, it can also be long. Does the length of time you’ve been using affect the length of detox? Yes.
If you have been using alcohol for years, your gut is likely to be extremely out of balance; it may also be damaged. You may experience extreme nausea or heartburn as your body tries to adjust. If you have been using opiates or benzodiazepine, the detox process may take as long as 10 days.
Physical Vs. Mental Detox
You can expect physical withdrawal symptoms to start within a few hours of stopping drug use. As you work through the physical withdrawal, your body will begin to need or crave the drug. During this time, your physical symptoms will be quite intense, including
- nausea and vomiting
- shakes and chills
- muscle cramps
It is critical that you do not attempt detox alone. The risk of passing out due to dehydration or the inability to eat is too great. Should you vomit after fainting, you could aspirate and suffocate.
If you have been using opiates as a way to control pain, you could also suffer severe rebound pain as the opiates leave your system. Undergoing detox with the help of a professional could provide you with the support you need to gain access to pain medication that is free of opiates.
As the drugs leave your system, you may also need IV support to maintain hydration. As your body sheds toxins, you may experience extreme amounts of sweating and require help with bathing as well as hydration. Be as patient as you can with your physical symptoms and the process of detox; the loss of privacy may be another stressor you have to contend with as the drugs leave your system.
No matter the length of time of your drug use, you will also be dealing with the mental pressure of detox. Addiction changes the brain. Often, the craving for the addictive substance actually ranks among products and activities we need to survive; if you have found yourself in unsafe situations or skipped buying groceries to pay for drugs, you are likely dealing with a brain that has been hijacked by drugs.
The physical cravings will make this sense of survival need more intense. When you are too nauseous to take in water but you know that alcohol or another drug would fix it, your psychological cravings will ramp up. During this time, you may become verbally abusive to your caregivers or a danger to yourself and others.
For this reason, access to safe, professional detox is critical to your safety and success. Loved ones may offer to help you detox, but your reactions to them during this time of extreme emotional pressure and physical distress could be quite destructive. Detox professionals are trained and prepared for your words and actions. You will need the support of family members and friends as you enter rehab. Don’t risk those relationships by asking them to help you detox and see you in the throes of withdrawal.
As you prepare to enter detox, pay special attention to items that will comfort you. You will want clothing that is soft and non-binding. Cottons that will wick away sweat and soft, comfortable shoes will also help you feel more comfortable in your skin. Consider bringing in a familiar book that you can use to distract yourself when cravings are at their most intense. If you already know the narrative of the book, you can allow your brain to fall into the story and hopefully stay there to ease the mental and physical pressure of your cravings.
As possible, hydrate. If nausea is extreme, you may need medications to lower it so you can eat and drink enough to keep your body going. IV fluids may also be necessary. Even if you can’t eat much, do your best to try to take in water to support your body as the drugs leave your system.
Detox is not easy. More importantly, it is just a critical first step to a drug-free life. Once you’ve been through detox, you will need to undergo rehab and do the work to realign your life. No matter how long you’ve been using, the work you put into both detox and rehab will be worth it. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day. Call 833-846-5669.