How Long Is The Detox Process?

When people talk about detox, they’re typically referring to one of two things: the act of detoxing from a substance or a detox treatment program. Detoxing from drugs or alcohol involves clearing the body of substances and managing any withdrawal symptoms that occur. There are two main categories to withdrawal: acute withdrawal, which consists of medical withdrawal symptoms that requires immediate medical attention, and post acute withdrawal, which is more related to the psychological symptoms that take effective continuous treatment to safely manage.

The entire process may take anywhere from a few days to several years depending on the multiple factors, including how long the substance has been used, frequency of use, severity of use, and physical dependence for the substance. For instance, alcohol leaves the body after a few days but detoxing from cravings may take much longer. How long the detox process lasts depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Which substance was abused.
  • If multiple substances were abused.
  • How often the user abused the substance.
  • How the substance was consumed (smoked, inhaled, etc.).
  • How much of the substance the user took.
  • The last time the substance was ingested.
  • The presence of underlying co-occurring mental health conditions.
  • The user’s medical history.
  • Other prescribed medications taken that may complicate withdrawal symptoms.
  • The user’s age.
  • The user’s gender.

Explore These Featured Detox Centers

How Long Is A Detox Treatment Program?

Detox treatment programs are designed to assist individuals during the process of withdrawal. While the time it takes to detox from substances varies from person to person, detox programs are generally between 3 to 10 days long, depending on medical necessity. Detox is considered the first phase of recovery from addiction and should not be considered a substitute for any necessary treatment programming or therapy to follow.

Detoxification alone does not address the psychological, social, and behavioral problems associated with addiction and therefore does not typically produce lasting behavioral changes necessary for recovery.

- National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018

Paid Advertising. We receive advertising fees from purchases through the BetterHelp links below.

Online Addiction Counseling

Get professional help from an online addiction and mental health counselor from BetterHelp.

Get Matched
Begin Therapy
  • Personalized Matching Process
  • Easy Online Scheduling
  • 30,000+ Licensed Therapists


The Length Of Detox By Substance

Different substances stay in the body for differing periods of time, affecting the detox time for each. For the most part, an individual can detox from substances within a week (though cravings may persist for months afterward). Some of withdrawal most serious symptoms seem nonfatal, such as vomiting and diarrhea. However, rapid dehydration caused by these symptoms can be life-threatening. Accordingly, most addiction treatment programs include and strongly encourage medically-supervised detox.

The table below illustrates the approximate time it takes to detox, and typical withdrawal symptoms associated with each phase.

24 hours – 2 days
3 – 5 days
First week
After first week
Withdrawal symptoms begin, such as anxiety, insomnia, and shaking. Symptoms peak within 72 hours. Seizures, fever, and hallucinations may occur. Physical symptoms of withdrawal taper off. May experience cravings until treated through therapy.
Barbiturates, Sleeping pills
Some symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, shaking, or circulation problems may begin within hours. Depending on the strength of dose and severity of abuse, symptoms may peak after the first few days. For some, withdrawal symptoms may be delayed, beginning a week or more after the last dose. May experience “rebound insomnia”–the return of initial diagnosis, but worse­–until treated.
Irritability, nausea, headache, and muscle pain are early symptoms. Depending on the strength of dose, peak symptoms may include anxiety, irritability, shaking, restlessness, dry-retching, and palpitations. Rebound insomnia occurs in many cases of withdrawal. Severe withdrawal may last 10 to 14 days and include some weight loss, difficulty concentrating, and changes in perceptual abilities.
Depending on the particular hallucinogen, withdrawal may include headaches, drug cravings, and sweating. If withdrawal symptoms occurred, most should peak and taper off within the first week of detox. Changes in the brain’s dopamine reward system may result in altered mood until natural levels return to normal. PCP is known to produce drug cravings in individuals following use.
Staying hydrated, eating healthy foods, and exercising can ease initial symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms include mood changes, reduced appetite, headaches, insomnia, and stomach problems. Mental symptoms like irritability, loss of focus, drug cravings, and increased feelings of depression may occur. Most symptoms should abate after the body resumes normal production of its own THC.
Opioids, Heroin
Withdrawal depends on how fast-acting the opioid is. Heroin withdrawal may begin after a few hours and include muscle pain, anxiety, teary eyes, runny nose, sweating, insomnia, and frequent yawning. Peak of symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, goosebumps, blurry vision, and rapid heart rate. Symptoms taper off but may still experience digestive issues, loss of appetite, dehydration, or seizures. For severe addictions, insomnia, irritability, cravings, sweating, anxiety, and depression may persist for 6 or more months.
Stimulants (Cocaine, Meth)
Initial withdrawal “crash” may include fatigue, body aches, irritability, and altered mood. Brain damage caused by drug abuse may lead to depressive or psychotic symptoms. Lethargy, erratic sleep, intense drug cravings, depression, and poor concentration may continue. Drug cravings are the most persistent symptoms of stimulant withdrawal and may continue for months.

Find A Detox Program

Detox is the integral first step of recovery. For individuals suffering from a Substance Use Disorder (SUD), entering detox can be life-saving. Medication-assisted treatment can reduce painful withdrawal symptoms and increase your chances of successfully moving on to an inpatient or outpatient rehab program and therapy. Contact a treatment provider today for information about available detox options.