What Is Medical Detox?

For people who are interested in overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol, detox is the first step. Whether a person goes to a treatment centre or tries to overcome their addiction on their own, they will have to go through drug withdrawal and the detox process before they can work through the mental and emotional issues that keep them trapped in the viscous cycle of addiction and all it entails.

What Is Detox?

Detox is the process of letting the drugs or alcohol present in a person’s body run their course after they stop using. When a person becomes dependent upon drugs or alcohol, they experience withdrawal symptoms when the stop taking the substance they are accustomed to. The symptoms a person will experience are contingent upon they type of substance they use, how long, how often, and how much they are accustomed to using.

The withdrawal symptoms associated with addiction detox can be mild to severe depending upon the nature of a person’s addiction. In some cases of severe alcohol or benzodiazepine addiction, abruptly quitting can cause life-threatening symptoms that require immediate medical attention.

Drug Detox

When an individual has become drug dependent the abrupt cessation of drug use causes a variety of different withdrawal symptoms. The type of symptoms, and the severity a person experiences these symptoms, is dependent upon a variety of different factors. The components that influence a person’s detox experience are contingent upon the type of drug a person uses, the length of their addiction, how much they use on a regular basis, how often they use, and the existence of any other mental or physical problems. The half-life of a drug will also influence detox. Short acting drugs will have a shorter period of withdrawal, while longer acting drugs will take more time.

While each drug is unique, there are common symptoms that will occur in several instances of drug withdrawal. These include:

  • Emotional and Mental Instability-Mood disturbances are common in all types of addiction withdrawal. Common symptoms will include anxiety, depression, agitation, irritability, and anger.
  • Sleep Issues-Insomnia and trouble sleeping are common, regardless of the exhaustion a person might feel.
  • Physical Problems-Chills, sweating, headache, nausea, vomiting, flu-like symptoms, and tremors are common physical symptoms of drug withdrawal.
  • Cravings-The deep desire to use drugs is strong when withdrawing from a drug addiction.

Different drugs have different detox symptoms that are unique to that particular addiction. Following are different types of drugs and the withdrawal symptoms associated with each:


Benzodiazepines hold serious potential for addiction. Once a person has developed a tolerance, sudden withdrawal can cause life-threatening circumstances. Common symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal include sweating, dizziness, headaches, nausea, insomnia, irritability, panic attacks, hallucinations, and seizures.

Withdrawal from benzos typically begins 6-8 hours after a person’s last dose and can last for up to two weeks or longer depending on the severity of a person’s addiction. Peak symptoms of withdrawal are typically experienced 1-4 days after cessation. These symptoms typically include: increased anxiety, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, sweating, and nausea. Symptoms will begin to fade, but continue for at least 10-14 days, lasting up to 3-4 weeks in some cases of withdrawal.

Detox from benzos can be lethal in some instances. If a person has used for a long period of time and they try to stop abruptly, seizure is possible. Suicidal thoughts are also commonly seen in people who try to abruptly stop a benzodiazepine addiction. In such instances, a medically supervised detox is recommended to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the individual.

Heroin and Opioids

Heroin and opioid withdrawal are known to have some of the most difficult detox symptoms known. While heroin detox isn’t lethal, the symptoms a person can experience are often extremely uncomfortable. Withdrawal symptoms from heroin include flu-like feelings, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea abdominal pain, muscle aches, joint pain, nodding out, increased sensitivity to pain, anxiety, depression, nervousness, irritability, and more.

Withdrawal from heroin typically begins 6-12 hours after a person’s last dose. Peak symptoms will occur for 1-4 days. This is typically the most difficult period and is when an individual will experience the most intense period of detox. Symptoms will begin to wane after this, but can last from 10 days to several weeks depending on the severity of a person’s addiction.

Everyone will experience heroin withdrawal differently. The longer a person has used, the longer they will go through detox. Cravings for heroin are typically intense when going through withdrawal, regardless of how much a person was using. Those with heavier dependencies will experience a more difficult withdrawal. A medically-assisted detox is often used to help people through recovery from a heroin addiction.

image showing a man relaxing after having gone through detox at our clinics
Why choose eata.org.uk?

If someone you care about is exhibiting signs of addiction – whether it’s excessive marijuana use, long-term dependency on pharmaceuticals, binge drinking of alcohol or even financially damaging levels of gambling – contact us for immediate rehabilitation help.


Stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamines don’t typically carry heavy physical withdrawal symptoms. When a person comes down off stimulant type drugs such as these, they may experience extreme exhaustion, increased anxiety, deep depression, and paranoia. Cravings tend to be typically intense, depending on the severity of a person’s drug use. In some cases of addiction to stimulants, psychosis is likely to occur as well. Those coming off meth will experience a more intense withdrawal than those detoxing from cocaine.

Meth withdrawal typically begins 12 hours after a person’s last dose, with peak symptoms lasting 4-10 days after this. For those with extreme addictions to meth, hallucinations, paranoia, and extreme anxiety are common during detox. Depending on the severity of a person’s addiction, meth withdrawal can last up to a month.

Cocaine detox isn’t typically as severe as that of meth. Symptoms of withdrawal can be felt as soon as 90 minutes after a person’s last dose. Peak withdrawal symptoms can last for 7-10 days. Withdrawal and cravings typically subside within a few weeks. The purity of the drug, how much a person is accustomed to using, and how often they use will all affect how long they experience withdrawal.

Alcohol Detox

Alcohol detox and withdrawal symptoms will vary amongst individuals. When a person has become dependent upon alcohol, they won’t feel “normal” unless drinking. The more a person drinks, the more dependent their body becomes on alcohol. When they cease drinking (or when the alcohol begins to wear off), they will experience a variety of different withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening depending on the severity of a person’s addiction. Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Confusion
  • Increase Blood Pressure
image showing a couple of young people discussing their detox experience

The severity of a person’s addiction to alcohol will increase the gravity and length they experience detox. In serious cases of alcohol addiction, a person can experience delirium tremens (DTs). This is the most serious form of alcohol withdrawal and occurs in 2-3 percent of all people experiencing alcohol withdrawal.

DTs are particularly dangerous because they can occur without warning and pose serious complications to a person’s health. Because the brain and central nervous system a rebound after being subjugated for an extended period, the sudden cessation of alcohol can shock the body and prove to be life-threatening.

In serious cases of alcohol addiction, a medically supervised detox is always recommended. It is vital is such cases that a person is monitored and supervised 24 hours a day, until withdrawal symptoms subside. A medically assisted detox from alcohol will help stabilise a person’s symptoms and ease the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

The length of time a person experiences alcohol detox is completely individual. It will depend on the nature of their personal addiction and struggles with alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms typically begin 8-10 hours after a person has had their last drink. A person will typically experience the peak of withdrawal symptoms between 1-4 days. This is when alcohol withdrawal can quickly turn dangerous. Severe symptoms of withdrawal can rapidly manifest during this time. After 5-7 days, symptoms will usually begin to taper off. Those with more serious cases of alcohol addiction might encounter symptoms for a few weeks.

During alcohol detox, physical symptoms are typically controlled medically until a patient reaches a stable point. Blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate are all watched closely when a person receives a supervised detox from alcohol addiction. Benzodiazepines are commonly used to reduce the dangers of the central nervous system going into shock, as well as ease feelings of anxiety that are common with alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol detox may also involve a tapering schedule where patients are slowly weaned off alcohol. This is known as a tapering schedule, and is shown to help control the severity and magnitude of withdrawal symptoms a person experiences.

Types of Detox Treatment

There are different types of addiction detox treatment that individuals can receive. The severity of a person’s addiction will have a direct influence on the type of detox treatment necessary.

Inpatient Detox

Inpatient (or residential) detox is the most common type of detox programme and involves a patient staying at the detox centre while going through the withdrawal process. Inpatient detox is recommended to those with moderate to severe cases of addiction who want to detox in a safe environment that will help them avoid relapse and ensure there is medical care available if an emergency arises.

Inpatient detox centres offer several advantages to individuals going through detox. Even if an inpatient environment isn’t necessary, addicts who go to an inpatient detox programme will receive 24-hour supervision which can be extremely beneficial in the event of complications. It is also beneficial in that it removes a person from the environment they are accustomed to using in. This helps a person avoid the temptations that can easily lead to relapse.

Most inpatient detox centres are connected with rehab and will offer subsequent treatment options when a person has successfully completed their detox. This typically includes a comprehensive programme that involves various therapies and treatment modalities that are designed for addiction recovery. A comprehensive treatment programme most often includes detox, therapy, treatment, and an aftercare treatment plan.

Outpatient Detox

Not everyone will require a stay at a detox centre while going through drug or alcohol withdrawal. While outpatient detox is less common than inpatient detox, it is often recommended for those with milder forms of drug or alcohol addiction. An outpatient detox programme requires consistently scheduled check-ins with the detox centre. They can also provide any prescription medications that will help ease troubling symptoms of withdrawal.

For those who feel they need support during detox but cannot afford to stay at an inpatient centre for any reason, going to an outpatient detox programme can offer the help they need in an environment conducive to recovery. For those who must stay involved with work, school, or at home, an outpatient detox centre will provide sufficient treatment to those serious about changing their lives.

Because an outpatient detox centre does not provide full-time supervision, it is up to patients to avoid the temptation that can easily lead to relapse. This is why an outpatient detox programme is best suited for those with milder cases of addiction. It is important that anyone not receiving the 24-hour support offered in an inpatient detox setting, has the support of friends and family to help them through this often-difficult time.

Can I Detox at Home?

Many people looking for detox options question if they can just go at it alone and detox by themselves at home. It is vital they understand that withdrawal from drugs or alcohol can lead to serious problems that require medical attention. It is never recommended that a person suffering from a significant addiction tries to detox at home.

On that note, people with mild forms of addiction to either drugs or alcohol can typically detox safely at home. While it isn’t recommended, this is sometimes the only option people have. If you are attempting to detox at home, be sure you have a strong support system to see you through. Relapse rates increase significantly when a person tries to detox at home, which is something anyone looking to successfully overcome an addiction should keep in mind.

Do I Still Need Treatment After a Successful Detox?

It is important that anyone interested in successfully overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol knows that detox is simply the first step of recovery. Detox is the first stage of many that are involved in successful addiction recovery, and simply consists of letting the substance run its course through a person’s body. It is excellent in helping a person through the difficult process of overcoming the physical addiction they have, but does little to address the psychological components that keep a person tied to drug or alcohol abuse.

Once a person has completed a successful detox, it is typically recommended that they receive further treatment. Therapy and various treatment modalities designed for addiction recovery can help tremendously when a person is ready to quit their addiction for good. A comprehensive addiction treatment plan will include detox, therapy, treatment, and a detailed aftercare plan.

Someone who chooses to just do detox will find that while they feel better for a while, it isn’t long before the cravings to use creep in. Addiction is highly psychological and best remedied with traditional therapy with a licensed therapist or counsellor. After a person goes through detox, they will find receiving therapy helps them address and work through the psychological components their addiction.

How Long Does Detox Last?

As mentioned, the length a person experiences detox is highly dependent upon their individual situation. Just as everyone experiences addiction differently, detox will offer different lengths of time depending on the nature of a person’s addiction. Those with severe addictions who have abused drugs or alcohol for years will go through the longest lengths of detox. The length of time a person experiences detox is contingent upon the following conditions:

  • Type of addiction
  • How long a person has been using
  • How much is typically consumed
  • How often a person is accustomed to using
  • Any other occurring mental or physical limitations or conditions

Typically, a person will start to feel symptoms of withdrawal approximately 4-10 hours after their last dose. Peak symptoms of detox (when withdrawal symptoms are at their worst), are likely to occur 24-72 hours after they quit using. On average, the extent of detox lasts between 3-14 days.

How Much Does Detox Cost?

The cost of detox will vary depending on the type of detox centre a person chooses. It will also depend on the length a person takes to detox, the use of medications to treat symptoms, and other factors such as testing, procedures, and consultations with doctors and therapists.

Generally, the longer a person takes to detox, the more expensive it is. While there isn’t a definitive answer to how much a person will pay for rehab, most detox programmes cost between 200-500 pounds per week. Detoxing at an inpatient rehab centre that includes treatment following the initial period of detox can range from 500 to several thousand pounds a week.

We are here to answer any questions you might have about the cost of detox, as well as what type of detox facility will best fit your needs. There are some insurance companies that will cover the cost of addiction detox, as well as financial assistance available directly from some detox centres. There are also some free options for detox through NHS, although they are typically difficult to get into. We can discuss all your payment options for addiction detox in a no-obligation phone call.

Achieving a Successful Detox

Anyone going into a detox or addiction rehab programme ultimately wants to see success and find lasting sobriety. Research has shown that a person increases their chances of a successful detox when they have support during withdrawal, are motivated to achieve permanent sobriety, and are connected with recovery options after detox is over. Achieving a successful detox and avoiding relapse is possible when a person is equipped with what they need.

Getting professional support during the detox process can help a person accomplish what they are setting out to do. Going to a detox centre (whether inpatient or outpatient), can ensure that a person is safe during the detox process and is provided with all the tools they need to succeed. The biggest chance a person has for success in detox is the attitude they take with them with them when approaching it. Those that are motivated to succeed are more likely to triumph over their addiction.

Why choose eata.org.uk?

If someone you care about is exhibiting signs of addiction – whether it’s excessive marijuana use, long-term dependency on pharmaceuticals, binge drinking of alcohol or even financially damaging levels of gambling – contact us for immediate rehabilitation help.

Available Options in the UK

We understand that overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol is one of the most difficult things a person will contend with in their lifetime. Coming to terms with an addiction can be hard enough. Overcoming it can feel impossible. There is hope for those who are ready to break the cycle of their addictive behaviour and end their dependency on drugs or alcohol once and for all. Getting professional help through the detox process can help ease withdrawal symptoms and help people succeed in recovery. Getting a professional detox immensely improves a person’s likelihood of avoiding relapse.

Our staff of dedicated addiction professionals care about your wellbeing. Everyone on our team has personal experience with addiction and knows how difficult contending with a substance abuse problem can be. We are here to listen without judgment and provide you with all the information you need to start to take the steps that will lead to permanent addiction recovery. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for all your questions or concerns regarding addiction. Our addiction helpline is answered promptly and our operators are here to assist you even if you just need someone to talk to temporarily.

There are several options available for addiction detox in the UK. Whether you are looking for an inpatient rehab centre that provides a comprehensive treatment programme including detox, therapy, and treatment, or you prefer an outpatient detox clinic, we can help you find the best option to fit your needs. Please call us at 0808 278 9885 to speak with one of our representatives about finding the best detox options that will help you succeed in finding the sobriety you deserve.

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