The Drug Detox Timeline

Detox is the first step of overcoming an addiction to drugs. When seeking to overcome a drug addiction, many addicts question how long they’ll go through the detox process. Drug withdrawal is different for everyone. The drug detox timeline is dependent upon various factors including the type of drug, how long, how much, and how often a person uses.

The Drug Detox Timeline According to Drug Type

The biggest factor in determining the drug detox timeline, is the type of drug a person takes. Each drug has different withdrawal symptoms. The time withdrawal lasts is determined by the type of drug and a person’s relationship to it. Following are commonly abused drugs and the timeline of detox for each.


While there is no precise timeline for benzodiazepine detox, withdrawal symptoms typically start approximately 24 hours after a person lasts uses. The drug detox timeline for benzodiazepines can last anywhere from a few days to a few months or longer depending on the severity of a person’s addiction and the type of drug abused.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal can happen in three separate phases.

  • Stage One: Early withdrawal

Early withdrawal can begin anywhere from a few hours to a few days after quitting. In the early withdrawal phase may include symptoms of anxiety and agitation that the drug was covering up. It typically lasts a few days.

  • Stage Two: Acute Withdrawal

Acute withdrawal will constitute the bulk of a person’s detox from benzodiazepines. It typically begins after 3-4 days and can last from a week or two to several months. Symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and include anxiety, insomnia, mood swings, anger, agitation, vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, twitching, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

  • Stage Three: Protracted Withdrawal

Approximately 10 percent of benzodiazepine addicts will experience what is known as protracted withdrawal. This is when a person goes through withdrawal that can encompass several months or years after initially quitting.


Because heroin is considered a short-acting opioid, it is known to leave the bloodstream rather quickly. While the drug detox timeline for a substance like heroin will be different for everyone, detox typically lasts 5-10 days depending on the severity of a person’s addiction. Although heroin has a relatively short detox time, it is commonly considered one of the hardest drugs to quit.

image showing a man relaxing during the Drug Detox Timeline
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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.

The phases of heroin withdrawal are as follows:

  • Stage One: Early Withdrawal

Heroin detox begins approximately 6-12 hours after a person last uses. In this period marking the beginning of detox, the symptoms a person experiences will be determined by how much, how often, and how long they have been using. Typically, symptoms will include nausea, yawning, abdominal cramps, sweats, chills, runny nose, and muscle aches. These symptoms may last a few days depending on the nature of a person’s addiction.

  • Stage Two: Acute Withdrawal

Acute withdrawal typically begins 1-3 days after a person has stopped using heroin. It can last anywhere from 3-7 days depending on the severity of a person’s addiction. On the drug detox timeline, heroin addicts can expect symptoms to be the worst during acute withdrawal. These symptoms will usually include vomiting, diarrhoea, tremors, difficulty concentrating, fever, restlessness, fatigue, depression, hypertension, agitation, increased anxiety, difficulty feeling pleasure, and more.

  • Stage Three: Subsiding of Symptoms

Detox from heroin typically only lasts about a week. Symptoms typically begin to subside after 5-7 days. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome can last several months in some cases of extreme heroin addiction.


image showing young people enjoying their sober life after the Drug Detox Timeline

Although stimulants are not considered to be as physically addicting as other drugs such as heroin and benzodiazepines, they do pose difficulty for withdrawal. The drug detox timeline for stimulants is generally 4-10 days, although will vary amongst different people and types of stimulants. Symptoms typically begin within 6-24 hours after a person’s last use.

  • Stage One: This is the beginning of detox and can last from 1-3 days depending on the circumstances of a person’s addiction. Cravings, fatigue, and anxiety are all common during the first stage of stimulant detox. Those with severe cases of stimulant use who are accustomed to using large doses may experience hallucinations, panic, and paranoia.
  • Stage Two: After the first few days acute withdrawal will begin and the withdrawal symptoms a person experiences may begin to intensify. This typically lasts 4-10 days and cravings during this time can become extremely intense. Major depression and extreme fatigue may set in during this time.
  • Stage Three: After ten days to a couple of weeks, the major symptoms of detox will begin to subside. During this time, a person may still experience depression and have difficulty sleeping, but the major withdrawal symptoms will have begun to significantly dissipate. After two to three weeks, detox is typically over.


While cannabis withdrawal isn’t considered as difficult as some of the heavier drugs, an addiction to cannabis will present various uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms of cannabis withdrawal include irritability, trouble concentrating, loss of motivation, headaches, insomnia, loss of appetite, and depression. The drug detox timeline for cannabis typically begins the day following the last time a person used and can last up to two weeks or longer.

  • Stage One: The first part of cannabis withdrawal begins the first day a person goes without the drug. It can last for a couple of days, with the main symptoms being difficulty sleeping, irritability, loss of focus, and anxiety.
  • Stage Two: The acute withdrawal phase of cannabis generally takes place between days 2 and 4. This can be the most difficult part of cannabis withdrawal and include extremely strong cravings, sweating, chills, and difficulty sleeping.
  • Stage Three: Between days 4-14, cannabis withdrawal symptoms tend to begin to subside. As a person begins to adapt to functioning without cannabis they may continue to experience depression and irritability. These feelings typically cease after two weeks. People who use cannabis heavily may experience a longer withdrawal period.

What Factors Will Influence the Drug Detox Timeline?

Drug addiction is different for everyone. Different drugs will also affect people in different ways. The drug detox timeline will be different for each person going through drug withdrawal. While detox from most drug addictions won’t take longer than a couple of weeks, there are various factors that will influence a person’s detox.

The type of drug a person uses is the biggest factor to take into consideration when trying to determine a drug detox timeline. How much of this drug they used will be indicative of how long they can expect to detox. Other influences that affect the drug detox timeline are how long and how often a person uses. Use of other substances will also play a role in how long detox lasts.

Why choose

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.

We Can Help You Choose a Drug Detox Options

If you are seeking to overcome a drug addiction, there are countless resources throughout the UK that can help. We are here to make the process of finding a drug detox centre easier, if that is the route you choose to take. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to discuss anything related to addiction and the recovery process. Any questions you have about the drug detox timeline can be answered by one of our compassionate addiction specialists in a completely confidential call. Detox typically lasts no longer than a couple of weeks and is the first step in taking back the freedom from addiction you deserve.

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