Getting professional help for a substance abuse problem is a step in the right direction to recovery from addiction. Sobriety will not come easy after a long-term substance dependence, but detox helps many people get their bearings and prepare their minds and their spirits for the long haul.

Most people who enter a treatment center will start with medical detox.

The procedure runs 24/7 for three to 10 days and is monitored by medical professionals and addiction specialists. Completing medical detox is important because it is the first stage in becoming stable, so addiction counseling and therapy can begin. That can’t happen until a person is physically and mentally well enough to participate in treatment.

Medical detox provides multiple benefits. First, there’s the assurance that the person in recovery is not alone in enduring the various challenges of drug withdrawal. Detox can be overwhelming and debilitating for people who have been abusing substances for a long time. It also:

All of these benefits illustrate why detox supports the mission of stopping addiction in is tracks. The other option, which involves quitting long-term drug and alcohol abuse quickly, is risky and could prove to do more harm than good in the long run. Chronic substance use can lead to an on-again, off-again cycle of abuse that ends in a relapse, overdose, or death.

The onset of withdrawal symptoms is indicative that medical detox is needed. Symptoms need not be underway or worsen before a person gets help. In many cases, a person usually is experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they start the process. 

Detox also may involve medications that are given to help users manage these withdrawal symptoms.

What Are The Common Side Effects Of Drug And Alcohol Detox

Medical detox is designed to make withdrawal easier, but it does not erase the side effects that happen during this period. These side effects come about as the brain and body adjust to changes in drug or alcohol intake. An imbalance can bring changes such as fatigue, anxiety, and depression, and even thoughts of suicide.

Other factors that can help shape a person’s detox experience include the manner in which a substance was misused/abused and the kind of substance that’s abused. Here are the effects of some substances.


Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can affect one’s physical and mental health and threaten one’s life and well-being. No one should detox without professional help. Doing so is risky and can result in relapse, permanent injury, overdose, and death.


Benzodiazepines (called benzos for short) are central nervous system depressants that act similarly to alcohol. Users take them for their sedative effects that bring about relaxation and calmness. This is one reason they are prescribed for people who are managing anxiety disorders and sleep disorders. Ativan, Valium, and Xanax are some of the widely known benzos. Similarly to alcohol, the detox side effects of benzodiazepines are dangerous, so medical monitoring is needed to ensure the withdrawal process is handled properly and safely.

Seizures and hallucinations are among the most serious benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms. Recovering benzo users also may experience rebound anxiety and rebound insomnia, which are stronger in intensity than regular insomnia and anxiety symptoms. Rebound insomnia can keep someone awake for days, and rebound anxiety has been tied to severe panic attacks.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is another thing to be aware of during detox. Full-on psychosis is a sign that this condition is present. Symptoms can become increasingly hard to predict. It is better to have medical professionals standing by to address any situations that result from having benzo withdrawal syndrome.


Opioids, otherwise known as painkillers, are some of the most dangerous drugs available. Opioid withdrawal is not a life-threatening process, but it can be difficult and uncomfortable. A person who is dependent on prescription opioids, such as Vicodin or OxyContin, or the illegal opioid heroin, may experience intense detox side effects that signal that a relapse is not far behind. This is why it is strongly advised that people with opioid use disorder strongly consider completing detox under medical supervision.


The side effects that come with stimulants are largely psychological as stimulants bring on feelings of euphoria that flood the brain with dopamine, a brain neurotransmitter that mainly regulates the brain’s “pleasure center,”

When stimulant use slows or stops, users “crash” and experience intense drug cravings and severe depression. To alleviate this discomfort, some users go back to using, which increase the chances of relapse and self-harm. 

How To Prevent Detox Side Effects

Preventing side effects can be a crucial portion of remaining sober long-term. Those who enter into treatment and expose themselves to harsh side effects may have no desire following through. In order to alleviate the worst symptoms, detox is vital for administering detox medications. It is the medical staffs’ top priority to ensure the client’s comfort for the duration of detox.

A team of doctors and nurses are challenged with the task of providing the proper medications that are tailored to the client’s situation. For example, someone coming off of meth will be supplied with anti-depressant medications to counter the suicidal thoughts that may occur. Someone recovering from alcohol addiction could be provided with short-acting benzodiazepines to combat seizures.

In addition to administering medications, ongoing monitoring of vital signs, and creating a comfortable environment is crucial for the client’s success.

There are a few steps the client can take prior to entering into detox that helps ease the discomfort of potentially severe side effects that can appear.

Managing Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

The effects of years of substance use and abuse can linger for weeks, months, and even years after someone has stopped using. This period is known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), which is a set of withdrawal symptoms that affect the person mentally or physically. For this reason, users may want to continue to receive ongoing care as an outpatient treatment client. Support from a professional can help make symptoms easier to manage.

There are different PAWS symptoms, and they vary according to the drug used.

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