Common Symptoms of Detox: Psychological and Physical

When people detox from drugs or toxins in their body, they may experience both physical or psychological drug detox symptoms.

Table of Contents

What Is a Detox?

Detox is the process of removing drugs or substances that are harmful to the body. This can include alcohol, drugs, tobacco, or other substances that harm a person’s health. The goal of a detox is to allow the body to cleanse itself of these substances and restore itself to a state of balance and good health.

Detox can be dangerous, however, as the body reacts to the abrupt removal of the substance it has become dependent on. This can result in the body experiencing drug detox symptoms.
Drug Detox Symptoms

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How Long Does Detox Take?

The duration it takes to detox from a substance will vary depending on several factors, including medical history, what substance was being used, the severity of use, and any underlying medical conditions affect the length of the detoxification process.

Typically, detoxification procedures last a few days to a week. Some substances, such as alcohol or certain narcotics, may cause more severe drug detox symptoms and cause a lengthier detox period. 1

Common Symptoms of Detox

Drug detox symptoms can vary depending on the specific substance a person is detoxing from and the length of time they have been using it. Common drug detox symptoms include physical and psychological side effects that may also vary depending on any co-occurring disorders the patient may have.

Physical Symptoms of Detox

Common physical drug detox symptoms can include:
  • Sweating and chills
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Stomach, nausea, or digestion problems
  • Loss of appetite
  • Problems sleeping, including insomnia and fatigue
  • Rapid heart rate and palpitations

Psychological Symptoms of Detox

Psychological drug detox symptoms can include:
  • Irritability
  • Mood changes or mood swings
  • Feeling unsettled or unstable
  • Intense fear disproportionate to societal norms
  • Intense feelings of sadness
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Confusion or difficulty thinking clearly
  • Poor concentration
You or a loved one may not experience all of these side effects, but it’s good to be aware of them so you can start to notice the symptoms.

Process Of Detoxification

The process of drug detox involves these three crucial steps:2


The first stage, evaluation, involves a medical professional assessing the individual’s physical and mental health and substance use history. Doctors use this information to determine the appropriate course of treatment and identify any potential complications that may arise during the detox process. It also ensures that the individual is ready to enter a treatment program.


Stabilization involves providing the individual with the necessary support and care to manage drug withdrawal symptoms and cravings during detox. This may include administering medication, therapy, or any other forms of support. This is done to aid the person in achieving sobriety and medical stability during the most difficult part of the detox process. This is often where most drug detox symptoms set in.

Preparing Entry Into Treatment

Preparing for entry into treatment involves making the necessary arrangements for the individual to begin a formal treatment program. This step entails clinical practitioners informing individuals about their options for continued treatment after the initial detox or inpatient or outpatient programs as well.

What To Expect During a Detox

During detox, individuals can expect to experience a range of physical and psychological symptoms as their body adjusts to the absence of the substance they depend on. This is because the body and brain have adjusted to the toxic substances and now rely on them to function. Withdrawals can range from mild to severe depending on the person.
Some symptoms that an individual may experience during the detox process include:
  • Irritability
  • Lack of energy
  • Digestive problems
  • Hunger
  • Inability to focus 
  • Depression

Can I Detox at Home?

Individuals who are addicted to substances can detox at home, although it’s not recommended due to the various drug detox symptoms that can arise during withdrawal. People select at-home detoxification because it seems easier and provides a secure and familiar environment, but detoxing from substances can be dangerous. Drug detox symptoms can lead to complications or even death without proper medical supervision.

Home Detox vs. Medical Detox

Home detox, also known as self-detox, is the process of detoxing from substances at home without medical supervision. Homed detox is not recommended due to the potential risks and dangers associated with detoxing from substances without medical supervision.
Medical detox is detoxing from substances with the support and supervision of trained medical professionals. Medical detox takes place in a hospital or other medical facility. It includes the use of medication and other forms of support to manage drug detox symptoms and cravings. This approach is generally considered the safest and most effective way to detox from substances.

Which Drugs Require a Medically Assisted Detox?

Drugs that may need a medically assisted detox include alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines, and stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine. These drugs can be particularly dangerous to detox from without medical supervision because they can cause severe withdrawal symptoms that may be life-threatening, such as tremors, hallucinations, severe dehydration, and others. A medically assisted detox can help to manage these symptoms.

What Medications Are Used in Detox?

Several medications may be used during detox to help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings for the substance being detoxed. Some commonly used medications in detox include:3
  • Methadone: Methadone is a medication that is used to treat opioid dependence. It works by binding to the same brain receptors as opioids but doesn’t produce the same high or dangerous side effects. This can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms and make it easier for individuals to stop using opioids.
  • Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is a medication that is used to treat opioid addiction. It is combined with other medications to help overcome opioid addiction and avoid the painful symptoms of withdrawal. Buprenorphine can help to reduce cravings and prevent relapse.
  • Naltrexone: Naltrexone is a medication used to treat opioid addiction and alcohol dependence. It works by blocking the effects of opioids and alcohol in the brain, which can help to reduce cravings and prevent relapse.
  • Acamprosate: Acamprosate is a medication that is used to treat alcohol dependence. It works by regulating the levels of certain chemicals in the brain that are affected by alcohol use. Acamprosate is not a cure for alcohol dependence but can help support recovery and prevent relapse. 
  • Disulfiram: Disulfiram is a medication that is used to treat alcohol dependence. It works by causing a person to experience unpleasant side effects, such as nausea and vomiting, when they drink alcohol. A healthcare provider prescribes disulfiram as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling and other support services.

How to Prevent Drug Detox Symptoms

Drug Detox Symptoms
There are several steps that individuals can take to prevent detox symptoms from happening. One of the most important things to do is to seek professional help from a healthcare provider or addiction treatment center.
A healthcare provider can provide medications and other support services that can help to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Avoid risks as well, such as places or people associated with drug use.

Coping With Withdrawal

The following are tips that individuals can utilize to manage the symptoms of withdrawal and support their health:4
  • Ask for help
  • Eat well
  • Exercise
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Relieve symptoms with over-the-counter (OTC) medications
  • Sleep

Get Help for Detoxification at Profound

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction or drug detox symptoms and ready to take the first step toward recovery? Profound Treatment offers a safe and supportive environment for detoxification. Our team of trained medical professionals provides personalized care and support to help you through the process of detoxing.

Our detox program is designed to address all aspects of addiction and helps create individualized treatment plans for all of our patients. Contact Profound Treatment to begin your journey to recovery and sobriety.

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