Although addiction can happen quickly, it’s not a simple process. Neither is treatment. Detoxification is typically the first stage of addiction treatment and can pave the way for effective long-term recovery. Detox coupled with a therapeutic program is  typically what can help you achieve long-term recovery and abstinence.

What Causes Withdrawal Symptoms?

Simple everyday activities, like eating, laughing, socializing, playing music and having sex, cause your brain to release bursts of chemicals that create pleasurable feelings throughout your body. These feelings are how a healthy brain identifies and reinforces behaviors that benefit you, motivating you to repeat them.

Drugs cause your brain to produce much larger bursts of these chemicals, forging a strong bond between pleasure and the drug. Over time, your brain produces less and less of these chemicals in response to healthy, everyday sources of pleasure. As a result, life can feel flat, boring, depressing and even threatening, without the massive doses of pleasure chemicals it’s been accustomed to. It takes the brain and body time to adjust to the sudden absence of these chemical bursts and find a new level of normality. This is why detoxing in a controlled environment, such as a treatment facility, is so important.

Is Detox the Same for All Substances?

The type of drug you’ve used, the amount you’ve been using and how long you’ve been using it can all affect how intensely and how long you experience your symptoms during detox. Different forms of a drug, such as pills versus injections, and extended-release versions, can also factor in. Here are some examples of withdrawal symptoms.

  • Alcohol withdrawal can occur within several hours or up to five days after heavy and prolonged alcohol use has been stopped or greatly reduced. Symptoms may include agitation, anxiety, hallucinations, hand tremors, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, restlessness, sleep problems, sweating and seizures. 
  • During heroin withdrawal, many major symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after your last dose, then subside after about a week, at which time, weakness, depression, nausea and vomiting are common. For those people with post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), symptoms may continue for weeks, even months. 
  • Marijuana withdrawal symptoms are similar to other substance withdrawal symptoms, particularly nicotine. Irritability, anger, depression, difficulty sleeping, cravings and decreased appetite are common. Most symptoms begin within 24 to 48 hours of last use, peak in four to six days and last from one to three weeks.
  • Nicotine: Approximately 80−90% of regular smokers are addicted to nicotine. Though withdrawal symptoms can last for a few weeks, they are usually strongest during the first week after quitting. This is when you are most at risk for relapse. Cigarette cravings, sadness, irritability and difficulty sleeping are a few of the most common symptoms. 
  • Opioids: Withdrawal symptoms from opioids vary depending on the frequency and amount of use, and the type of opioid you were using. Symptom onset from short-acting opioids can begin eight to 24 hours after you quit, and can last four to ten days. For long-acting opioids, onset starts about 12 to 24 hours after your last use and may last for ten to 20 days. If you’ve been using prescribed opioids such as OxyContin as directed, then withdrawal symptoms may be mild, if you have any at all. 

How Will Detox Help Jumpstart Your Recovery Process?

A detox program can help you get customized treatment for your unique situation and needs. The process usually involves three steps:

  • Evaluation
  • Stabilization
  • Preparation for treatment entry


During your evaluation, the facility’s medical team will screen you for physical and mental health issues, ask about your medical, psychiatric and drug histories and do blood tests to determine the amount of drugs in your system. All this information will help develop a long-term treatment plan for you. 


The next step is to help you through withdrawal and stabilize you using therapy and medication (if necessary) to keep you safe and as comfortable as possible. 

Preparation for Treatment Entry 

In this final step, your doctor will explain the treatment process and help you set goals and expectations. 

Detoxification is usually the first necessary step in any substance use treatment program. Because of how different drugs affect the brain, withdrawal symptoms can depend on the drug used, can vary in intensity and can last for days or weeks. The detox process is designed to gently move you through withdrawal and prepare you for the healing work of treatment. Your treatment team is a critical part of your support network. At Authentic Recovery Center, we set you up for success both during and following treatment with clear, collaborative plans for both therapy and aftercare. Our Los Angeles treatment offers an array of options designed to meet your individual needs. If you want to free yourself of addiction, reach out to us to talk about how to get back on track. You can take small steps towards your recovery to achieve bigger goals. Call us today to start your path to recovery at (866) 786-1376.