How Long Does Detox Take?

man wondering how long does alcohol stay in your system?

How Long Does Detox Take?

Detoxification, commonly called detox, is the process of cleansing the body of abusive substances. Detox is the first and most crucial step toward recovery. It can be dangerous, even deadly depending on the substance, BUT only without proper treatment. Choosing which treatment center (and which detox program) to enter into is equally as important as the detox itself. This is because you must ensure you’re signing up for the level of treatment you need. Most rehabilitation programs tend to last between 30 and 90 days. The beginning of each one of them, bar none, is detox. During the process, medical professionals will manage withdrawal symptoms. Each substance has its own unique withdrawal process, and each substance combination has its own process, etc. Overall, detox is typically accompanied by multiple forms of therapies. However, these costly and long-lasting rehabilitation programs are not suited for all addicts seeking help. For those who are seeking recovery but also may have a full-time job, or a family, or just a tight schedule in general, and perhaps not the wallet of Bill Gates, a short detox program is a much more appropriate choice.

Why choose Detox only?

There are a few key answers to this question, but really there are endless answers. Entering into a detox program as opposed to a full rehabilitation program is extremely cost effective. Price is perhaps the best reason for detox only. Rehab programs tend to cost at least half a grand each day you’re there. A detox program costs much less. Another reason to choose a short detox program over a full rehab program is family life. Any parent knows how hard it can be to be way from the kids for an extended period of time. How hard would three months be? Also, given the nature of why you’re entering into treatment, younger children would surely have difficulty understanding why mom or dad is going to be gone for so long. If you are employed, especially full time and especially if you travel, committing to a full rehab program becomes seemingly impossible. Instead, opt for a detox program, where a professional medical staff will oversee the cleansing of your body from whatever you’re addicted to, treat you for any and all withdrawal symptoms, and provide re-integration guidance after the process is complete – all in a week or less. Okay, so you’re single, have no kids, work a well-paying part-time job, but you’re seeking treatment. Is rehab the best choice now? Of course the choice is yours, but detox is by far the most important and critical part of the rehab process, and a detox program can work for any walk of life.

How long does a Detox Program last?

Detox programs tend to last anywhere from three days to two weeks. Many different factors play into how long each specific detox program lasts. The main factor is which substance(s) was/were being abused. Some substances are able to be removed from the system faster than others. For example, heroin detox usually lasts about a week. Part of that time is spent helping to combat withdrawal symptoms and receiving therapy on a new life. In some cases, a rapid detox program can be used, which typically lasts three days. Say for example you enter into rapid detox for heroin. You will be placed under anesthesia and remedied to remove heroin from your body. Upon waking, you will no longer be physically addicted to the drug. Rapid detox is not possible for all types of drugs. Please discuss the idea with your doctor prior to enlisting. In cases of severe addiction, a full week of detox is recommended. As said, all drugs present their own unique set of withdrawal symptoms, and individual people can exhibit a range of these symptoms. Also it should be noted that quitting some drugs, such as LSD, does not present any withdrawal symptoms. In cases without withdrawal side effects, short-term programs containing counseling and therapy may prove sufficient. The bottom line is to never leave or abandon the detox process until you are physically and emotionally sound. Longer detox programs leave room for additional therapy so you can begin to transition from the detox program to normal life.

What does a Detox Program involve?

Think of a detox program as a template. Depending on what a patient is detoxing from, that template gets tweaked accordingly. Just like how all substances have their own withdrawal symptoms, all detoxes have their own specific programming, catered to the individual patient. What follows is a discussion on the broad stuff – what all detoxes and detox programs will involve… a sort of common denominator. Detox from all substances presents withdrawal symptoms. They are unavoidable, a crucial part of the cleansing process. A detox program is designed to lessen the severity of these symptoms, and to provide a comfortable and medically sound environment. Some drugs, such as cocaine or ecstasy, can be detoxed out of the body through plain old time. Some drugs, such as opiates and alcohol, which present the most severe withdrawals, are replaced by safer prescription drugs which ‘trick’ the body during detox. This is a comfortable and effective method of detox, but there’s a good chance you’ll develop an addiction to whatever drug is being used to replace your substance of choice. If your detox involves prescription drugs which you become addicted to, a detox process from that drug will be undergone. Fear not. That secondary detox will be worlds easier than the initial detox. During detox, you have 24-hour access to medical care, including medicine, therapies, caring doctors and skilled nurses. Detox can be, and usually is, an intense process, and beyond the physical, many patients experience a strong emotional rollercoaster. This causes many patients to relapse, or at least crave their substance of choice strongly. In fact, for many, emotional turbulence is the reason for using. In detox, emotional turbulence is treated with love and professional care. Provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the following shows an overview of the timeline for detox from multiple substances:

Heroin Withdrawal symptoms begin to appear within 12 hours of the last dose. Symptoms are at their worst within 24-48 hours, and can last up to a week treated, and over a month untreated.

Prescription opiates (Vicodin, OxyContin, etc.)

Withdrawal symptoms begin around 8-12 hours after the last usage. For the majority of prescription opiates, symptoms peak within 12-48 hours, and last 5-10 days on average. For methadone, a commonly used drug to treat recovering heroin addicts, (‘tricking’ their bodies), withdrawal symptoms begins within 24-48 hours, peak after 2-3 days, and can last up to 2-4 weeks.

Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, etc.)

Withdrawal symptoms tend to begin within 1-4 days, peaking within two weeks. After 2-4 weeks, symptoms will begin to fade.  In some cases, without proper treatment, benzo withdrawal can last many months, even years.


Withdrawal symptoms start within hours of the last dose. They will peak within 1-3 days, and can last anywhere from one week to two months.


Withdrawal symptoms usually begin between eight hours of the last drink and a few days after the last drink. Symptoms peak within 24-72 hours, and can last a few weeks. Alcohol withdrawal without proper treatment can be deadly.

What happens after a Detox Program is over?

Detox is crucial. The importance cannot be underestimated. The first step in each and every substance addiction recovery process is detox. However, just because an addict completes a detox program and rids his or her body of the drug does not mean he or she is ready to delve back into everyday life. Without any form of aftercare, the chances of relapsing after detox are quite high. With aftercare, these chances drop dramatically. The sad fact is that it’s extremely difficult to stay clean and sober after detox without any ongoing support. The happy fact is that there are endless types of aftercare available. Plus, any detox program worth its weight will offer a multitude of aftercare options once detox is complete. What type of aftercare you receive depends on two things. One is you. The other is the severity of the addiction, and to what. For example, for someone who dabbles with drugs, finds themselves addicted after a short time, enters into detox and cleanses, an outpatient aftercare program would make a lot of sense. That person would check in according to schedule, receive therapy and advice on kicking cravings, and would likely transition back into ‘real life’ rather easily. For someone with a twenty-year heroin addiction, much more than outpatient aftercare is recommended. In cases of severe addictions, especially to stronger drugs, entering into an appropriate inpatient program is the best course of action to take. Ultimately, residential treatment is best. While staying in-house, there will be ample time to cope with cravings and emotional turbulence, and in a nurturing, drug-free environment. That being said, whichever detox program you choose, once complete you will very likely be referred to an appropriate rehabilitation program, such as Arrow Passage Recovery. This is another major benefit of at least initially choosing detox only; your care staff will have gotten to know you, and will be able to personally recommend a facility. Although highly suggested, not everyone who completes a detox program will actually require further rehabilitation. Even so, it’s recommended for even those who feel 100% ready for the world post-detox to attend support groups, or a personal therapist. In the very least, build your own support group and stay in touch with those in the group about your sobriety. Having a network of people ready to help you is preventative maintenance for if and when those cravings do return – which they likely will, to be frank.

Is there anything else I should know?

The vast majority of detox programs are 3 days, 5 days, or 7 days in length. Which length program you opt for is your choice and your choice alone. Speak with program directors, your doctor, loved ones, staff, and determine wisely which length is best for you. The actual physical detoxification of a substance does not take long. What can take long is the recovery process thereafter. There is no such thing as a minor addiction. However, for those with addictions on the opposite end of the spectrum from severe, a 3-day program would very likely be sufficient. Anything more than that and either a 5-day or a 7-day program is recommended. As with most services, you get what you put in. Aside obviously from the physical aspect of detox, much of the success of the program is in your hands. Detox programs are designed to make it as comfortable as possible to transition from addict to sober person. They are not designed for addicts to just show up and go through the motions. With a strong will to kick the habit and detox performed by a dedicated staff, no addiction is impossible to beat. Without professional detox, attempting to beat an addiction becomes dangerous. Do not attempt to defeat addiction without a detox program, and ABSOLUTELY do not attempt to beat addiction without help. It could be devastating.

Learn More About Recovery

Questions About Addiction
or Mental Health?


Call Us Now:

Your call is confidential with no obligation required to speak with us.

You have Successfully Subscribed!