A substance abuse disorder can make you feel trapped and unsure about the future. For some, the fear and uncertainty surrounding the detox process can be a barrier to entering recovery.
If you’ve ever felt this way about your own or a loved one’s struggle with substance abuse, you’re not alone. Almost 50% of all Americans have a family member or close friend who has had a drug addiction at one point.
Every detox for drugs and recovery journey is different, but they do tend to follow a similar pattern. Read on to learn about the seven stages of drug detox and what to expect in each of them.
1. Awareness and Acknowledgement
The first stage of detox is marked by a growing awareness and acknowledgment that a problem exists. It often comes after a breaking point of some sort. These could include difficulties at work, in relationships, or with finances, or a meaningful conversation with concerned loved ones.
In this stage, there hasn’t yet been any measurable progress toward sobriety. Even so, moving from denial of a problem existing toward taking action is an extremely important first step.
At this point, someone with a drug dependency might realize that they can’t tackle recovery on their own. They may also start looking into detox and rehab programs.
2. Entering a Detox Program
Detoxing from drugs at home (quitting “cold turkey) is a painful process. But depending on the substances and quantities you used them in, a home detox can also be fatal. Withdrawal from certain drugs can lead to seizures and severe dehydration, both of which can be deadly without medical intervention.
That’s why it’s so important to enter an accredited addiction detox or rehab program. Not only will trained medical staff be on call to help you through the dangerous parts of withdrawal, but they’ll also be able to keep you much more comfortable.
3. The First Few Days
The first couple of days of drug detoxification can be the worst part of the entire process. For most drugs, withdrawal symptoms tend to peak within 24-72 hours of quitting. This is especially true for people who have abused large quantities of drugs for a long period of time.
Along with intense drug cravings, withdrawal symptoms at this point can include:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Anxiety and mood swings
- Severe dehydration
The exact withdrawal symptoms someone experiences during the first few days and their severity will vary from person to person. As such, it’s imperative to have medical supervision during this time to ensure the highest level of safety and comfort possible.
4. Acute Withdrawal
Throughout the first few weeks for sobriety, you’ll find yourself in the stage known as acute withdrawal. This is the time that it takes for all remaining traces of drugs to be filtered out of your system.
Symptoms you might experience during this stage include:
- Anxiety or mood swings
- Sweating and/or tremors
- Poor sleep quality
- Trouble concentrating
- Body aches
Medical supervision is still important during this phase as your body readjusts to life without drugs. Depending on your situation, you may enter an inpatient or outpatient rehab program after the initial detox period ends.
5. Post-Acute Withdrawal
Even after all physical traces of drugs have left, you might still find yourself experiencing some uncomfortable side effects. These are known as post-acute withdrawal (PAW) and can persist for weeks—or even months—after the acute withdrawal stage.
The symptoms of PAW include:
- Low energy and fatigue
- Decreased attention span
- Poor memory and concentration
- Changes in appetite, sleep, and mood
These symptoms tend to come and go in “flares” or “waves,” with their severity often related to the intensity and duration of drug use. They’re especially prevalent in people recovering from an opiate/opioid addiction (including heroin and many narcotic pain relievers).
This can be one of the most frustrating stages because many people expect to go back to a normal level of function as soon as their detox is complete. Remember that your brain needs time to heal and recalibrate its hormone and neurotransmitter levels. Be patient with yourself during this time and surround yourself with a strong support system of loved ones and trained professionals.
6. Early Recovery
The early recovery stage is one of the most exciting and most vulnerable parts of a drug detox journey. At this point, the withdrawal symptoms have mostly ceased, and you’re learning how to live a life free of substance abuse. But you’re also finding that you have to make significant, and often painful, changes to your lifestyle to avoid relapse.
It’s more important in this stage than any other to be mindful of your environment and the people you surround yourself with. You may have to cut ties with friends and family that enable you to relapse and stop socializing at bars or clubs. But even though they’re difficult, these changes will allow you to learn valuable coping skills and work on building healthy relationships.
7. Long-Term Recovery
Long-term recovery makes up the rest of your life! By this point, the hardest work is over and you’ve conquered challenges that many consider insurmountable. You’ll have gathered resources and techniques that can help you stay sober for the long haul.
Once you’ve reached long-term recovery, you’ll be able to live a life on your own terms, free from the bonds of drug dependency. Keep in mind that in order to avoid a relapse, you’ll need to continue monitoring your thoughts and actions and checking in with your support system.
You Can Make It Through Your Detox for Drugs
A detox for drugs, alcohol, or any other addiction is a difficult process, but knowing what to expect can make it easier. So does walking through the process with the guidance and support of trained, caring specialists like those at Alcohol Addiction Recovery Place in Daly City, CA.
You don’t have to feel trapped or alone any longer in your battle with addiction. Take a moment to look into our drug detox programs and schedule a free, private consultation today. Every recovery journey starts with a first step—isn’t it time that you took yours?