Drug abuse is unfortunately all-too-common today. More than 7% of adult Americans have an undefined problem with drinking alcohol and 20.5 million Americans over the age of 12 have a drug abuse problem. In 2015, about 10% of those people were abusing prescription pain relievers or heroin. In 2014, it was estimated that more than 6,000 adolescents had a heroin use problem.
Also unfortunate is how difficult it can be to quit these drugs. Not only is there a psychological dependence that calls drug abuse victims back to their addiction, but the detox processes for these addictions is physically painful and even dangerous. If you or someone is struggling with getting clean, it’s important to try and understand what the body is going through during different detox processes.

Alcoholism is the third most deadly disease in the United States. Alcohol withdrawal is highly variable, and can be impacted by many factors, including medical history, family history, length of habit, and even general stress level. A person who is more dependent on alcohol is likely to experience more severe withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol detox can be fatal. Because of some of the dangerous effects of alcohol withdrawal, quitting “cold-turkey” is not recommended without medical supervision.

Someone struggling with addiction to alcohol will experience their first symptoms of withdrawal about 8 hours after their last drink. At this point, victims commonly experience anxiety, insomnia, abdominal pain, and nausea. One to three days after they begin the alcohol detox process, people can have increased blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate. This stage can also produce a kind of delirium or confusion. Two to four days after the detox process starts, confusion can progress to outright hallucinations. Fever, seizures and general agitation are also not uncommon. The symptoms fade after 5 to 7 days. Without treatment, psychological effects including suicidal ideation can continue for weeks. For this reason, seeking treatment at a medical detox center is recommended.

Opiates and prescription painkillers
Each opiate lasts a different amount of time in a person’s bloodstream, which makes it difficult to predict when withdrawal symptoms will start in any individual. Heroin is the fastest-acting, and withdrawal symptoms can start even just a few hours after the last use. Methadone, a ingredient approved by the Food and Drug Administration for drugs that treat opioid dependency, lasts about 30 hours. As with alcohol, withdrawal symptoms can vary in severity depending on the length and intensity of the drug abuse. Opiate withdrawal is less likely to be deadly than alcohol withdrawal, but medical assistance is still advisable.

Once withdrawal starts, initial symptoms include insomnia, anxiety, muscle aches, hypertension, tearing eyes and or a runny nose, sweats and possibly even fever. After around 72 hours, this progresses into the more severe symptoms, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, depression, and intense drug cravings.
Psychological effects and drug cravings can continue for a week or more. Medical assistance with detox processes can help reduce symptoms and their duration.

Addiction is a chronic disease.
Relapse is common among individuals struggling with withdrawal. Unfortunately, a relapse into opioid use can easily be fatal. After a period of non-use, the body’s tolerance for an opioid is reduced, but the psychological need still feels great to an addicted person. This greatly increases the chance of a fatal overdose during a relapse. For this reason, it’s recommended that detox processes be followed with counseling, family therapy and other support groups and systems.