what happens to the body during detox

Learn about Detox and Withdrawal Syndrome 

The first step in the recovery process involves the detox process. Detox purges the substance and toxins from the body. This allows the person to be stable enough to begin treatment.

Sometimes just thinking about withdrawal syndrome can deter someone from ever even going to treatment. But for many people, knowing what to expect in detox can help to prepare them mentally for the road ahead.

Detox is a complex process during which the body and brain will react to the sudden absence of the substance. Withdrawal syndrome features the cluster of symptoms that occur as the body attempts to adjust. Knowing there will be discomfort, it’s best to enter treatment with a sense of courage. Detox is something to gut out and get done in order to begin your new chapter in life.

What Happens to the Brain and Body During Detox?

When drugs or alcohol are used for a prolonged time it will have a profound effect on the body and the brain. The substance will change the way the brain functions and can cause serious damage to your health. When going through detox this is what happens to the brain and body:

What Happens to the Brain?

When engaged in substance abuse, the brain makes changes in response to the effects of the substance. As it begins to rely on the substance the brain will stop making dopamine. Then, when the substance is withheld, there will be a sharp drop in the levels of serotonin and dopamine. All of these changes in the brain create symptoms during detox, and you may feel:

  • Anxious.
  • Agitated.
  • Irritable.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Confused.
  • Restless.
  • See things that aren’t there.
  • Depressed.
  • Moody.

What Happens to the Body?

As the body purges the substance from its system it, too, will begin to show signs of distress. Body systems will be in chaos during the detox process as the body attempts to become stable. Examples of withdrawal symptoms felt in the body include:

  • Excessive shaking.
  • Hand tremors.
  • Sweating.
  • Excessive tearing.
  • Runny nose.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Muscle and joint pain.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Seizures.

What is a Medical Detox?

During the detox process the person’s vital signs will be closely watched. The withdrawal symptoms will be reduced somewhat through meds that are provided by the detox experts. These include drugs to help control such symptoms as nausea and vomiting, headache, and fever. Benzos are given for helping with anxiety symptoms, to help prevent seizures, and to assist with sleep.

Mental health support is also offered during detox. This is crucial, as going through withdrawal syndrome can lead some to just give up on detox. The detox support team can help keep the person moving forward. This helps them to complete the detox and shift over to the treatment program. 

What to Expect During Detox

During detox, you will go through distinct stages of the process. Withdrawal symptoms commence within hours of the last dose or drink, and peak on days 2-3 before they subside. Detox takes about one week. In the case of a benzo detox, though, the taper process may take two or more weeks. This process helps to avoid problems.

Alcohol detox. Alcohol detox is considered high risk. This is due to the fairly rare delirium tremens (DTs), which can be a danger. The detox symptoms and timeline will vary based on the level of your alcohol use disorder (AUD):

For milder AUD the detox process follows this timeline:

  • Symptoms begin about 6 hours after you stop drinking.
  • Symptoms include sweating, upset stomach and possible vomiting, shaking, anxiety, increased heart rate, and headache.
  • Symptoms peak between 12-24 hours.
  • Withdrawal lasts 24-72 hours.
  • No serious cognitive or psychotic symptoms, and no seizures.

For moderate to severe AUD the detox process follows this timeline:

  • Symptoms begin 2-8 hours after you stop drinking.
  • Symptoms include all the above plus increased blood pressure, confusion, fever, insomnia, irritability, disorientation, anxiety, hallucinations, memory problems, and tremors.
  • The DTs may begin on days 2-4 and would require hospitalization. The symptoms include severe disorientation, agitation, hallucinations, and potentially seizures.
  • Withdrawal will last about one week. If the DTs are present, symptoms can persist for two weeks.

Opiate detox. Detox follows a fairly predictable pattern with the first symptoms appearing between 6-12 hours after the last dose. Symptoms will peak between 24-48 hours and then begin to subside. An opiate detox is complete in 5-7 days, however lasting effects can linger, known as PAWS. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever.
  • Chills.
  • G.I. distress.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Sweating.
  • Teary eyes.
  • Muscle and joint pain.
  • Restlessness.
  • Intense drug cravings.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.

Starting Treatment After Detox

Detox alone will not allow you to succeed. Some may complete detox and feel great, thinking they can safely manage on their own. In nearly all cases this quickly results in relapse. In fact, overdoses can occur when someone has been sober and then relapses. The body simply cannot manage the toxins after being clean and sober for awhile, and death can occur. 

The only way to achieve a lasting recovery is to learn new ways of thinking and responding to triggers. Old patterns that have been in place for years must be reshaped. A treatment program that uses many types of therapy can help you change these defective patterns. Classes that teach you how to avoid relapse and equip you with new coping techniques will also be helpful. Detox is the first step, and treatment is the next to starting a healthy, sober new lifestyle.

LifeSync Malibu Provides Medically Supervised Detox Services

LifeSync Malibu Healing Center is an upscale drug and alcohol treatment program. LifeSync Malibu is committed to helping people make lasting changes in their lives. For any questions about what happens to the brain and body during detox, please reach out to the team today at (866) 491-4426.