road sign pointing towards a detox facility

3 Stages of the Detox Process


Sober Recovery Expert Author

road sign pointing towards a detox facility

When you make the decision to quit your substance of choice, chances are you may need to go through the detox process.

The thought of it may scare you at first, as you may have heard of detox horror stories before or people who found it to be an extremely difficult phase of getting sober. However, while it’s true that detox can be trying, it’s important to look at it as the first step towards the rest of your life in sobriety. It’s also helpful to know that there will be professionals by your side and, sometimes, even medicine that can help alleviate your symptoms.

Going through detox can be a tough but necessary step towards becoming free of addiction.

To achieve full detoxification, you will go through 3 stages: acute, emergent and post-detox. Here’s a look at what happens in each stage.

1. Acute Detox Stage

Detox begins with the acute stage, which many people choose to go through at a detox center. Medical supervision is often necessary during this period, especially when coming off of harsh drugs like benzodiazepines, heroin or alcohol. At this time, you may receive some medication that will help decrease some withdrawal symptoms, although you may still experience shaking, sweating, anxiety, nausea or fatigue.

2. Emergent Detox Stage

During the emergent stage, possible health conditions that may have gone undetected during active addiction begin to emerge. Common health issues include high blood pressure, diabetes and mental health conditions like bipolar disorder or clinical depression. This is why it’s important that you see both a medical doctor and a mental health therapist as you come off of your drug of choice so that you can work with them to detect and address all possible issues.

3. Post Detox Stage

The last part of detox is known as the post-detox stage. This is when you get home and deal with life without using your substance of choice as well as any lingering withdrawal symptoms on your own. While this stage can be rough at first, bear in mind that any symptoms you may feel will come to an end and that life will become better for you all the way around.

The post-detox stage lasts for about a month or two, depending on what your drug of choice was and how much detoxifying your body has to do. The overall experience tends to vary based on factors like one’s coping skills, the presence of therapy, 12-Step meeting attendance, and general mental and physical health.

If you can eat healthy, exercise and keep yourself inspired to push through recovery, then riding out the post-detox stage—and the road towards full recovery—will come that much easier.

If you or someone you know is seeking help with drug or alcohol detox, please visit our directory of detox centers or call 800-891-8171 to start the path to recovery today.

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