What to Expect From an Outpatient Alcohol Detox

zoomed in photo of coed group therapy during alcohol outpatient detox

Out of the many challenges that recovering people inevitably face, the first ones they encounter are often the hardest. Not surprisingly, this includes the fear and discomfort associated with the detoxification process. Not to mention the temporary loss of freedom that inpatient detox has traditionally entailed. This is just one of the reasons that more and more people are opting for an outpatient alcohol detox when they finally decide it’s time to take action. So what is outpatient alcohol detox how exactly does it work? Read on to discover these questions and more.

How Does an Outpatient Alcohol Detox Work?

Outpatient detox clients usually report to a hospital or treatment facility five days a week, with both morning and evening sessions available. After a detailed health assessment– including the level of drinking and the severity of the client’s withdrawal symptoms, clients can start the detoxification process.

The frequency, nature, and duration of sessions tend to vary after that. If a facility offers therapy sessions during detox, clients might be in treatment for 2-3 hours a day. If not, sessions include little more than a physical checkup (including medication adjustments) and might only require clients to be at the facility for approximately 30 minutes a day.

An outpatient detox program can last anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks, depending on the amount of counseling offered.

In addition to monitoring a client’s physical and emotional health, the most important goals of outpatient alcohol detox are to:

  • Safely eliminate alcohol and any other dangerous substances from the patient’s body
  • Help manage any withdrawal symptoms, often with specialized replacement medications
  • Identify and start to treat any co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Locate and help initiate contact with the resources clients need for a successful transition into early recovery

As you probably noticed, the goals of an outpatient detox facility are identical to those pursued in the inpatient setting. However, there are important differences between the two types of alcohol detox as well. We’ll explore these in the next section.

Risks vs Benefits: Is An Outpatient Detox the Best Choice For You

Here are some of the most important benefits an outpatient detox can offer:

  • For clients with mild or moderate withdrawal symptoms, outpatient detox is just as safe as the old-fashioned inpatient version.
  • Outpatient detox clients get to sleep at home every night and are in a position where they can continue to fulfill their work, school, or family responsibilities.
  • Outpatient detox is substantially cheaper than inpatient detox.
  • Perhaps most importantly, clients can sometimes transition from outpatient detox to an actual treatment program. This continuity is key to getting your recovery off to the right kind of start.

Unfortunately, there are some risks involved in these programs as well. For one thing, some clients may benefit significantly from the immersive nature of inpatient programs. There’s also an increased chance for relapse for some outpatient clients. This is especially true for those who have unstable living situations. 

Outpatient alcohol detox isn’t for everyone. Your fitness for this kind of program depends on your personal situation. But don’t worry– you won’t be making this decision alone. You’ll have a dedicated care team on your side and they’ll help you make this important decision.

How to Get Drugs Out of Your System Fast

How to Get Drugs Out of Your System Fast | Harmony Recovery Center

The fastest, safest, most efficient way to get drugs out of your system is by undergoing a medical detox in a specialized rehab facility. Detox is the process in which a person who is dependent on substances is assisted in clearing their bodies of drugs and alcohol. Rehab facilities can help relieve cravings and the side effects of withdrawal and prepare people for long-term abstinence.

Medical detox is the first step in the rehab process for recovery from drug abuse and addiction. It is most effective when followed up with behavioral therapy, counseling, medication, and continued support. Moreover, medical detox does not address the underlying behavioral, environmental, or genetic causes of addiction. It should be used as part of a broader, more comprehensive rehab program that also includes various other treatment modalities.

Who Benefits From Medical Detox?

When a person abuses drugs or alcohol for a prolonged period, his or her body can develop a dependence on the substance. The brain and body grow accustomed to the presence of a drug and how it affects it, and it adapts to the extent that it no longer functions normally without it. When the person tries to quit using, this results in adverse effects including cravings, headache, moodiness, aches and pains, vomiting, and a myriad of other withdrawal symptoms.

Cravings and withdrawal symptoms make it challenging for people to abstain from their drug of choice. Fortunately, medical detox can help patients get through withdrawal safely. Over time, the body readjusts and begins to function without the drug, and the cravings subside.

Examples of drugs that can lead to dependency that requires supervised detox include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Alcohol
  • Opioids (e.g., oxycodone, heroin)
  • Benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax, Valium)

  • Stimulants (e.g., Adderall, cocaine, meth, MDMA)
  • Synthetic drugs (e.g., Spice, bath salts)
  • Marijuana

Recovering from addiction can be challenging and even dangerous without professional help. A supervised detox increases a patient’s likelihood of achieving long-term sobriety and offers a safe environment during the few days of withdrawal.

At-Home Detox Kits Aren’t Effective

Detoxing at home without medical support or using untested products is risky. If you are legitimately trying to abstain, it’s highly unlikely that detox kits will do much to reduce the symptoms of withdrawals or cravings.

Medications designed to help you overcome addiction are usually FDA-approved and prescribed by trained physicians, many who specialize in addiction. You will not be able to find any clinically-proven cures on the Internet or in stores.

The highest demand for drug detox kits are individuals attempting to pass drug tests for employment or legal purposes. The most common kits include detox drinks or pills that contain ingredients such as vitamin C, niacin, lecithin, goldenseal, and a combination of herbs. However, research has shown that none of these ingredients help to facilitate the drug detox process.

The Medical Detox Process

How to Get Drugs Out of Your System Fast | Harmony Recovery Center

In general, medical detox is a three-step process that includes evaluation, stabilization, and preparation for long-term treatment. People may also undergo therapy sessions or attend support group meetings during this time, but these are ancillary treatments and are not required during detox.

Evaluation – Evaluation typically involves a questionnaire, physical exam, blood tests, and a screening for co-existing mental health or medical conditions. Therapists will examine the person’s psychological state and identify the strength of their support system, and an addiction specialist will devise a treatment plan built around all this information.

Stabilization – Stabilization is the process in which patients discontinue substance use, and health providers help them achieve a medically stable condition. Medication can be used to relieve withdrawal symptoms for some drugs, including alcohol and opioids. The duration and severity of withdrawal depend on the severity of the addiction and individual factors. Stabilization time can vary, but lasts around two weeks, on average.

Preparation – Patients should be prepared to undergo additional treatment after detox. Although the most uncomfortable physical effects of recovery usually occur during detox, this process does not prepare patients for the emotional challenges they will face afterward. Health professionals need to educate patients about the importance of beginning a long-term program that can help increase their chances of staying in recovery for as long as possible.

Quitting Abruptly or “Cold Turkey”

Trying to quit cold turkey is probably the most common method people who are addicted to alcohol or other drugs use to achieve abstinence. The cold-turkey strategy can be dangerous, however, when someone is chemically dependent on a substance. Compared to tapering or slowly reducing consumption, withdrawal symptoms can be much more painful using this method. Furthermore, if someone has a severe dependency on alcohol or benzodiazepines, quitting abruptly can be lethal.

Ultra-Rapid Detox

Ultra-rapid detox involves sedating individuals while administering a medication that facilitates rapid withdrawal. It was developed specifically to help people addicted to opioids, with the idea being that patients are allowed to sleep through the worst stage of withdrawal.

However, several studies have found that ultra-rapid detox doesn’t do much to ease withdrawal and results in risks to the patient. Moreover, when the patient awakens, he or she will continue to experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those who didn’t receive treatment. The method does not appear to accelerate the process, and patients with pre-existing medical conditions may be a higher risk of complications.

Medications Administered During Detox

The purpose of medication-assisted treatment is to relieve withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and make the patient feel as comfortable as possible. A physician and other health staff oversee the process.

Most medications address the side effects of withdrawal, such as headaches, fever, nausea, seizures, and tremors. There are no medications that increase the body’s ability to eliminate drugs, but some medications can also reduce cravings.

Examples of such treatments include the following:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Antidepressants

  • Clonidine
  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Suboxone

How to Get Drugs Out of Your System Fast | Harmony Recovery Center

How Long Does the Detox Process Take?

The duration of the detox process is different for everyone. Several factors can influence the length of the process, including the following:

  • Substance(s) of abuse
  • Duration of abuse and addiction
  • Co-occurring conditions

  • Overall health status
  • Biological factors and family history
  • Age and weight

Patients typically experience the most severe effects of withdrawal during the first few days of detox. Early symptoms of withdrawal include several physical effects, such as diarrhea, vomiting, muscle aches and pain, fever, and tremors. Fortunately, medication can relieve many of these effects.

Unfortunately, however, psycho-emotional side effects can persist for weeks or months. Symptoms commonly include depression, anxiety, irritability, and insomnia. Health providers typically use a combination of medication and psychotherapy to help patients manage the psychological symptoms related to long-term sobriety.

Recovery After Detox

People who are recovering from addiction are much less likely to sustain long-term sobriety if they refuse to undergo treatment following detox. Moreover, relapse rates are much lower for those who attend therapy sessions, participate in support groups or access other forms of aftercare support. Even still, relapse is a common occurrence on the path to recovery. People who do so should not be ashamed or afraid to return to a detox or rehab facility in the event they relapse. In fact, this is the best way to get back to basics and re-engage in recovery.

Get Help Today

Harmony Recovery Center specializes in treatment for drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. We offer a full spectrum of services, including outpatient detox, partial hospitalization, and outpatient programs.

If you are ready to begin your journey to long-lasting sobriety, contact us today. Discover how we can help you down that road—one step at a time!

⟹ READ THIS NEXT: How to Get Clean and Sober

Lyrica Withdrawal and Detox

Lyrical Withdrawal | Harmony Recovery Center

Lyrica (pregabalin) is a medication indicated for the treatment of nerve pain that results from shingles, diabetes, fibromyalgia, or other injuries and infection. Lyrica can also be used to treat certain types of seizures. A person who has become dependent on Lyrica may experience withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to quit or cut back.

While Lyrica is thought to have a relatively low potential for abuse and misuse, addiction to this drug is a growing concern among medical professionals and addiction specialists. Some people who are prescribed Lyrica misuse it by taking it in excessive amounts or too frequently, or abuse it in conjunction with other substances, such as painkillers and alcohol. This is sometimes done to relieve pain, but also may be used as a means to produce feelings of relaxation, pleasure, and euphoria.

Common Lyrica Withdrawal Symptoms

As noted, if a person has become addicted to Lyrica and suddenly discontinues or dramatically lowers their dose, this can result in a number of withdrawal symptoms. These effects are the result of dependence, a condition in which a person’s body has adapted to a substance and is unable to function “normally” without it. 

Of note, even a person who does not misuse Lyrica can develop a chemical dependence on the medication. This is different than full-blown addiction, a condition that is also characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behavior and abuse. Still, even without addiction, withdrawal symptoms can occur.

Because Lyrica has depressant properties, withdrawal symptoms associated with Lyrica are not unlike those experienced with alcohol or benzodiazepines. The severity and number of the symptoms a person encounters will vary based on several factors, including the following:

  • Duration of time in which the medication was used
  • The average dose that was taken
  • Misuse of other drugs or alcohol
  • Individual factors such as genetics and health

Signs and symptoms of Lyrica withdrawal may include the following: 

  • Behavioral changes
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Confusion

  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • Sleep disturbances

Lyrica Withdrawal and Detox | Harmony Recovery Center

In some instances, withdrawal symptoms related to Lyrica can lead to life-threatening complications, including the following:

  • Dehydration
  • Heart problems

  • Seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Lyrica Withdrawal Timeline 

Most of the acute, short-term withdrawal symptoms associated with a dependence on Lyrica will last for about 24-48 hours days if the drug is stopped abruptly. In some cases, especially those involving other symptoms, these symptoms may persist for several days beyond. Residual symptoms, which are primarily emotional in nature, may last for several weeks.

It is often beneficial for patients to be put on a tapering plan in which they gradually reduce their dose. This can help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and also mitigate cravings. The symptoms mentioned above may be extended or pronounced in those who have been taking Lyrica in large amounts or over a prolonged period.

Managing Lyrica Withdrawal Symptoms 

In addition to a tapering schedule, there are several methods that can be used to manage withdrawal associated with discontinuing the use of Lyrica. These include many of the same treatments used for those who are withdrawing from other depressants, such as opioids or alcohol.

Lyrica Medications and Detox

For those experiencing Lyrica addiction, a medical detox program can be very beneficial. This method of undergoing withdrawal can offer a safe and comfortable detox period to kick off the recovery process. During this process, patients are monitored on either an inpatient or outpatient basis and are given medication and support to help them stabilize and prepare for further recovery treatment.

Moreover, individuals who detox from Lyrica or other substances are urged to enroll in a professional addiction treatment program. These programs can be very effective and help to increase the likelihood that the person will be able to avoid relapse and sustain long-term sobriety.

Medications that can be prescribed for mitigating Lyrica withdrawal symptoms include clonidine and dexmedetomidine, both of which have mild sedative effects. Antidepressants, such as Zoloft or Celexa, may be useful to reduce emotional symptoms, such as depression and anxiety. 

Getting Help for Addiction

The decision to seek treatment for addiction and begin the journey to long-term recovery is one that can save your life or the life of a loved one, and time is of the essence. Learning what treatment options are available and choosing an appropriate program is the first step in this process.

Long-term, comprehensive, and individualized treatment programs, such as those offered by Harmony Recovery Center, typically provide the best chance for success. Our programs feature therapeutic services and activities clinically-proven to be highly beneficial for the recovery process. These services include psychotherapy, counseling, group support, and much, much more.

We believe that a healthy, happy life is possible for everyone, even those who have struggled with substance abuse. This life is waiting for you or your loved one, and all you have to do is contact us today!

⟹ READ THIS NEXT: Gabapentin Withdrawal

Alcohol Detox Diet

Whether you are detoxing at home (not recommended) or at a treatment center, proper hydration and nutrition are essential for reclaiming your health. While detox facilities such as those offered by Harmony Recovery Center typically offer patients healthy food options, no one can force you to eat properly. Neglecting to do so can, unfortunately, lead to an intensification of withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings.

It’s also important to note that although the acute withdrawal phase only lasts a few days, fully adjusting mentally and physically with alcohol can last much longer. For this reason, maintaining healthy habits such as eating well can help stave off cravings and place a person in a better emotional state to cope with stresses and triggers that might otherwise lead to relapse.


A popular tool used in addiction and recovery programs is known as “HALT.” This acronym stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. It suggests that a person should consider if any of these factors are present when a person is presented with thoughts of relapse. It is based on the idea that when someone’s basic needs aren’t met, the ability to reason and make sound decisions is impaired.

Hunger must be sated and in a healthy way. By not fulfilling your body’s nutritional needs, you may lose the ability to function up to your potential. It’s also safe to say that hunger and being tired (the H and T in HALT) are closely related, and not eating properly can lead to fatigue, which in turn can lead to cravings for junk food or high-calorie meals. 

For these reasons, it is not hard to see why eating balanced meals during recovery can be vital in avoiding relapse. The following dietary tips can be very helpful in relieving some discomfort during acute withdrawal, as well as promote long-term sobriety.


Hydration is vital for people in general, and it is especially essential when withdrawing from alcohol because it is a substance that has dehydrating properties. In clinical environments, people undergoing detox may be given water intravenously, and are encouraged to drink lots of fluids that will promote proper hydration. If you are detoxing at home, you should follow this advice, as well.

Fruits and Vegetables

Due to having high amounts of fiber, fruits and vegetables digest quickly and may stave off hunger more effectively than some other foods. Also, people detoxing from alcohol often have cravings for sugar. This is because alcohol consumption can affect blood sugar levels significantly. Fruits contain sugar, which can fulfill sugar cravings and may be healthier alternatives to other sweet foods. Experts have suggested that among the most beneficial are raspberries, strawberries, oranges, bananas, and pears.

Whole Grains

Alcohol Detox Diet | Harmony Recovery Center | North Carolina

Carbohydrates are essential for recovery, as they provide both fiber and energy, which people undergoing detox may be lacking. While refined grains (e.g., white bread) also have carbohydrates, they are less than ideal in the long-run. Whole grains contain more fiber and can result in feeling fuller and may be less likely to cause digestive issues.

Vitamin B

Prolonged, heavy alcohol consumption often leads to a lack of vitamin B, so it is vital to replenish it in the body’s supply. Vitamin B supplements can be taken, though it is recommended that people going through detox eat foods high in vitamin B, which include a wide variety of options, such as the following:

  • Whole grains, such as brown rice and some bread
  • Meat, such as poultry or beef
  • Eggs and dairy products, such as milk and cheese
  • Legumes, such as beans and lentils
  • ​Seeds and nuts, such as sunflower seeds and almonds
  • Dark, leafy vegetables, such as spinach
  • Fruits, such as citrus, avocados, and bananas

As you may notice, many of the same foods high in vitamin B are recommended for an alcohol detox diet for other reasons, as well.

Low-Fat Proteins

During detox, many alcoholics have a decreased appetite or have difficulties with digestion or keeping food down. Low-fat proteins that are also high in fiber can help them feel full, and may positively affect mood and energy, and decrease the risk of relapse. Such foods include fish, skinless poultry, and lean beef. 

Cayenne Pepper

It is thought that adding cayenne pepper to foods can mitigate alcohol cravings, relieve nausea, and increase appetite. These effects can be beneficial for people undergoing detox, especially those struggling to eat. Cayenne pepper may also help reduce the irritability and anxiety that are frequently associated with withdrawal.

Getting Treatment for Alcoholism

Harmony Recovery Center offers outpatient detox services in addiction to partial hospitalization and outpatient treatment programs. We provide individualized, comprehensive care to people struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues.

If you are ready to begin your recovery journey, contact us today to discover how we can help!

Methadone Withdrawal

Methadone Withdrawal

Methadone (e.g., Methadose or Dolophine) is a synthetic opioid commonly used in medication-assisted therapy to help people stop using heroin or other highly potent opioids. It should only be used as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment program that also includes behavioral therapy, counseling, and participation in peer support groups. When used long-term, methadone withdrawal symptoms can occur if a person stops using it abruptly.

When used as prescribed, methadone can be very effective at relieving symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal and reducing cravings. Less commonly, methadone is prescribed for pain management to those who have not responded to the use of other opioids or pain relievers.

Although methadone can help a person to overcome an addiction to other opioid drugs, such as heroin, it also comes with its own potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction. Detractors of methadone argue that its use is merely trading one drug for another. However, the truth is that methadone can be very effective in reducing harm relative to that of more powerful opioids, providing that it is used correctly.

Long-term methadone use generally results in some level of dependence, even if the person is not misusing it. While this is normal, the ultimate goal is to get a person off of opioids altogether. For this reason, many health providers will use a tapering method to wean a person off of methadone gradually to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Eventually, an even weaker opioid such as buprenorphine may be used to facilitate this process.

This ideal situation does not always occur, however. A person may somehow lose access to methadone and go into withdrawal. These symptoms are uncommon for those who have legitimate prescriptions for methadone, especially if they are receiving it as part of a treatment program. 

Methadone is a long-acting drug, and withdrawal symptoms do not onset for at least 24 hours. For those who use it legitimately, this would give them time to get access to it if they ran out. For this reason, the most likely scenario for needing a full methadone detox would be that the person is misusing a prescription or abusing it without a prescription. 

Methadone Detox Symptoms

Methadone withdrawal symptoms, on average, onset around 30 hours of the last use. This timeline varies a bit, but most people will begin experiencing symptoms within 1-2 days. Withdrawal from methadone is a relatively slow process, and psychological symptoms especially may persist for several weeks.

Symptoms of methadone withdrawal may include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Sweating or chills

  • Teary eyes or a runny nose
  • Excessive yawning
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach cramps and diarrhea
  • Drug cravings

Methadone Detox Timeline

Methadone WithdrawalAs noted, within about 36 hours after the last dose of methadone, most people will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. This process can take several days or weeks. The first few days of withdrawal is commonly referred to as the acute phase. The acute stage begins with minor physical and emotional symptoms that tend to escalate and peak at around 72 hours.

Initial symptoms of withdrawal may include elevated heart rate, chills, and cold sweats. More unpleasant symptoms will likely begin to occur shortly after, including nausea, vomiting, body aches and pain, and increased anxiety or depression. The most severe physical symptoms of withdrawal will have worn off after 7-10 days. If a person undergoes a medical detox, symptoms may be significantly reduced in both severity and duration. 

Following this stage is post-acute withdrawal, which can last for weeks or months. Symptoms are primarily emotional, such as increased depression, anxiety, and irritability. Fatigue, sleep disturbances, impaired concentration, and drug cravings may also persist.

The duration of withdrawal from methadone largely depends on several factors. These include the length of time it has been used, the average size of the dosage, and the primary method of consumption. Individual biological factors also come into play, as well as the existence of any co-occurring mental or physical health disorders.

Tapering Schedules for Methadone Detox

If a tapering process is used, the person who has used methadone for a prolonged period will experience a much more gradual weaning process. Tapering is a method used to slowly reduce drug dosages to facilitate a safer and more comfortable detox. Milder cases of dependence or abuse may not require a particularly extensive tapering process but may benefit from some form of tapering. 

The process of withdrawal may depend on several factors, but there is a standard schedule for weaning people off of methadone. Generally, it is not advised to reduce dosages faster than 5 mg per week. Many methadone tapering programs will use a dose reduction of about 10% every two weeks. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment

There are several medications available that can be prescribed to help with the methadone detox process.

Suboxone is a synthetic opioid drug like methadone. Its use can mitigate methadone withdrawal symptoms and reduce the duration of the withdrawal process. It was developed to increase the safety and comfort of patients during withdrawal, which can further reduce the risk of relapse.

Clonidine is another medication that can be used to reduce distressing emotional symptoms that can occur during withdrawal. Clonidine is an antihypertensive medication but has also shown to mitigate anxiety and agitation. 

During the initial process, Zofran is sometimes also prescribed to treat nausea and vomiting. Managing these symptoms improves patient comfort and helps to avoid the dehydration that excessive vomiting can cause.

Baclofen is a muscle relaxer that can be prescribed to relieve muscle aches and pains to make the person more comfortable. By reducing these symptoms, the patient may have more freedom to focus on the emotional aspects of withdrawal and recovery.

Following detox, naltrexone is often prescribed to help patients continue with recovery. This medication blocks the euphoric effects of opioids and reduces drug cravings. Naltrexone, although very effective, is not an opioid, and the potential for abuse is practically nil.

Methadone Overdose Symptoms

Methadone Withdrawal

Those who are misusing methadone in excessive amounts face the potential for overdose. A methadone overdose can occur because the drug remains in the body for a relatively long period. For this reason, people in treatment programs or who go to addiction clinics are only given a few doses each day. The accumulation of successive doses can have fatal consequences.

Signs of a methadone overdose may include the following:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Weak or absent pulse
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Blue lips and fingernails (cyanosis)

  • Constricted/pinpoint pupils
  • Dizziness or clumsy behavior
  • Body spasms
  • Absence of breathing or consciousness

A methadone overdose can lead to profound central nervous system (CNS) depression and death. If you believe that you or someone else may be overdosing on methadone or another opioid, seek emergency medical help immediately.

Treatment for Methadone Addiction

A supervised medical detox is the best way to ensure that a person undergoing withdrawal from methadone is supported and comfortable. By detoxing from methadone in a clinical environment, a person can often avoid experiencing many of the worst symptoms.

Detox should immediately be followed by a comprehensive addiction treatment program that features therapies vital for recovery, including the following:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Individual and family counseling
  • Peer group support
  • Health and wellness education

  • Substance abuse education
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Music and art therapy
  • Aftercare planning

Harmony Recovery Center offers integrated programs that provide clients with the support and tools they need to overcome addiction and sustain long-term sobriety. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with methadone abuse, contact us today! Discover how we help those who need it most break free from the cycle of addiction for life!

Alcohol and Drug Detox: The First Step Toward Recovery

Alcohol and Drug Detox | Harmony Recovery Center

Treatment for abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol often begins with detox, which is the process of allowing the body to eliminate toxins while managing the symptoms of withdrawal. Detox can be performed on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Medically-supervised detox is strongly recommended for alcohol, opiate, or benzodiazepine withdrawal. Detoxing “cold turkey” can result in severe and even life-threatening complications.

What Is an Alcohol or Drug Detox?

As noted, detoxification (detox) is the process of clearing drugs or alcohol from the body. While it is the most critical hurdle in the recovery process to overcome, detox alone is not treatment. After completion of detox, patients should strongly consider entering a rehab program.

Why Is Detox Necessary?

Prolonged use of certain drugs or alcohol can result in physical and emotional dependence. Abruptly discontinuing the use of certain substances can lead to a withdrawal syndrome that, in some cases, can be life-threatening. 

Although detox from stimulants and opioids is typically not dangerous, detoxing without medical supervision may lead to extremely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that can compel a person to relapse. Worse yet, severe depression and anxiety can result in suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Moreover, a medical detox program has the following benefits:

  • It offers relief of the discomfort of withdrawal
  • It provides immediate medical treatment for any serious medical complications that may arise
  • It is the smoothest path for someone to navigate this difficult period immediately following the cessation of drug or alcohol use
  • It can reduce the risk of continued drug use or the temptation to relapse due to a painful withdrawal

Which Drugs Require Detoxification?

Alcohol and Drug Detox | Harmony Recovery Center

Several drugs require medically-supervised detox without exceptions. Withdrawal from these substances can cause a person to become dangerously agitated or experience potentially life-threatening seizures/convulsions.

These drugs include:

  • Alcohol
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines (e.g., Ativan, Valium, and Xanax)

There is also some evidence that non-benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotics, such as Ambien and Lunesta, also warrant a stringently monitored detox period.

Also, detox is strongly recommended for the following substances:

  • Opioids – including illicit drugs, such as heroin, and prescription painkillers, such as hydrocodone
  • Stimulants – including methamphetamine, cocaine, and prescription stimulants, such as Adderall and Ritalin.

Withdrawal from the aforementioned substances does not typically result in a medical emergency. Nevertheless, the extremely unpleasant side effects of the withdrawal can cause some people to relapse or become suicidal.

Quitting Suddenly or “Cold Turkey”

Attempting to quit a substance abruptly without medical intervention can result in severe and life-threatening risks. These risks may be especially likely for those experiencing acute alcohol, benzodiazepine, or barbiturate withdrawal.

Risks of Quitting Cold Turkey

  • Needlessly unpleasant withdrawal
  • Increased chance of relapse
  • Increased risk of an overdose after relapse due to reduced tolerance to the drug
  • Death, often from uncontrolled seizures or convulsions

What Is the Detox Process Like?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the alcohol and drug detox process typically consists of three steps: evaluation, stabilization, and transition to treatment.


During an evaluation, treatment providers collect information about the patient to help with treatment planning. This data includes the following:

  • Blood tests
  • Screening for co-occurring physical and mental health conditions
  • A comprehensive assessment of a person’s medical and psychological status
  • Assessment of the person’s social situation
  • Risk assessment for withdrawal severity and the need for medical supervision


Stabilization is the medical and psychosocial processes of navigating the patient through acute intoxication and withdrawal. This step often includes the following:

  • Medication to relieve withdrawal symptoms
  • Proper diet and nutrition
  • Familiarizing the patient with what to expect during treatment and recovery
  • Including friends and family when suitable

Transitioning Into Treatment

This step involves preparing the patient to enter addiction treatment. Staff will urge him or her to follow through with a treatment program and aftercare. Addiction specialists can help a patient transition into their treatment program or provide information on other programs they can attend.

Which Medications Are Used?

For Alcohol

  • Benzodiazepines, such as Diazepam (Valium) and Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Barbiturates

For Opiates

Clonidine is an anti-hypertensive medication effective in reducing some but not all of the unpleasant symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning that effects such as euphoria are significantly lower than with other opioids, such as heroin. It’s use can diminish the effects of physical dependence on other opioid drugs, including withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist used in emergency overdose situations and often combined with other drugs, such as buprenorphine, to lower the risk of overdose if abused. Suboxone is a popular example of this combination.

Naltrexone is useful in opioid and alcohol recovery due to its ability to curb much of the drug’s rewarding effects.

For Stimulants

  • Desipramine (Norpramin) is an antidepressant used for severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Benzodiazepine sedatives have also been used to manage meth and cocaine withdrawal.

Alcohol and Drug Detox | Harmony Recovery Center

Choosing a Drug Detox Program

Detox can occur in a variety of medical environments. These settings can be broken into two formats: inpatient and outpatient.


Studies have revealed inpatient detox to be the most effective treatment method. It offers the most support and best quality of care with staff available around-the-clock. Patients are monitored closely and treated for other medical conditions. Also, inpatient clients are removed from dangerous, trigger-filled environments, reducing the risk of relapse. 


In outpatient detox clinics, typically, patients visit the clinic daily to receive medication or visit a doctor’s office monthly to obtain a prescription. Those undergoing outpatient detox should also participate in an outpatient addiction treatment program afterward to address cravings and receive additional support. The benefits of this program include lower cost and increased flexibility with schedule.

How Long Does a Drug Detox Take?

The duration of detox varies from a few days to two weeks and is dependent on several factors, including the substance used, average dosage, and duration in which the drug was abused. In the case of benzodiazepines, detox may require a slow tapering schedule and take much longer.

The cost of detox depends on factors such as:

  • Type of detox
  • Inpatient vs. outpatient

  • Private or publically funded facility
  • Medication (pharmacotherapy)

Payment options for detox include:

  • Insurance
  • Out-of-pocket, including payment plans
  • Sliding scale fees, meaning the cost varies depending on the patient’s ability to pay
  • Government assistance
  • Financing (loans, credit cards, selling assets, borrowing money, etc.)

What Happens After Detox?: Addiction Treatment

Options for treatment following detox include:

  • Inpatient/residential
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
  • Outpatient
  • Intensive outpatient

  • Individual, group, and family counseling
  • Support groups
  • 12-Step programs
  • Sober living homes

After detox, patients are urged to participate in an addiction treatment program. Harmony Recovery Center offers outpatient detox followed by a comprehensive addiction treatment program in both partial hospitalization and outpatient formats. These programs feature evidence-based services, such as psychotherapy, counseling, group support, and more.

We employ medical and mental health professionals who specialize in addiction and deliver our services to patients with care and expertise. We provide clients with the resources and support they so desperately need to recover and experience long-lasting sobriety and wellness.

We can help you reclaim the life you deserve free from drugs and alcohol! Call us today to find out how to get started on the path to a happier, more fulfilling life!

Methadone Detox

Methadone Detox | Harmony Recovery Center | North Carolina

Methadone is a synthetic opioid commonly used as a replacement for other, more powerful opioids, such as heroin. As such, it can reduce cravings for a person’s drug of choice as well as withdrawal symptoms. Methadone is strictly regulated and can only be prescribed by addiction treatment centers and medical providers who have been certified to do so.

Despite its potentially effective therapeutic uses, methadone still has the potential for abuse. Furthermore, dependence is almost a foregone conclusion, considering that the reason it is being administered is to treat opioid addiction. When this occurs, a methadone detox in a clinical environment may be needed.

Like all drug and alcohol detox programs, the primary goals are to relieve withdrawal symptoms, continuously monitor the individual to ensure safety and comfort, and prevent relapse. Specialized detox clinics and substance abuse treatment centers also offer emotional support and a segue way into a comprehensive, long-term treatment program.

Given the state of the opioid epidemic in the United States, it’s not surprising that in recent years, methadone has increasingly become abused and available as a product of drug diversion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2016, methadone was one of the top three prescription opioids involved in overdose deaths. 

One reason for this is because people who are prescribed methadone tend to have a high risk of relapse already. Furthermore, methadone can reduce a person’s opioid tolerance, meaning that relapse also comes with a higher risk of experiencing a life-threatening overdose.

Who Needs a Methadone Detox?

Methadone detox is recommended for those who somehow manage to misuse a methadone prescription or abuse it illicitly. Signs of dependence or addiction may include the following:

  • Agitation
  • Impaired judgment
  • Mood swings and depression
  • Drowsiness and nodding off
  • Profoundly depressed respiration*
  • Impaired concentration
  • Flushed skin
  • Itchiness and rashes
  • Pinpoint pupils

  • Impaired memory
  • Slurred speech
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach cramps
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Loss of libido

*The hallmark sign of a life-threatening overdose. If someone around you is experiencing this, please call 911 immediately.

Methadone Withdrawal

Because it’s an opioid, the withdrawal symptoms associated with methadone dependence can be challenging to bear, but they are not typically as severe as those of heroin withdrawal. Opioid withdrawal is not usually life-threatening unless severe dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea occur. Regardless, some symptoms can be highly unpleasant and painful, and a medically-supervised detox is almost always recommended.

Symptoms of Methadone withdrawal include the following:

  • Anxiety or depression
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Disorientation
  • Drug cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Hot or cold flashes

  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness

Methadone Withdrawal Timeline

Methadone Detox | Harmony Recovery Center | North Carolina

Dependence on short-acting opioids such as heroin can onset in just a few hours. However, methadone is longer-acting, and therefore, withdrawal symptoms are more likely to begin 24-36 hours after the last dose. Most physical symptoms and severe emotional struggles will usually have subsided after about a week.

However, some may continue to encounter withdrawal symptoms up to six months following detox. People undergoing withdrawal often describe the experience as having a particularly nasty case of the flu, with symptoms peaking at around 72 hours. 

The following is a typical timeline for methadone withdrawal symptoms:

30-48 Hours

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness

  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Watery eyes
  • Frequent yawning

36-60 Hours

  • Stomach cramps
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Drug cravings

  • Goosebumps
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Severe nausea
  • Vomiting

1-2 Weeks

  • Anxiety
  • Depression

  • Insomnia
  • Lack of energy

Alternatives to Methadone to Treat Opioid Addiction

Those who need treatment for methadone dependence itself have some pharmaceutical alternatives available. For example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Buprenorphine (as found in Suboxone) for the treatment of opioid addiction. Buprenorphine is an opioid that produces minimal euphoria, and its effects have a plateau at which they cannot become any more intense. 

Getting Treatment for Methadone Addiction

Once a person completes methadone detox, he or she mustn’t return to abusing opioids. People in recovery are especially vulnerable to overdose because their drug tolerance has been lowered. If they try to return to their previous level of use, their bodies may not be able to handle it, and this could result in life-threatening circumstances.

Because methadone is used to address opioid addiction, many people using it have already gone through an addiction treatment program. Unfortunately, addiction is a chronic, incurable disease, and it’s not uncommon for its sufferers to need more than one round in some type of long-term rehab.

Harmony Recovery Centers offers outpatient detox and medication-assisted treatment intended to help individuals withdrawal from methadone or other substances more safely and comfortably. Following detox, we urge patients to enroll in one of our comprehensive treatment programs that include evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, and aftercare planning.

Are you ready to start your journey to a healthier, happier, and drug-free life? If so, contact us today to find out how we help people who are motivated to reclaim their lives from addiction, once and for all!

How to Detox Your Body From Drugs

How To Detox Your Body From Drugs | Harmony Recovery Center

How To Detox Your Body From Drugs: Medical vs. Home Detox – For most people, detox is the first essential step to long-term sobriety. It’s a vital component of becoming clean and establishing a foundation for the rest of the recovery process. Unfortunately, detox and the accompanying withdrawal symptoms can be one of the most challenging aspects of recovery, but the right approach can make detox safer and more comfortable and effectively prevent relapse.

Are There Advantages of At-Home Detox?

An at-home detox focuses on the elimination of toxic substances from the body with little or no assistance from medication or professional supervision. Although doing a drug detox at home can save money, it’s also widely considered to be the least effective way to detox. Many people begin with a definite desire to change their life, only to find that they underestimated the discomfort of enduring withdrawal symptoms and are compelled to relapse.

People who detox at home often do so because they don’t have health insurance or cannot afford medical treatment. They may also be wary of involving anyone “untrusted” in their addiction or recovery, which, unfortunately, prevents them from benefitting from professional medical and mental health care and support.

Dangers of At-Home Detox

Detoxing at home without professional help can be risky, as some substances, including alcohol and benzodiazepines, can induce life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Moreover, if you are a heavy drinker or dependent on drugs such as Xanax or Valium, you should not attempt to quit abruptly or “cold-turkey,” since this action could result in seizures and other severe complications.

Opioids such as heroin do not usually produce life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, but there is still a risk for extreme reactions. There have also been cases of fatalities occurring during opioid withdrawal related to malnourishment and dehydration.

If you must detox at home, it is critical to plan ahead. Make sure to have over-the-counter medications that may be helpful available, have a loved one nearby, drink lots of water, and eat as healthy as possible.

Medical Detox—The Best Way to Detox Your Body from Drugs

A medically-monitored detox can be completed without medication but still be performed in a clinical environment. In this situation, patients are under doctor supervision and have access to medical intervention if needed. Medical detox can be conducted in either an inpatient or outpatient setting and is a much safer method of detox than attempting to do it alone.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Medical Detox

The main difference between an at-home and medical detox is that the latter can benefit from the administration of withdrawal symptom-relieving medications. But understandably, some people fear that medical detox is essentially the same thing as substituting one drug for another.

However, when the proper precautions are taken, and medication is appropriately administered, a new addiction should not develop. In fact, these medications can help the person manage their cravings, so they are better able to concentrate on their recovery. Moreover, medication-assisted detox is an effective way to ease the withdrawal symptoms related to dangerous substances such as alcohol and benzos.

As a possible disadvantage, medical detox that is performed on an outpatient basis does require daily trips to the addiction treatment facility. This may be more challenging for those without reliable transportation. Also, some of the medications themselves may have the potential for abuse when used outside of a clinical environment.

Furthermore, the ideal candidate for medical detox is someone who is genuinely motivated to recover. Those who detox at home may be throwing caution to the wind and less committed to avoiding relapse.

How To Detox Your Body From Drugs | Harmony Recovery Center

Medications for Detox

For opioid use disorders, there are a few FDA-approved medications that can be administered, including the following:


Buprenorphine is a drug that mitigates withdrawal symptoms without inducing euphoric feelings. It’s often prescribed in combination with naloxone (e.g., Suboxone) which is a drug that produces a withdrawal respond if the patient tries to misuse buprenorphine.


Naltrexone is a medication commonly prescribed after detox to assist with relapse prevention. Naltrexone is designed to reduce cravings for opioids. It achieves this by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain, thereby competing with and blocking other opioid drugs from binding to these receptors, and, as a result, suppresses cravings.

For alcohol addictions, patients may receive the following FDA-approved medications:

  • Acamprosate, which reduces withdrawal symptoms.
  • Disulfiram, a medication that deactivates an enzyme that the body requires to metabolize alcohol, making alcohol use uncomfortable.
  • Naltrexone, which works similarly for alcoholism as it does for opioid addiction.

Medical detox medications can be used safely for an extended period, but eventually, a tapering schedule may be needed to prevent new withdrawal symptoms from developing.

Choosing the Most Effective Detox Method

Ideally, detox should be performed under the direct supervision of a qualified medical provider in a clinical environment. This method of detox ensures safety and maximum comfort and also helps to prevent relapse. Those who have any way of undergoing detox under clinical supervision are strongly urged to do so.

Regardless of whether a person chooses to detox in a medical or home environment, subsequent participation in a comprehensive addiction treatment program, such as those offered by Harmony Recovery Center, is strongly advised. Our programs include therapeutic services vital to recovery, such as psychotherapy, individual and family counseling, group support, aftercare planning, and more.

You can restore happiness and wellness to your life and live free from drug and alcohol! Contact us today to find out how we can help!

What Is Withdrawal?

Withdrawal | Drugs and Alcohol | Harmony recovery Center

People who suddenly stop or significantly cut back their use of addictive substances often experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be physically and psychologically unpleasant and often painful. They are the result of the body struggling to regain balance without the substance to which it has become accustomed.

Withdrawal symptoms are, essentially, the physical and psychological effects of detox from drugs and alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms develop because a person’s brain has adapted to the continued presence of a substance and can no longer function normally without it—a condition known as dependence.

Acute symptoms only last for a few days, while protracted withdrawal can last months. The intensity of effects can range from mild to life-threatening based on the person’s age, physical health, psychological conditions, such as mental health disorders, duration of use, and the type of substance(s) that was used.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Long-term, excessive drinkers who decide to quit suddenly face the risk of developing unpleasant and even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Clammy skin
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Delerium
  • Seizures

These symptoms can onset as soon as eight hours after the last drink. Individuals may feel tired and experience changes in sleep quality and mood for several months. Serious effects, such as a high fever, confusion, and seizures, have also been known to develop, and in extreme cases, can result in death.

Delirium tremens (DTs) is a severe manifestation of alcohol withdrawal. The condition is characterized by a state of confusion that produces agitation, hallucinations, and delusions. The mortality rate among those who experience DTs is anywhere from 5-25%. Delirium tremens is considered a medical emergency and should be addressed immediately.

Prescription Drugs

Prescription Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Prescription drug use has increased significantly since 2000, with an increasing number of people misusing painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin, sometimes in conjunction with benzodiazepines or alcohol. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be split into two categories: early symptoms develop within the first 24 hours of the last use, and late symptoms manifest thereafter.

Early Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle aches

  • Watery eyes (lacrimation)
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia

Late Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Dehydration

  • Dilated pupils
  • Blurry vision
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal | Drugs and Alcohol | Harmony recovery Center

Benzodiazepines (benzos) are commonly prescribed depressants that are indicated for the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. They reduce brain activity and depress the central nervous system, producing drowsiness and a feeling of relaxation and calm in users.

While there are many legitimate therapeutic uses for benzos, there are also a few disadvantages. Benzos have a high potential for misuse, and it’s possible to become physically and psychologically addicted to these drugs, even when used as prescribed by a physician. In fact, dependence can develop in just six weeks following regular use.

Many people begin using benzos with a legitimate prescription but then discover they enjoy how the drugs make them feel and continue using them illicitly. Over time, they may also combine benzos with alcohol or other drugs to intensify pleasurable feelings. This behavior is extremely dangerous and increases the risk of overdose and other life-threatening complications.

If you are using benzos on a regular basis, you may encounter several withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly discontinue use. These symptoms may include the following:

  • Muscle weakness or pain
  • Shaking
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sleeplessness

  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Stomach cramping
  • Vision problems

  • Headaches
  • Hypersensitivity to stimuli
  • Unsteadiness or dizziness
  • Feeling detached from reality

Like alcohol, detoxing from benzos can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, and for this reason, a medical detox is the safest method of withdrawal for those trying to discontinue benzodiazepines.

Illicit Drugs

Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin withdrawal is hallmarked by flu-like symptoms that can occur due to the development of dependence and abrupt discontinuation of use. Heroin affects the brain’s reward system, over time increasing the user’s tolerance to the effects of the drug.

People suffering from heroin addiction often keep using it to avoid the extremely uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. Abusing heroin produces effects comparable to painkillers such as oxycodone, only more intense.

Symptoms of heroin withdrawal may include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia

  • Agitation
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating

  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Muscle aches

Heroin users can experience withdrawal symptoms within twelve hours of their last use. As noted, withdrawal from heroin is comparable to those of prescription opioids, but because heroin leaves the user’s system more rapidly than painkillers, withdrawal can onset in a shorter period and more severely.

The worst pain and discomfort from heroin withdrawal typically lasts one week—roughly about as long as a bad flu, with symptoms peaking between 48-72 hours.

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant known for the energy and feelings of elation and confidence it produces.

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms may include the following:

  • Memory loss
  • Fatigue
  • Moodiness

  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Social isolation

  • Increased appetite
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures

About half of those addicted to cocaine also encounter a mental illness such as depression, and suicidal ideations are not uncommon. Although the physical symptoms of withdrawal are mild compared to other psychoactive substances, cocaine use can cause cravings as intense as any other drug, and these cravings can last for months.

Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal | Drugs and Alcohol | Harmony recovery Center

The methamphetamine (meth) withdrawal symptoms vary between individuals, and the intensity of symptoms typically depends on how heavily and frequently the drug was used.

Other factors, such as the usual method of consumption (e.g., smoking or injecting), can also affect the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Typically, those who inject meth will experience a longer, more severe withdrawal process.

Common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Agitation and paranoia

  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Red, itchy eyes

  • Incoherent speech
  • Loss of motivation
  • Suicidal ideations

How to Manage Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms of withdrawal associated with the discontinuation of use of any substance can be very unpleasant and last for weeks. Therefore, professional assistance during detox may be vital to a person’s emotional and physical well-being. Harmony Recovery Center specializes in both addiction and mental health treatment and provides the tools and support patients need to ensure a safe and effective detox.

Medications can often be administered to ease withdrawal symptoms. During alcohol withdrawal, for instance, doctors may administer Ativan, a benzodiazepine. As the symptoms subside, patients are weaned off the medications to avoid the development of an additional dependency.

Several medications have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat opioid withdrawal, such as Suboxone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone to help ease cravings and reduce unpleasant symptoms. These medications are used in combination with intensive therapy to reduce severe withdrawal symptoms.

Following detox, patients are urged to enroll in an integrated addiction treatment program that includes psychotherapy, individual and group counseling, support groups, health and wellness programs, and aftercare planning. Harmony Recovery Center offers these services in both partial-hospitalization and intensive outpatient formats.

Withdrawal from drugs and alcohol can be a very unpleasant process but can be overcome more safely and comfortably using the proper resources. If you or a loved one is considering undergoing a medical detox or suffering from withdrawal symptoms, contact us today. We can help you recover and reclaim the fulfilling life you deserve!

What are Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms?

Drug Treatment | Harmony Recovery North Carolina

What Are Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms? – Let’s imagine a scenario: You were drinking every day for thirty years, but you decided to get sober. You checked yourself into a local detox center, went through the hell of the detox process, flushed the alcohol from your system, and were released happy, joyous, and sober for the first time in several years.

For the first few days and weeks of your newfound sobriety, you might feel great, but before long you notice problems like depression or trouble sleeping. You went through all the difficulty of detox, so why do you still feel awful? Why shouldn’t you just keep using if this is sobriety?

Unfortunately, even when you’re over the worst of detox and acute withdrawal symptoms, you still have post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) and the symptoms that come with it to contend with. Let’s learn more PAWS including what it is, why it happens, and how to make the most out of your situation.

Why Do We Get PAWS?

We feel the effects of drugs and alcohol thanks to the complex system of neurotransmitters in our brain. These brain signals cause pleasure, pain, and a host of other feelings. Drugs and alcohol can significantly alter our brain’s natural chemistry by releasing or withholding the amount of brain signals we’re used to. This withholding or dramatic release of brain signals is what makes you ‘feel’ the drugs.

Here’s the problem, your brain can become adjusted to the release of these chemicals and then become dependent on them. This type of addiction is known as chemical dependency. Your brain or body is dependent on drugs or booze to function normally.

Once you cease abusing drugs or alcohol your brain can begin repairing the pathways in your head and other parts of your body that were ravaged during your addiction. The good news is you will heal and recover. The bad news is that is not a quick process. The brain can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple years to slowly repair itself – this is the post-acute period of recovery.

Symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawal

PAWS can present in several ways but there are symptoms you should expect.

  • Insomnia / Trouble Sleeping – You might have used a six-pack or a couple sleeping pills to get yourself to sleep before sobriety.
  • Depression – Clinical depression is caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters. A brain recovering from addiction will have similar imbalances.
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Low enthusiasm

The ‘Pink Cloud’

The combination of the pink cloud and PAWS is what can send many addicts back to drugs or alcohol. When people initially quit drugs or alcohol many report an almost euphoric feeling of happiness and accomplishment. You’ll feel like everything in the world is peachy and you’ll never go back to drugs or alcohol. Addiction experts have a label for this feeling – ‘the pink cloud.’

Unfortunately, the pink cloud is only temporarily and can be quickly replaced with PAWS. Those riding high on their pink clouds are brought quickly to earth and must make adjustments and be prepared for PAWS or they will turn back to their addiction.

Getting Over Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms of PAWS will slowly diminish over approximately two years as the brain fully heals itself, but multiple years is a long time to live with symptoms and signs that can make your life just as bad as when you were drinking or using. Let’s learn how you can diminish the symptoms of PAWS in your mind, body, and spirit.


PAWS issues from your brain, so you better bet you need to take care of it for healing. Without a healthy and positive state of mind, your recovery will lag. You should exercise your mind with mental activities, hobbies, and other things that get you outside of your head. It’s not uncommon to see jigsaw puzzles in recovery centers for this very reason. Mental health is just as important as mental health – especially for recovery.


The better you take care of your body, the better you’ll feel, and the less aggravating PAWS symptoms will be. Exercise, proper diet, good sleep, and other healthy activities can help the entire person and can diminish depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and more. You can be surprised how much taking care of yourself can help aid in recovery. If you don’t exercise and eat right don’t be surprised if you still feel awful.


No one knows with certainty what lies beyond our world but almost everyone agrees that humans have a spirit or soul that must be nurtured. Addicts and alcoholics need to focus on the spiritual aspect of their recovery on top of body and mind for the best results. Symptoms of PAWS can be calmed with meditation, mindfulness, and other spiritual practices. Some addicts consider activities like hiking or rock-climbing good for their soul. If it makes you feel happy or calm it’s good for the soul and should be practiced to combat PAWS.

Moving Forward

PAWS affects most people overcoming an addiction and can drag the person down for weeks and years after they’ve quit drinking or drugging. Though PAWS will eventually fix itself as the brain and body heal, the time before healing is crucial to continue sobriety.

Just like you should get help for an addiction, you also need to get to get help for PAWs in both the mind, body, and spirit. You can head online to get more resources on PAWS and how to overcome it or call our local drug treatment facility for advice on moving forward. Recovery is a lifelong experience, you just have to get over PAWS first.