Emergency Detox: Signs You’re Experiencing Withdrawal

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Clinically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated:


Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

Emergency detox may be necessary in severe cases of withdrawing from drugs. If you are worried that you or a loved one is dealing with a life-threatening case of withdrawal, call emergency services now.

Learning about withdrawal and the signs can help you be prepared for dangerous situations.

Withdrawal is an umbrella term used to describe the physical and mental effects triggered by discontinuing or moderating the intake of alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs.

Some substances have a high-risk profile for abuse and dependence – benzodiazepines, for instance. If you have been using a substance like this and you stop or cut down abruptly, you can experience a variety of uncomfortable detox withdrawal symptoms strong enough to cause intense cravings for the substance.

Withdrawal is often unpleasant and sometimes even dangerous. Quitting any substance cold turkey without medical input is usually inadvisable. It is vital to seek out a treatment program, like a California detox and rehab to help you through the situation.

The duration and intensity of withdrawal symptoms differ depending on the substance in question. Today, we’ll give you an overview of some of the many different kinds of drug withdrawal and alcohol withdrawal, along with what to expect when you detox.

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Common Symptoms Experienced During Emergency Detox

Although withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the substance in question, there are some general symptoms that often accompany detox. These include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Altered appetite
  • Sweating
  • Shakiness
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Tremors
  • Muscle pain
  • Vomiting

In some cases of more severe addictions, you could experience more severe withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

Many variables impact the scope and severity of detox withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • The type of substance
  • How long you have been using the substance
  • How much of the substance you have been using

Most physical withdrawal symptoms dissipate within a week. Some psychological withdrawal symptoms like dysphoria or depression, though, can linger for months, sometimes even years.

Types of Substances That Can Trigger Withdrawal

Many substances can cause withdrawal symptoms when you discontinue use. Some of the more common examples are:

  • Alcohol
  • Heroin
  • Opioids
  • Depressants
  • Stimulants
  • Benzodiazepines

By no means all people who stop drinking experience withdrawal symptoms.

If, however, you’ve been drinking alcohol long-term and you stop abruptly, you’re likely to trigger a battery of side effects. Since alcohol is a CNS depressant, if you suddenly stop or moderate your intake when dependence has developed, you risk seriously disrupting your central nervous system.

Some side effects of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

While it is not straightforward to predict who will suffer intense withdrawal symptoms upon stopping drinking, the quantity and frequency of intake will typically impact the severity of withdrawal.

FDA-approved medications (disulfiram, naltrexone, acamprosate) can help mitigate the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, while at the same time helping to tamp down cravings for alcohol.

If you are suffering from heroin use disorder, you can expect to experience some intense and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you detox.

Fortunately, the most acute heroin withdrawal symptoms subside in just 5 to 7 days. In some cases, PAWS (post-acute withdrawal symptoms) last for weeks or months.

Just like with alcohol use disorder, heroin use disorder can be treated using the FDA-approved medications buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone.

Heroin is not the only opioid capable of causing withdrawal symptoms, though, and to avoid repetition, the symptoms of heroin withdrawal are broadly similar to those of opioid painkillers, directly below.

Some degree of dependence to opioids can develop even when taken as prescribed and under the supervision of a doctor. When abused, the chance of dependence developing is dramatically increased.

Acute opioid withdrawal syndrome is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Persistent yawning
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Excessive sweating
  • Goosebumps
  • Muscle cramps
  • Body aches
  • Runny nose

Fortunately, withdrawing from heroin or opioid painkillers is seldom associated with any life-threatening complications. That said, the intense nature of withdrawal symptoms means there is a high chance of relapse.

All opioid withdrawal should be closely managed to maximize the chances of sustained recovery rather than relapse and the derailing of recovery before it gets off the ground.

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant, but cocaine withdrawal is rarely physically dangerous and comprised mainly of disturbing psychological symptoms, including:

  • Nervousness
  • Irritation
  • Depressed mood
  • Ongoing tiredness
  • Persistent lethargy
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychotic episodes

With no FDA-approved medications currently suitable for treating cocaine withdrawal, the best approach is to address the underlying causes of addiction using psychotherapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or DBT (dialectical behavior therapy). This should help you to formulate healthier coping strategies, vital for avoiding relapse.

If you stop using cocaine abruptly after a period of abuse, you can expect a pronounced rebound effect in mood, crashing from euphoria to depression. Withdrawal usually occurs within a day of last use, and symptoms can linger for weeks. While not typically life-threatening, cocaine withdrawal is nevertheless challenging, and quitting cold turkey at home is inadvisable, as well as liable to lead to relapse.

Benzodiazepines or benzos are a class of drugs used to treat panic disorder, anxiety disorder, and some types of seizure disorder.

While highly effective when used short-term and precisely as prescribed, benzos can be highly addictive, with dependence forming rapidly.

Like alcohol, benzos are CNS depressants.

Some commonly-prescribed benzos include:

  • Xanax
  • Librium
  • Klonopin
  • Ativan

Benzo withdrawal starts within 6 to 12 hours of last taking benzodiazepines with a timeline of 7 to 14 days before symptoms start subsiding.

The best method of withdrawing from benzos is through a slowly tapered reduction in dosage. Under the supervision of your healthcare provider, you’ll step down by perhaps 0.5mg every 3 to 5 days.

Stopping benzodiazepines at home abruptly is potentially dangerous.

Withdrawal Timeline for Different Drugs

Now we’ve highlighted some specific drugs and the detox withdrawal symptoms associated with him, we’ll briefly highlight the likely withdrawal timeline for the following drugs:

  • Longer-acting opioids: Methadone and other longer-acting opioids cause withdrawal symptoms to manifest 2 to 4 days after last use. Withdrawal fades after 10 days
  • Short-acting opioids: Heroin and some prescription opioids trigger withdrawal symptoms within 8 to 24 hours of last use, with symptoms lasting for 4 to 10 days
  • Alcohol: The first effects of alcohol withdrawal can kick in within hours of the last drink. Symptoms peak over the first 24 to 48 hours of abstinence. The risk of seizures and delirium tremens remains for the first 3 days of abstinence
  • Benzodiazepines: Benzo withdrawal begins within 1 to 4 days of last use, peaking after 14 days. Some withdrawal symptoms can linger for months, or even years if untreated

How to Deal With Withdrawal Symptoms

In addition to seeking the appropriate medical support – more on that below – you can also help yourself throughout the withdrawal process in the following ways:

  • Eat a healthy diet: Eating healthy whole foods and minimizing your intake of sugary, fatty, and fried foods is advisable for streamlining the detox and withdrawal process
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout detox and withdrawal to flush your system of toxins and to stay properly hydrated
  • Exercise daily: Aim for some light physical activity like stretching or walking. Exercise, even moderate exercise, can improve your mood
  • Focus on quality and quantity of sleep: Withdrawal can disrupt sleep patterns, but do all you can to adhere to a regular sleep schedule while practicing sound sleep hygiene
  • Use OTC medications if appropriate: If you encounter physical withdrawal symptoms like sickness and diarrhea, use OTC medications for relief
  • Practice healthy stress management techniques: Techniques like meditation and yoga can help you to relax if you are struggling to cope without your substance of choice
  • Ask for help if you need it: If you are struggling to handle withdrawal alone, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. This is not a sign of weakness

When Is Emergency Detox Necessary?

Withdrawal can be a challenging process, and there are many factors that influence whether or not you need a medical detox.

You should seek the advice of a medical professional so you can establish whether a social detox or a home detox is most appropriate.

For some substances, particularly alcohol, opioids, and opiates, you can take advantage of FDA-approved medications to soothe some withdrawal symptoms while simultaneously minimizing the intensity of cravings.

Detox is not intended as a cure, but is merely the first and vital step on the road to recovery. The primary goal of detox is to ensure you reach a safe and comfortable level of physical and emotional stability while withdrawing from drugs or alcohol.

Emergency Detox FAQs

Emergency detox is available in cases of severe withdrawal symptoms. In this treatment, harmful substances are removed from the body as quickly as possible, usually in response to a situation where there is a medical emergency or drug overdose. This procedure is usually done in a hospital or treatment center and is done to prevent any irreversible damage to the body and reduce the risk of long-term resulting symptoms.

Emergency room medical detox often employs the use of medications to reverse the effects of opioids or benzodiazepines, such as naloxone. Along with this medical treatment, counseling and support services are typically given to help individuals address the underlying issues that led to substance abuse in the first place.

While emergency medical detox can be a lifesaving intervention, it is not a substitute for ongoing addiction treatment. Individuals who undergo emergency room detox should seek follow-up care to address the root causes of their substance abuse and develop strategies to maintain sobriety.

Can You Go to a Hospital to Detox?

In situations where emergency intervention is required, you may be asking: “Can you go to the er for detox?”, or “Can you go to the hospital for withdrawal?”.

If needed in an emergency, you can go to a hospital to detox from drugs or alcohol. Hospitals will typically have detox emergency room units or specialized programs available to help patients withdraw safely and comfortably from substances.

A specialized treatment center can also be a good option for individuals who require medical supervision during detoxification or who have co-occurring medical or mental health conditions. However if a routine withdrawal treatment is needed, a rehab setting is always best since they specialize in this. 

What Does the ER Do For Withdrawals?

While emergency room detox treatment can be life-saving in emergency situations, they are only equipped to do so much after stabilizing the patient.

They will prescribe medications, monitor vitals, and make recommendations for ongoing treatments, but most of your recovery journey will take place in a rehab facility who will be perfectly equipped to help you not only survive an overdose, but thrive in the long run as you recover from addiction with their support programs. 

Get Emergency Detox and Rehab Treatment at Renaissance Recovery

If you’re ready to commit to sobriety, we can help you withdraw from alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs as comfortably and safely as possible. While Renaissance doesn’t offer detox services, we partner with a number of treatment centers in the area to help get you through this process.

You may also be administered a variety of other medications to help counter specific withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Anxiety medication
  • Anti-nausea medication
  • Sleep aids

Following detox and withdrawal, our highly personalized treatment programs for alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder can help you push ahead down the road to ongoing sobriety.

If you have a co-occurring mental health condition, our dual diagnosis treatment program will help you address both these issues head-on.
Get things started by calling our addiction hotline right now at 866.330.9449.

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