Addiction is a powerful force with the physical hold that substances like alcohol and drugs can have on you, making quitting feel impossible. Trying to quit cold turkey at home can be challenging and dangerous, so professional help is essential. A medically guided detox provides the safest and most effective way to break physical dependency, navigate withdrawal symptoms and lay the groundwork for a successful recovery from addiction.

What is detox?

Detox, short for detoxification, is about giving your body a chance to clear out the drugs or alcohol it’s become dependent on. When you use substances regularly, your body starts to rely on them on a chemical level, so when you try to stop, there can be a sudden chemical imbalance, causing withdrawal symptoms. These can be anything from feeling anxious and nauseous to more serious physical and mental health risks.

This is why detox is so important. Trying to do it alone can be tough, and in addition to the dangers of withdrawal, the unpleasant symptoms can also drag you back into using drugs or alcohol to feel better. Medically supervised detox means you have a team of professionals by your side, helping you through the tunnel of withdrawal to the light at the other end.

Detox can help you safely break free from various substances, including:

Alcohol detox
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Drug detox
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The detox process explained

Going through detox can be very daunting, but knowing what to expect can help you feel more prepared and less anxious. Here’s a step-by-step look at what medically supervised detox involves:


The first step is a full health assessment where healthcare professionals evaluate your physical and mental health, your history with substance use and any specific needs you might have. This helps them create a personalised detox plan just for you.


During this phase, you will start to reduce or stop using the substance. Some substances can be stopped immediately, but many require a tapering process where you slowly take less and less each day.

This is where medically supervised detox shines, as you have constant care and support with withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes, your medical team may administer certain medications to help manage discomfort and prevent complications.

Transition to therapy

Detox is just the beginning of comprehensive rehab treatment. Once you are stabilised, the focus shifts to preparing you for the next steps in your recovery journey. This involves moving to a therapy programme where the non-physical aspects of addiction are treated.

The benefits of detox

Choosing to go through a detox can be one of the most important steps you take toward recovery. Here are some key detox benefits:

Breaking physical dependency
Detox helps your body rid itself of the substance it’s been dependent on, giving you a fresh start physically. This is crucial because as long as your body craves the substance, it can be incredibly difficult to focus on recovery.
Safe management of withdrawal symptoms
One of the biggest challenges of quitting drugs or alcohol is dealing with withdrawal symptoms. Medically supervised detox provides the support and care you need to manage these symptoms safely.
Foundation for long-term recovery
By clearing your body of harmful substances, you can start to work on the mental and emotional aspects of addiction in a clearer state of mind. This sets the stage for addiction therapy, increasing your chances of long-term success.
Emotional support and guidance
Going through detox can be an emotional rollercoaster. Having a supportive team of healthcare professionals by your side can provide the encouragement and reassurance you need to stay committed to your recovery.

Common withdrawal symptoms during detox

Withdrawal symptoms can vary widely depending on the substance and the individual. However, there are some common symptoms you may experience during detox which show why home detox can be so dangerous:

Physical withdrawal symptoms

These can include headaches, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, sweating and shaking. Some people might also experience more severe symptoms like seizures or heart palpitations.

Emotional withdrawal symptoms

Anxiety, depression, irritability, and mood swings are common with alcohol and various drugs. You may also feel restless or have trouble sleeping, particularly when withdrawing from drugs that usually cause sedation.

Cognitive withdrawal symptoms

Difficulty concentrating, confusion and memory problems can occur as your brain adjusts to the absence of the substance and takes a little time to rebalance your body’s chemicals.

Detox/withdrawal timelines

The duration and intensity of withdrawal symptoms can differ a lot between alcohol and the various types of drugs. However, here are some general timelines to give you an idea of what to expect:


Withdrawal symptoms typically begin within 6-12 hours after the last drink, peak around 24-72 hours and can last up to a week. Serious cases may experience Delirium Tremens, the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal, which can be fatal without medical intervention.


This includes heroin and prescription opioid medications. Symptoms usually start within 12-30 hours after the last dose, peak at the three-day mark and generally resolve within a week. However, some individuals may experience lingering symptoms for months, known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).


Benzodiazepine withdrawal is one of the toughest, usually beginning within 1-4 days and potentially lasting several weeks to months. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, so a gradual tapering plan under medical supervision is often recommended.


This includes illegal drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine and prescription stimulants like Adderall and other amphetamines. Physical symptoms can emerge within a few hours to several days, peak within a few days and generally disappear within a week. Psychological symptoms like depression and cravings may persist longer in some cases, depending on the type of stimulant.

Detox medications

During the detox process, medications can play a crucial role in managing withdrawal symptoms and ensuring your safety. These medications are tailored to your specific needs and the substance you are detoxing from. Here’s how they can help:

Easing withdrawal symptoms
Some medications are designed to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and make physical discomforts like muscle aches, nausea and headaches more manageable.
Preventing complications
Withdrawal from certain substances can cause severe symptoms like seizures or heart issues. Medications can help prevent these serious complications, ensuring that you go through detox safely.
Reducing cravings
One of the biggest challenges during detox is dealing with cravings, but certain medications can reduce their intensity, making it easier to stay on track and avoid relapse.
Stabilising mood
Detox can be an emotional rollercoaster, with anxiety, depression and mood swings all common. Medications can help stabilise your mood, providing emotional relief and support when it is all becoming too much.

Find the right detox treatment for your needs

If you are ready to take the first step toward addiction recovery, seeking a medically supervised detox is the safest and most effective way to start. We have contacts with detox centres around the UK and can help you decide which is best. Reach out to us, and we will help you explore all the available options.

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Frequently asked questions

When do the cravings stop when detoxing?
Cravings can be tough, especially in the first few days to a week of detox when your body is adjusting to the absence of the substance. Over time, they usually get less intense, but everyone’s experience is different. Having ongoing support and therapy can help manage cravings and keep you on track for recovery.