Addiction is a physiological disorder which permanently alters addicts’ brain chemistries. The same neurological processes which are responsible for people’s cravings for food, sex, and other pleasurable things are also responsible for drug cravings in habitual users. It is therefore essential that addicts be weaned off drugs before they can successfully engage their treatment programs. Rehab clinics across the country use different methods for treating patients, but every addict must undergo a detoxification.

Detoxification is difficult and painful, but completely necessary. Addicts who remain physically dependent on drugs cannot apply their mental, emotional, and spiritual faculties to their therapies – even if they want to. Understanding the role and nature of detox is critical for addicts to make informed decisions about their treatment. Here are some of the things people can expect to experience during and after detox.


Rehab patients must be tested in order for clinicians to determine the amounts of harmful substances present in their bodies. Once these initial assessments are made, doctors can decide how long the detox process will last and what medications may be necessary.

Drug Deprivation

The primary purpose of detoxification is to wean addicts off of drugs. The most important part of this process is ensuring that addicts completely stop consuming their addictive substances. Under constant supervision of doctors at specialized facilities, addicts are deprived of the drugs which have taken control of their lives.


Most addicts must endure painful withdrawal symptoms as their bodies’ drug cravings remain unfulfilled. Physically, they may experience sweating, heart palpitations, nausea, and vomiting. They may also experience severe mental and emotional symptoms including depression, isolation, reduced focus, and panic. Unfortunately, the pain of withdrawal is a necessary first step on the road to recovery.

Rapid Detox

Traditional detoxification can last for up to two weeks. Particularly severe addictions – especially those involving opiates – can also lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms such as seizures and strokes. To mitigate these dangers, some addiction specialists have begun to administer opiate blockers and other drugs designed to quicken the detox process. Patients can experience days’ worth of withdrawal in a matter of hours. Since such rapid changes can be incredibly painful, rapid detox patients are often anesthetized.

Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

The vast majority of addicts report symptoms of post acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS. These symptoms are typically less severe than those experienced during withdrawal, but they still pose the greatest threat to addicts’ long-term recovery. Chronic depression, anxiety, physical pain, and compromised mental abilities lead many addicts to self-medicate and continue their cycles of substance abuse. Thankfully, many rehab clinics are beginning to focus on PAWS treatment as a critical component of their rehab programs.

Continued Cravings

Detox may remove addicts’ physical dependencies on drugs, but it cannot eliminate cravings altogether. The neurological changes of addiction are permanent, and even addicts who have been sober for years still fight urges to return to their old habits. This is why holistic treatment programs are crucial for addicts to maintain drug-free lives. They must not only address their immediate, physical urges to use drugs; they must develop coping mechanisms for responding to the difficult situations they will inevitably face throughout the rest of their lives.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, use the links below to get help right now. Detox is a painful process, but it is the essential first step towards a drug-free future. Our dedicated, compassionate addiction specialists are available day and night to help you choose the right treatment program and take back your life.