Addictive substances are everywhere, in fact, many of the pain medications doctors prescribe on the wards are highly addictive and have the same mechanism of action as heroin found on the streets. As such there a number of different substance people can become addicted to. These include:


  • Opiates like codeine, heroin or fentanyl
  • Cannabis
  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines such as MDMA and Ecstasy


Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is commonly referred to as “the shakes” and lasts the first 12 hours

Different times for different substances:


Different substances have a different effect on the body and as such, all have specific and different times needed to detox from the drug. Some substances can be dangerous in detox and will need a controlled environment with medical professionals to completely detox whilst others may be unpleasant but pose less of a threat to life. For instance, alcohol withdrawal can be fatal and should always be trialed in a safe environment. An overview of detoxing from different substances is found below:


  • Alcohol: Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is commonly referred to as “the shakes” and lasts the first 12 hours from blood levels of alcohol dropping below the usual level. After this 12 hours is up – alcohol withdrawal may progress to the fatal delirium tremens. Patients initially suffer from:
    • Memory disturbances
    • Disorientation in place time and person. This may fluctuate aka they may become disorientated for an hour and then remember who and where they are before forgetting again.
    • Hallucinations
    • 10% of patients will have a seizure
    • Patients often have a tremor (the shakes)
    • They may vomit or feel nauseous
    • Patients can progress to delirium tremens between 24 and 72 hours after ingestion of alcohol. These patients have hallucinations and seizures. They may have a racing heart or a tremor. They may be unable to walk or move. In this setting, mortality can be up to 35%. In a medical setting this is reduced to 2% and so it is essential patients detoxing from alcohol do so under medical supervision.
  • Opiates: Opiate withdrawal occurs between 6 and 30 hours after the final dose. The symptoms can persist for up to a week but are not fatal. Patients may experience:
    • Sweating
    • Restlessness
    • Anxiety
    • Running nose
    • Fast heartbeat
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Stomach cramps and diarrhea
  • Cannabis withdrawal: Cannabis withdrawal is not dangerous in the same way that alcohol often is, however it is incredibly unpleasant and may need inpatient support from medical professionals. The symptoms may persist for a number of weeks. Often people notice:
    • Sweating
    • Tremor
    • Fever and chills
    • Headache
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Fatigue


Detoxing from any substance is difficult – but there a number of specialist centres across the United States of America that can help. They can provide inpatient support during the detox process and can prescribe medications to reduce symptoms of the withdrawal process. Helpful psychological support is also available to ensure that rehabilitation follows the detox. If you or somebody you know is suffering from drug addiction, get in contact with a centre today.