Common Drug and Alcohol Detoxification Symptoms

Choosing to undergo detoxification is a big step toward recovery from addiction or substance abuse, and it helps to know what to expect. If you or a loved one are undergoing detox, you may want to know the different detoxification symptoms you face. What follows should help you to better prepare for the process.

Physical Symptoms Common to All Substances

There are withdrawal symptoms associated with detoxification that are generally applicable to all drug types. The severity of some symptoms may vary due to a drug’s chemical structure, how long drugs were used, and the size of the most recent dosages. Your own body, including your health before and during addiction, can also impact what symptoms appear and how they affect you.

Most of the detox symptoms are similar to those you’d physically experience with the flu. They include:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Chills

Psychological Symptoms Common to All Substances

Detoxification Symptoms

Anxiety and depression are common detox symptoms.

Psychological symptoms can also appear during detox. Many of them are prompted by the stress that your body is under during the withdrawal process or the brain’s chemical response to the substance exiting your system. These may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Mood swings

Both the physical and psychological symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal have been known to cause insomnia during detoxification. The stress detox places on the body and mind changes your sleep cycle and will remain for some time after detox is complete.

Please make sure that you are detoxing under the care of an experienced professional who is able to properly handle severe symptoms. If you are concerned about finding a detox professional, please call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) for help finding a specialist and a facility that is right for you.

Detoxification Symptoms Specific to Alcohol

Those who are detoxing from alcohol abuse may experience additional symptoms as they go through withdrawal. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, symptoms specific to alcohol detoxification are:

  • Headaches
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Tremors

Most of those who are going through alcohol detoxification may notice that they are sweating more than expected. Alcohol will leave the body fastest through sweat, and this may result in rapid dehydration as well.

Death is a possibility when detoxing from alcohol. Extended alcohol abuse and heavy drinking can cause a lot of damage to a person’s health, making it incredibly difficult for detox to be done safely. Detox from alcohol, especially when the person has been using for many years, should be done under medical supervision.

Symptoms Specific to Opioids

The primary opioid specific symptom that users will experience during detox is diarrhea. Prolonged opioid use causes constipation, which is reversed as you go through withdrawal. It may be the first symptom to present and it may be the most severe one. As with alcohol detoxification, this can lead to severe dehydration.

Also, opioid users should expect to be more sensitive to pain during detox. Your body’s pain receptors and nerves have been essentially numbed during drug use and are now, in a sense, waking up. Sensitivity to touch is also common.

Due to the effects of opioids and the shock that withdrawal can cause, detox from opioids can also be fatal. Like alcohol, detox from opioids should be done under the care of medical professionals to ensure the patient’s safety.

Treatment can help you overcome withdrawal symptoms. Contact us to find detox centers near you.

Who Answers?

Symptoms Specific to CNS Depressants

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, withdrawal from certain drugs, such as depressants, can be life threatening. Due to their ability to block neurotransmitters—chemicals that allow different parts of the brain to communicate—central nervous systems (CNS) depressants (such as barbiturates) can trigger severe symptoms during detox.

Do not attempt to detox from CNS depressants on your own. Detox from CNS depressants must be done slowly and under the care of a medical professional, as they may result in:

  • Seizures
  • Brain damage
  • Coma

Symptoms Specific to Marijuana

While marijuana is also a depressant, it is not a CNS depressant nor does it have the same effect on the body. It is a depressant that affects moods rather than the body’s central nervous system. It does have detox symptoms that occur with prolonged usage, and it may include additional symptoms such as:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Headaches

If these marijuana detox symptoms become unmanageable or severe, seek medical attention immediately. As marijuana has been used medically to reduce or ease the symptoms of other conditions, prolonged usage may mask the symptoms of undiagnosed conditions until withdrawal occurs.

Symptoms Specific to Stimulants

Like depressants, stimulants affect neurotransmitters. However, they increase the sensitivity of the neurotransmitters rather than block them. Detoxing from stimulant abuse will usually cause a decrease in neurotransmitter activity. In addition to the common detox symptoms listed above, patients will feel as if and appear to have slowed down. Their senses may be dulled, and they may show signs of severe depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts.

Symptoms Specific to Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens will rarely cause any physical symptoms during detox, as they are not physically addicting and have no physical symptoms to begin with. The detox symptoms will be psychological and may present as lingering effects experienced under the drug. Continued hallucinations or delusions, usually unprompted, can occur throughout detox and after the process is finished. Any physical symptoms, such as dilated pupils or a racing heart rate, will most likely be a result of the mind’s response to the mental symptoms.

The staff at detox and recovery facilities are well equipped and prepared for all that is involved in a detoxification. An experienced professional will be able to help you determine the best treatment options to ensure a safe recovery with minimal risk. With guidance, you can cope with detoxification symptoms and find sustainable recovery.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or substance abuse and are ready to try detoxification, call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) to speak with a caring specialist about your specific situation.


  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017). Alcohol Withdrawal.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Misuse of Prescription Drugs: How can prescription drug addiction be treated?
Get Help Today Phone icon 800-779-4314 Info icon Who Answers?