Drug and Alcohol detoxification, or more commonly known as “detox”, is the initial “first step” in a dealing with a substance addiction and the start of the ongoing process of rehabilitation which provides affected individuals with the physiological, and psychological tools required for sustained abstinence.

Detoxification is definitive break of an addiction cycle which allows addicts and alcoholics to start their recovery through active professional treatment or the free AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) / NA (Narcotics Anonymous) groups.

The primary objective of detox is to rid the body of all addictive substances and to try and control any related withdrawal symptoms.

DIY Home DetoxMedically Assisted DetoxCommon Symptoms

As it won’t cost anything “home based detox” is certainly worth a shot but for anyone looking to actually detox at home we HIGHLY recommend that get all your facts straight before you take this on under your own steam.

While NOT RECOMMENDED by industry quacks, “home detox” or detoxing from drugs and alcohol in your own house is not beyond the realms of possibility and for many in the early stage substance addiction it may well be an option.

In early stages addicts and alcoholics the risks with home detoxes are relatively minor and simply take effective planning, support and a structured approach. Building resilience, knowledge and setting some firm targets enables individuals to detox in the comfort of their own homes.

Before we go further down this road we WOULD RECOMMEND downloading and reading the ultimate guide to addiction recovery (our free ebook) and becoming familiar with the entire recovery process up-front. Information is power for home detox and making sure that you have the right information at your disposal is key.

Controlled detox can assist in the prevention of unpleasant or possibly even fatal consequences resulting from the immediate cessation of a particular substance.

Substance specific detox symptoms we have listed in the tabs below, understanding these upfront enables you to set your goal posts into recovery.

Many of the medications used in detox are in their own right addictive and this is where the medical fraternity tend to play their role.

More severe addictions and detox cases usually entail replacing the addictive substance with some form of medication and then more gradually reducing or “weaning” off the medication to soften the withdrawal symptoms.

The initial stage of detox can be traumatising for many addicts, and frequently medical staff need to be brought in to provide the required support.

Depending on the drug used patient experience one, more or all of the following symptoms.

  • Excessive Sweating
  • Excessive Yawning
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Agitation and Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny noses
  • Ongoing Insomnia

The most urgent issues present themselves within the first few hours or days and will be to be most actively addressed, as the drugs work their way out the patients system.

Psychological cravings are the biggest hurdle and various strategies and activities are recommended over and above therapeutic assistance.

After stabilization the primary focus shifts to the assistance and the continued support of the body as it purges the substance/s. Withdrawal symptoms that result are generally not pleasant to the individual and symptoms need to be addressed as part of the process of dealing with the addiction.

Overtime withdrawal symptoms and treatments change and the risk of death dissipates as the individuals body “cleans” or “clears” itself from the substances. The more structured the “detox” process is, in terms of having the right support staff both medical the less traumatic the weaning process is for the patient.

Alcohol and drug detox is not the entire process of treatment for substance abuse.

As substance abuse includes both physical and psychological characteristics, individuals benefit most from psycho-therapeutic treatments and community interactions to address the core issues of persistent cravings and the fundamental changes that the substance has inflicted on the addicts the brain chemistry and life viewpoints.

Alcohol DetoxOpioids DetoxStimulants DetoxDagga DetoxOther DetoxKetamine Detox

Alcohol Withdrawal

Heavy drinking especially in cases of excessive daily drinking, disrupt the brain’s neurotransmitters and brain chemicals which transmit messages. This includes activity of “glutamate”, the neurotransmitter which produces feelings of excitability. Previously suppressed neurotransmitters rebound, resulting in a phenomenon known as brain hyperexcitability. Anxiety, irritability, agitation, tremors, seizures, and DTs are common with the risk of seizures being the most threatening to detoxing alcoholics.

Stages of alcohol withdrawal

  • Stage 1 alcohol withdrawal
: Includes anxiety, insomnia, nausea, & abdominal pain starting from 8 hours after the last drink was consumed.
  • Stage 2 alcohol withdrawal
: High blood pressure, increased body temperature, unusual heart rate, and confusion begin between 24-72 hours.
  • Stage 3 alcohol withdrawal
: Hallucinations, fever, seizures, and agitation come begin around 72+ hours after the last drink.

Most symptoms dissipate or become non-critical between 5-7 days the alcoholic is out of the detox “danger zone” and is able to start on recovery re-pattering. Hardened alcoholics do make full recoveries.

Visit our complete guide to alcoholism here.

Opioid withdrawal

Opiates or opioids are drugs usually used to treat severe pain and include codine, heroin, morphine, oxycodone. Timeframes to induce a physically dependancy vary with each individual. Opioid withdrawal symptoms usually manifest within the first 12 hours of last opioid usage and within 30 hours of last methadone exposure.

Stages of opiate withdrawal

  • Stage 1 opioid withdrawal
: Agitation, anxiety, muscle aches, tearing, insomnia, runny nose, sweating and yawning. Symptoms start usually 12 hours after heroin to and 30 hours with methadone.
  • Stage 2 opioid withdrawal: Abdominal cramping, diarrhea, dilated pupils, goose bumps, nausea and vomiting. The first week of detox is by far the worst some symptoms can last even several weeks.
  • Stage 3 opioid withdrawal: Recovery requires at least 6 months of abstinence where the person may continue to experience some or many withdrawal symptoms.

Heavy heroin users report powerful cravings even years after detox and recovery. The heroin culture is hard to break and long-term recovery often means a fundamental shift of home-life away from any access to heroin and working within a recovery-based lifestyle.

Stimulant withdrawal

Stimulants or “uppers,” temporarily increase energy and alertness. On the street these drugs include substances like cocaine and “crack”, methamphetamines like “speed” and “tik”, MDMA or “ecstasy”.

Stimulants can affect the human body’s nervous system and generally increase neurotransmitter activity within the brain. Following prolonged or heavy use, the individuals brain begins to “need” the drugs to maintain cognitive function. Stimulant withdrawals often are both physical and psychological and can be moderate to severe depending on the quantity, time-frame of use and the individual.

There are a number of prescription medications that contain amphetamine based compounds used in the treatment of cold’s and flu’s, weight-loss and ADHD. These medications are thus relatively available in South Africa and abuse is consequentially wide-spread in our communities.

Withdrawal often does not have visible physical symptoms.

Stages of stimulant withdrawal

  • Stage 1 stimulant withdrawal:  Within only a couple of hours after stimulant use, an individual will start to feel the onset of withdrawals. Suicidal thoughts and deep seated depression are common individuals in the early stages.
  • Stage 2 stimulant withdrawal: The “Crash period” depending on the quantity being used and the drug withdrawals peak in the first week with powerful cravings, fatigue, difficulty to experience pleasure, personal anxiety, constant irritability, sleepiness, agitation or extreme suspicion and paranoia.
  • Stage 2 stimulant withdrawal: Stimulant detox can last for well 10 weeks as the feelings in stage 2 begin to dissipate over time and the stimulate addict resume day to day life.

Stimulants can be extremely dangerous and over-use can frequently lead to physical problems, psychological and even permanent cognitive dysfunctions.

“Smoking cannabis, there is nothing wrong with it? Smoking cannabis is not addictive, so what are you moaning about?

This story you hear often.

Unfortunately dagga or harmful and definitely addictive. It has even been proven that dagga and hashish have the same addictive effects and hard drugs. Smoking cannabis might not cause physical dependence, but for psychological dependence.

In addition to the addictive effect, bears blowing even more dangers. For example, blowing lead to severe personality disorders. The younger the user, the more serious the consequences. The structure in the brains and compounds are namely at an early age is not yet fully completed. Blowen can therefore lead to, inter alia schizophrenia.

Some consequences of using dagga habitually

  • Passivity
  • Apathy
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Physical effects of immediate withdrawal

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Loss of consciousness (go out)
  • Flippen (fear and confusion in peaks and troughs)
  • Sleep Problems
  • Damage to respiratory (asthma)

“Bath salts.”

  • Tremors
  • Paranoia
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression


  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Time is the single biggest factor in detox. Getting through the first couple of weeks is difficult but as the individuals viewpoints begin to re-focus on new positive goals and they adopt the recovery mantras and recovery-based lifestyle, the traumas in detox become just a part of their history.

Nobody is “too far gone” to turn it around. Going into detox is not a pleasant thought for suffering addicts but it’s worth it.

Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
  • Prolonged Withdrawal Syndromes
  • Post-Withdrawal Syndrome
  • Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
  • P.A.W.S.
  • Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome

Identify a set of ongoing symptoms that may continue to occur for an extended period after withdrawal from addictive substances.


The primary aim of any professional detox Programme is the complete physiological healing of individuals.