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What Does Detox Feel Like? Spoiler Alert | It’s Not Fun

So, what does detox feel like?

I can tell you from (far too much) personal experience that it’s not fun.

In fact, depending on the drug you’re detoxing from, it can be horrible.

Is that meant to scare you?

That’s not my intention.

These are just facts.

There’s a reason addicts like me avoid detox at all costs.

There’s a reason we try so hard to find ways to get off and stay off on our own.

It’s because detox isn’t as simple as sleeping it off.

It’s because detox sucks ass.

Here’s what detox feels like.

What Detox Feels Like | It Depends on the Drug

The most important thing to point out here is that what detox feels like depends on the drug.

Let’s start with some of the most common ones.

Detox From Opiates

This is, unfortunately, the type of detox I have the most experience with.

How you feel when detoxing from opiates depends on a lot of factors:

  • How long you’ve been using in total (how many months/years)
  • How long you’ve been using in this particular time period
  • What opiate you’ve been using
  • What amount you’ve been using
  • What kind of shape you’re in physically
  • What other drugs you’re getting high on
  • What drugs you take when you decide to detox (for example, if you take a bunch of Xanax and smoke weed, you might not have as bad of symptoms — I wouldn’t recommend this though as mixing Xanax with weed isn’t exactly a great idea)
  • The halflife of the drug you’re taking

I’ve tried to detox from opiates many times on my own, and I was almost always successful.

The problem isn’t getting off.

The problem is staying off — but that’s more of a step 1 issue and not the point of this article.

The detox for opiates feels like the worst flu you’ve ever had.

Here are some of the possible symptoms — remember, everyone has a different experience with drug withdrawals of any sort, so you’re not necessarily going to experience all of these:

  • Feeling like you’re going to puke all the time
  • Not being able to sleep
  • Having horrible diarrhea (which can last for as long as a month or more)
  • Having a runny nose that just won’t stop
  • Having restless leg syndrome (or in my case, restless arm syndrome)
  • Feeling weak and lethargic
  • Sweating a ton, especially at night
  • Being unable to eat or not hungry (or being unable keep anything down)

I’m sure there’s more that you could find in a more scientific article, but this is basically what it feels like.

It’s a lot like having the flu.

The fucked up part is that, with opiate detox, you know exactly how to make the pain stop.

All you have to do is get high.

That’s why I always recommend going to rehab.

It’s hard enough going through detox and feeling like shit for days and days (and, depending on the opiate, possibly weeks, or even months for some of them, like tramadol).

When you add in the fact that you can make the pain stop any time you want, the temptation is often so strong that it’s impossible to make it all the way through.

I’ve been in detoxes begging the doctors to give me Suboxone because the heroin detox was so bad that I just couldn’t take it anymore.

If I had been on the outside, I just would have gotten more heroin.

Opiate withdrawal, thankfully, isn’t going to kill you unless you’re already sick from something else. It can be dangerous to go through if you have other health issues, so you should probably go to detox if you can.

What Benzodiazepine Detox Is Like

Just like with opiates, benzo withdrawal depends on a variety of factors — pretty much the same factors, in fact.

Those apply to all drugs.

Essentially, the more you do, the longer you’ve been doing it, the worse it is.

The only other thing that plays a large role is the type of benzo you’ve been taking.

The best way to describe it is that the shorter the half-life of the benzo you’re taking, the quicker you’re going to go into detox after your last dose, and the quicker you’re going to be done with withdrawals.

Something to note though: with all drugs, there’s always the possibility that you’re detox, for whatever reason, will last way longer than it’s supposed to.

They call this protracted withdrawal. It’s similar to PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) in that, basically, you keep detoxing when you “should” be done.

I don’t wish this on anyone because the detox from benzos can be really rough.

Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Bad anxiety and restlessness (they’re used to treat anxiety, so it makes sense that the anxiety would come back bad once you stop)
  • Muscle spasms and twitching
  • Feeling like you’re going to throw up (or actually puking)
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression

And these, honestly, aren’t the worst symptoms of benzodiazepine detox.

The worst ones include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Seizures

I’ve come off large quantities of Xanax before (20mg+ at a time), and I’ve been lucky to only have a single seizure.

It was not fun. Seizures are really strange.

I don’t recommend it.

Finally, the worst thing that can happen with benzo withdrawal is that you can die from it.

I seriously do not recommend coming off benzos on your own. I did it, and I’m lucky to be alive.

I know people who have come died coming off of drugs like these, going brain dead because their seizures were so severe.

If you’re going to come off benzos, especially if you’ve been taking them for years, you need to have a long taper, and you need to be under the care of a doctor.

That’s just to make sure you live through it.

There are few drugs as evil as benzos.

What Meth Detox Is Like

Another serious fucking drug on the list is meth.

The withdrawal symptoms from meth are thankfully not (usually) as bad as coming off of these other drugs in that it’s not going to kill you or make you shit your pants, but you’re definitely not going to be feeling good.

Symptoms include:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Extreme hunger
  • Depression
  • Irritiability
  • Psychosis

One of those things is not like the others.

What’s fucked up about meth is that, when you’re on it, you can go into severe psychosis — hallucinations, hearing voices, feelings of persecution, seeing shadow people — but when you come off it, you get the same goddamn symptoms.

For me, the depression and the anxiety were the worst parts about coming off of meth, but for other people, the sleeping thing can be out of control.

Remember, many meth users will stay up for days or weeks at a time and not eat anything that whole time.

When they suddenly sober up, they’re going to find themselves ravenous and exhausted — as they should be.

Perhaps worse, what detox feels like for the meth user includes more than just “depression.”

It’s more like extreme depression.

Meth users often feel anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure of any sort.

This is because meth makes you feel so good, gives you so much of a dopamine overload, that when you quit, your brain struggles to even get close to feeling good without meth.

Now over time, this can go away, but it’s not at all uncommon for it to take 2 years or more.

Yeah, 2 years to start feeling like yourself again.

Don’t do meth kids.

The meth high is just extreme — that’s all there is to it.

So when you come off, the depression you feel is often far worse than what you feel coming off of opiates or other drugs.

In fact, it’s so powerful, that researchers found that a single injection of meth can start people feeling anhedonia after they come down.

What Detox From Other Drugs Feels Like

Between these three major classes of drugs, you’re going to get most, if not all, of the symptoms that you’re going to see when you detox from any other type of drug.

If you come off ecstasy, it’s going to feel like coming off of meth.

If you detox from alcohol, it’s going to be almost exactly like coming off of benzos (except a lot worse).

If you come off of weed, it’s going to feel like coming off of opiates (just to a much lesser degree).

What’s the takeaway here?

Don’t do drugs.

But if you’re reading this article, you’re probably way past that point.

I can tell you that detox is going to suck no matter what your drug of choice is.

The question is this:

Is detox worth it?

Is It Worth It to Detox From Drugs?

For me, the answer was yes.

I can tell you that getting sober was, without question, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

If you’re struggling to get sober, get to a detox, get somewhere safe.

Even when you can’t afford it, there are free detox centers all over the place.

Find one and get help.

Because there’s nothing worse than suffering.

Suffering…

That’s what detox feels like.

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Claude Fair
Claude Fair
1 month ago

I can attest to the horrible detox from Opiates. I used for 30 years. I guess you could have called me a “functioning” user. At least I thought so. But that’s a different story. So, here I was, a daily user trying to get off these pills for YEARS! The only reason I wasn’t willing to stop was because the detox was too painful. Trying to do it on my own was the worst thing I ever tried. Finally I broke down and went to rehab. In there I didn’t sleep for 5 days straight and begged for Suboxone. It saved me from killing myself. After being on that drug for a month, I was able to stop that and became drug free. Today, a year later, I still don’t feel well and have no idea when I will feel myself again. All I can say however is it was worth it. I couldn’t live with that monkey on my back any longer. If you can relate to my story, get help, it changed my life for the better. Much better.

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Adam Fout

I'm an addiction / recovery / mental health blogger and a speculative fiction / nonfiction writer. I have a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Professional and Technical Communication. I'm a graduate of the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. I'm a regular contributor to Recovery Today Magazine, and I've been featured on numerous recovery podcasts. I have personal experience with addiction and mental health. I have Substance Use Disorder (SUB), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Bipolar II, Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), and Binge Eating Disorder (BED), among others. I have been in numerous drug rehabs, detoxes, and mental institutions, so I understand from personal experience how the mental health system works. I have been published in numerous literary magazines, including December, J Journal, and Flash Fiction Online, among others. I LOVE when readers reach out to me! Always feel free to send me an email at awfout at gmail dot com. I can't wait to hear from you!