Detox: Taking the First Step in Recovery

Just starting your journey with recovery? Learn about detox and what to expect on your recovery journey.

What is Detox?

Detoxification, or “detox,” is the way that the body gets rid of toxins that have built up from substance use. It’s the body’s way of purifying itself and re-establishing its baseline. This process is an inevitable phase of recovery that unfortunately doesn’t come without discomfort. 

When individuals experience a bad hangover, or even discomfort in the days following substance use, they have probably experienced a small taste of what detox feels like. 

The body detoxes different drugs in different ways. Because of this, the symptoms widely depend on what is being detoxed as well as the severity of use. The detoxification process can take time and may be dangerous, so it is important to have quality support during the detox phase of recovery. 

Detoxification vs. Withdrawal

While detoxification and withdrawal are sometimes used interchangeably, they are different processes. Detoxification is the window of time when the body is actively ridding itself of toxins. 

However, part of going through detox is also going through withdrawal. Withdrawal includes the physical symptoms of detox, as well as psychological symptoms and cravings. Withdrawal symptoms can last longer than detox itself and are best managed through a treatment program.

Detoxification and the Recovery Timeline

Healing from a substance use disorder takes time and is a gradual process. It can be helpful to think of recovery as a journey that can be broken into phases. Detox is the first phase of the healing process. 

During detoxification, healing happens on the physical level. This sets the stage for later phases of emotional healing that happen in inpatient and outpatient treatment. Once the body has detoxed, an individual can begin to address the underlying reasons for their substance use and start to heal. 

It’s important to recognize that detoxification isn’t a stand-alone treatment for substance use. After detox, most clients transition into either an inpatient care setting or an intensive outpatient program. Our Continuum Outpatient Center team is ready and eager to help you or your loved one ease into continued care for long-term recovery.

What to Expect During Detox

Knowing what to expect from detox can help individuals prepare themselves for the experience. Symptoms will depend on what substances are being detoxed and how long a person has been using. These symptoms can be severe, especially if a person struggles with more than one substance.

Alcohol, prescription drugs, opioids, and stimulants all have their own detox timelines and symptoms. However, the good news is that these symptoms won’t last forever, and with proper management, they can be greatly reduced. On the other side of detox is a healthy clean body and clear mind.

Alcohol Detoxification

When detoxing from alcohol, individuals can begin to feel symptoms within the first six to twenty-four hours after their last drink. These symptoms usually increase in intensity and are most intense around the thirty-six to seventy-two hour mark.

After that, alcohol detox symptoms usually resolve between 2 and 10 days. Some of the milder symptoms of alcohol detox include:

  • Anxiety 
  • Feeling shaky
  • Sweating
  • Dehydration 
  • Brain fog and cognitive impairment
  • Racing heart 
  • Increases in blood pressure
  • Insomnia and difficulty sleeping
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Abdominal cramping and diarrhea

Severe Symptoms of Alcohol Detox

In severe cases, alcohol detox can result in dangerous complications. These complications are difficult to manage at home and are best handled by a medical professional. 

These symptoms can include:

  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid and extreme changes to body temperature and blood pressure
  • Feelings of intense agitation

Non-Opioid Prescription Drug Detox

Detoxing from drugs like benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin) or sedatives/hypnotics is similar to alcohol detox. To avoid severe withdrawal symptoms like seizures and delirium, it’s best to taper off of use of these drugs rather than abruptly stopping.

Opioid, Heroin, and Fentanyl Detox

The timeline for opioid detox greatly depends on the type of opioid being detoxed. Symptoms of detox from shorter-acting opioids (heroin, Fentanyl, hydrocodone) set in within eight to ten hours of the last use.

For longer-acting opioids (OxyContin, extended-release drugs), symptoms set in around the 24-48 hour mark. Symptoms can last anywhere from four days to up to three weeks. Most people compare the symptoms of opioid detox to those of severe flu.

Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal cramping/gastrointestinal distress
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Aching joints and muscles
  • Chills and or hot flashes
  • Goosebumps
  • Excess sweating and yawning
  • Runny nose and teary eyes
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Hallucination

Cocaine Detox

Symptoms of cocaine detox usually start within 90 minutes of a person’s last use and can last for up to 10 days. Symptoms of cocaine detox are mostly mental and emotional, but some physical discomfort can be expected as well. 

Symptoms of cocaine detox may include:

  • Irritability and aggression
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Extreme cravings 
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Changes in body temperature (chills and fever)
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking 
  • Headache
  • Dehydration

Methamphetamine Detox

Methamphetamine is similar to cocaine in that detox begins almost immediately after the drug effects have worn off. For meth, detox begins within 24-48 hours of a person’s last use. Symptoms of detox are most severe for the first 48 hours, and then gradually subside over a few weeks. 

During detox from meth, individuals may experience:

  • Feelings of intense agitation and aggression
  • Paranoia and anxiety
  • Hallucinations and delusional thought 
  • Exhaustion and muscle fatigue 
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Headaches 
  • Dehydration

How to Know If You Need Detox

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder, you may benefit from a medically supervised detox. 

Signs that you may need detoxification services include:

  • Mood disturbances (depression, anxiety, irritability) when trying to cut back or quit
  • Experiencing physical symptoms of detox when not using, or trying to cut back/quit
  • Experiencing an increase in tolerance, or feeling like you have to consume more of the substance to feel “normal”
  • Having tried to detox and quit on your own before and it wasn’t effective
  • The presence of other medical issues that could affect detox or the development of new health concerns due to substance use. 

Detoxing at a Detox Facility vs. at Home

Detox is a vulnerable time, so it’s understandable to want to go through it in the comfort of your own home. Being in a new environment is stressful, especially when dealing with a health issue like detox. However, when it comes to detox and recovery, it is best to begin care at a detox facility. 

Allowing professional medical staff to assist you through detoxification both makes the process a lot safer and sets you up for success for lasting recovery.

Benefits of Medical Detoxification

Some other benefits of supervised detox include:

  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to manage symptoms
  • Around-the-clock care and access to medical staff
  • Creation of an individualized treatment plan that begins with detox 
  • Nutritional support
  • Psychological counseling
  • A safe and supportive environment intentionally designed with recovery in mind
  • A low-stress, easy detox experience

Continuum Outpatient Center’s Partnership with Ripple Ranch Recovery Center

At Continuum Outpatient Center, we believe in supporting individuals during every step of their journey. We are proud to partner with Ripple Ranch Recovery Center for detox services to give our patients the best possible start. 

Located a short distance from San Antonio, Ripple Ranch Recovery Center provides Texans with a safe and comfortable detox experience.

Life on the Ranch

Things move a little slower out on the Ranch. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of city life, Ripple Ranch Recovery Center provides a serene environment for detox. 

Programs are flexible in length, giving individuals all the time they need to heal their body, although most stays are between 30 and 90 days. During this time, individuals will be able to walk our scenic trails, participate in yoga, and engage in therapy to better their well-being. 

On the Ranch, we believe in creating a healing environment, both inside and out. The approach to meals is no exception. Each meal is designed to support individuals through detox and is reviewed by a master nutritionist. 

In addition to providing a safe environment for detox, the Ranch offers personalized treatment plans, around-the-clock care, mental health support, and medication-assisted treatment.

Individualized Treatment Plans

At Ripple Ranch Recovery Center, we understand that each person’s experience with substance use is unique, which is why we offer individualized treatment plans, beginning with detox. 

Each patient’s personal treatment plan will take their personal goals into account and give them a clear path to follow for long-term recovery. Detox and treatment plans are as multifaceted as each person is, and these plans draw from a wealth of therapeutic techniques. 

Individualized treatment plans at the Ranch include elements from:

  • Alternatives to the 12-step model (SMART Recovery)
  • Art therapy 
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment 
  • Experiential and recreational therapy 
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Harm reduction techniques
  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Motivational Interviewing and enhancement
  • Psychoeducational groups
  • PTSD and trauma-focused therapies
  • Yoga

Around-the-Clock, Compassionate Care

Detoxification and the early stages of recovery are a vulnerable time. We believe the best care happens in a peaceful and intimate setting.

By keeping a small staff-to-client ratio, Ripple Ranch Recovery Center ensures that our patients are getting attentive and intimate care whenever they need it.

Providing around-the-clock care eliminates any of the potential dangers of detoxification. It also allows each patient’s mental and physical well-being to be monitored and tended to.

Evidence-Based and Holistic Approach

Simply put, when it comes to detox on the Ranch, we know what works. Our program on the Ranch is evidence-based and takes one’s whole being into account. We combine holistic healing with science-backed therapeutic techniques to give individuals the most effective experience.

Individuals will be supported emotionally, physically, and mentally through their recovery journeys with the Ranch. Also, our commitment to self-improvement means that we are constantly tracking our efforts and measuring our results.

We can confidently say detoxing with the Ranch is effective, as 78% of our clients complete detox and treatment. We’re proud of this fact and are happy to boast a 92% satisfaction rate.

Mental Health Treatment and Dual Diagnosis

Substance use and mental health go hand in hand. Six in ten people who have a substance use disorder also have a co-occurring mental health issue. While detoxification isn’t necessarily treatment, it is important to choose a facility that takes this fact into account. 

Pre-existing mental health conditions can complicate detox and should be considered early on in treatment. Ripple Ranch Recovery Center operates on a dual diagnosis model, which means that other mental health concerns are always taken into account when creating a treatment plan.

It also means that as individuals progress through treatment with Ripple Ranch Recovery Center and Continuum Outpatient Center, they will also receive treatment for any other mental health concerns. We’re here to help you achieve whole-person healing and sustainable recovery.

Medication-Assisted Detoxification

One of the biggest benefits of detoxing through a professional treatment program is access to medication-assisted detox and treatment. Medications are commonly used during detox to ease and reduce symptoms.

Around 91% of all detoxification facilities in the United States use medication for detox. Medications used in this process may include:

  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol)
  • Buprenorphine (Probuphine/Suboxone)
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
  • Acamprosate (Campral)
  • Modafinil (Provigil)
  • Mirtazapine (Remeron)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Vitamin supplements and electrolytes


When used under the supervision of a medical provider in the detox setting, these medications can greatly reduce or even eliminate symptoms of detox and withdrawal.

Transition Into Other Types of Treatment

As mentioned earlier, recovering from a substance use disorder is a journey. Detox is just the first step on the continuum of care. After completion of a detox program, it’s important to be able to transition into a high-quality treatment program. This ensures the best possible chance for long-term recovery.

With an individual’s mind and body healing and becoming focused after detox, they’ll be in the best possible shape to begin receiving treatment. During treatment, they will continue to receive therapy and work through the underlying reasons behind the substance use. 

They will also learn new coping skills and tools for managing their life. Our programs at Continuum Outpatient Center merge seamlessly with an individual’s experience on the Ranch for a smooth recovery process.

Experience the Ripple Effect

Like a pebble dropped into a still pond, getting detox at the Ranch has effects that ripple out through time, causing subtle changes that lead to lasting recovery. Take the first step towards a healthy, free life. Connect with us and learn more about our partnership with Ripple Ranch today. 

We’re here to help you heal.