Finding Drug Detox Centers in Los Angeles

Understanding Detox and Withdrawal

Medications for the long-term treatment of substance abuse disorder have been around for some time. 

These physical changes lead to dependence and addiction, forcing the user to take the abused drug or drink alcohol to maintain a feeling of normalcy. Feeling physically normal is one thing, but feeling emotionally and psychologically normal is another. Because of this, drug addiction is a complex disease that affects every aspect of a person: body, spirit, and mind.

Due to measurable, physical changes that are made in a user’s brain, the brain reacts – and rather harshly – when the drugs or alcohol is removed. Without the drug or alcohol in the system, the brain struggles to compensate for its absence, which results in something called “withdrawal,” which is a process where the body learns to deal with the absence of drugs or alcohol and recalibrate itself back to its pre-addicted state.

All addictive drugs and alcohol have withdrawal symptoms associated with them – some are more difficult to withdraw from than others. This process is sometimes referred to as “detoxification,” the period where the body removes the toxic substance and begins the healing process. It’s always best that a person’s detox be medically supervised by a doctor or professional treatment clinic. 

However, it must be cautioned that the National Institute on Drug Abuse describes medical detox as “only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug use.” Under ideal circumstances, after a medical detox, the user undergoes a comprehensive treatment plan designed to get drug free and healthy again.

Withdrawal By Substance Type

The length, severity, and symptoms of withdrawal vary from drug to drug.

“How long does drug withdrawal last?” is also a question that depends on how the drug was taken along with an individual user’s physical and psychological makeup. The symptoms of withdrawal can vary so much that the following is intended as a simple overview for each type of substance.


Alcohol is a depressant that slows down the body’s central nervous system. When someone who is addicted to alcohol stops drinking, the brain has to compensate, which results in symptoms like:

  • Anxiety
  • Shaky hands
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Racing heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Heavy sweating
  • Tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens

Someone who was a heavy drinker can begin to experience withdrawal in less than six hours, a period that might even include seizures. 


Heroin can be especially difficult to withdraw from, and it’s a process that begins in a few hours after last taking the drug and continuing for several months. During this period of time, a user will experience a variety of symptoms, beginning with those reminiscent of the flu. As people progress through detoxification, additional symptoms, both physical and psychological, will follow:

  • Nausea
  • Fevers and chills
  • Muscle spasms, aches, and pains, especially in the back and legs
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Impaired ability to breathe


Cocaine has a short half-life, which means it leaves the body rather quickly. Because of this, it’s thought to be safe to quit cocaine “cold turkey” rather than going through a tapering off period that’s advisable for other drugs. While most symptoms go away in a few days, they can come and go for several weeks after last using the drug, and without help, this can lead to relapse. These symptoms include: 

  • Agitation and restless behavior
  • Depression, fatigue, and anxiety
  • Discomfort
  • Increased appetite
  • Vivid and unpleasant dreams
  • Slowing of activity and increased sleepiness
  • Irritability, agitation, and paranoia

Prescription Opioids

There is a long list of symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal that, unfortunately, many millions of Americans are all too familiar with as the ongoing opioid crisis continues. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Shaking
  • Elevated heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

In addition to physical cravings, someone with an addiction issue will also spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about their drug of choice. These thoughts become a compulsion and impossible to control, which leads to drug-seeking behavior that can sometimes be criminal.

Feelings of depression, sadness, anxiety, despair, and the like are often at the root of substance abuse. The substance might temporarily mask these feelings, but they return once the high wears off, creating a vicious circle of drug abuse.

Taking a substance will temporarily stop the cravings and compulsion for it, but soon the same feelings return. In time, it takes more and more of the same substance to achieve the same effect it once had.

People addicted to drugs and alcohol may feel like they have no control over their drug use. Refraining from using or stopping seems to be an impossibility for them. The substance controls them, rather than the other way around.

Someone addicted to drugs or alcohol will continue to seek them out even if their addiction has made them lose friends, family, spouses, and jobs. Drug-seeking behavior can even lead to diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.

Which Drug Has the Worst Withdrawal?

“Which drug has the worst withdrawal?” is a subjective question with a subjective answer – ultimately, it depends on the individual and his or her circumstances.

Since alcohol and benzodiazepines pose the greatest danger of death, some might consider them the “worst” drug to withdraw from. However, heroin is typically considered the drug that triggers the worst withdrawal symptoms, although alcohol withdrawal is certainly far from pleasant or easy. Due to cocaine having such a short half-life, and marijuana is more psychologically addicting, both these drugs are considered easier to stop using.

Remember, just because a drug like marijuana isn’t physically addicting, or a drug like cocaine has a short half-life, doesn’t mean that withdrawal is going to be a walk in the park. Cocaine is especially intense and many users relapse due to feelings of emotional bluntness and depression.

Medications Used In Withdrawal

There are a variety of medications available that can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms.


Benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax are sometimes prescribed to help relieve symptoms of panic and anxiety that can occur during alcohol withdrawal, but these medications can become addictive, so they aren’t used in most treatment centers. A few name brands like Librium and Tranxene are even FDA approved to be prescribed for this reason. While “benzos,” and occasionally barbiturates, are used to treat the symptoms of withdrawal there are also prescriptions available to help with actual recovery.

By taking disulfiram, a user will actually feel worse if they take a drink. Naltrexone is another drug that’s become widely available; this drug helps reduce the urges that lead someone to drink. Lastly, a drug called Acamprosate is sometimes used in addition to counseling and group support. Like Naltrexone, Acamprosate reduces the user’s desire to drink.

Opioids (heroin, OxyContin, etc.)

“The most effective withdrawal method is substituting and tapering methadone or buprenorphine…” according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. For years, methadone has been the treatment of choice for heroin addicts, but more recently a new drug has become available. Under the brand name Suboxone, this drug, which can be prescribed by a specially licensed doctor, combines two drugs into one dissolvable strip that alleviates withdrawal symptoms and reduces cravings. Unlike methadone, this medication is tapered off much quicker and is far less addictive.


There are currently no FDA-approved drugs to treat cocaine withdrawal, although drugs used to treat opioid addiction may also help with cocaine. The beta-blocker propranolol also shows some promise in treating cocaine addiction. Lastly, antidepressants like SSRIs are sometimes prescribed to help alleviate the psychological symptoms of withdrawal.


Like cocaine, there are no FDA-approved medications for marijuana withdrawal. However, a 2011 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information says that “Buspirone is the only medication to date that has shown efficacy for cannabis dependence in a controlled clinical trial.”

If you are considering treatment for yourself or a loved one, call us today.

Natural Remedies

With the rise in popularity of holistic treatments, you might be wondering if there are any natural withdrawal remedies available.

One such remedy that has gained some usage is kratom, an herbal extract from Southeast Asia that’s thought to relieve withdrawal symptoms for opioid users. However, the Mayo Clinic “suggests that it leads to more health problems than it solves.”

Other natural withdrawal remedies you may wish to investigate are herbs like valerian root or St. John’s Wort that help reduce anxiety. For pains and aches, taking over the counter pain relievers might help. You can also ask your druggist for something to reduce diarrhea and nausea.

Holistic methods can also come in the form of different physical and psychological therapies. There are many people who see great reductions in withdrawal symptoms from physical activity like exercise and yoga. Therapeutic methods like mindfulness meditation can also be extremely beneficial.

For cocaine and marijuana, the NIH published a report stating that “The over-the-counter (OTC) antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC) may be a potential treatment…” Taken for cocaine or marijuana addiction, N-acetylcysteine shows some promise in reducing cravings for these drugs.

At Home Detox Dangers

While it is possible to detox at home, the best and safest way is always under medical supervision and as a first step in a long-term treatment plan

With cocaine and marijuana, tapering off isn’t biologically necessary, but it’s imperative to do so where opioids and alcohol are concerned. Without detoxing properly at home, you run the risk of severe mental health strain, seizures, cardiovascular problems, hallucinations, and even death. You could also wind up not only hurting yourself but other people who may be around to help.

As always, know that you don’t have to go through any of this alone. If you’re struggling with addiction of any kind, contact Nexus to speak with a trained professional today. It’s free and confidential.

If you or a loved one are suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, we’re here to help. Contact us today and speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors.

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