Drug detox can almost feel worse than withdrawal symptoms, and that is why some people are hesitant to undergo treatment. However, the benefits of drug detox outweigh the cons. Here is an explanation of why detoxing the body of substances can often feel terrible.

The course of addiction is a slow process, but it is often a result of substance buildup in the body. As the brain and the body gets accustomed to high doses of drugs, the tolerance increases as well. This is why people who often try to quit abruptly do not often succeed because removing the substances from the bodily system requires a medical process.

What is Drug Detox?

Drug detox is the process of removing traces of drugs in the body. This is a process that often requires the use of medications, weekly checkups, and intervention of health professionals. The length of the process depends on how the body responds to treatment, and it may be a challenging time for many. Those who suffer from full-blown addiction may find the drug detox process rather unpleasant because it involves rewiring the brain and the body before substance abuse.

Some of the factors that can affect the timeline of drug detox include:

  • The type of drugs used

  • The length of time the user has suffered from substance abuse

  • The range of addiction severity

  • A family history of substance use

  • Genetics

  • Other health conditions / dual diagnosis

  • If the patient takes more than one type of drugs at a time

There are also stages of the drug detox process, which includes:

  • Evaluation: at this stage, the patient’s case history information is taken. Doctors and other health professionals will complete the patient’s health background to know what treatment is necessary.

  • Stabilization: this second stage involves immediate treatment of withdrawal symptoms. Before performing drug detox, patients must be stabilized in order to improve the success of treatment. Patients can be given medications or psychological therapy to reduce discomfort.

  • Treatment: this involves the preparation stage by orienting the patients on what to expect with the drug detox program. Although this can be done by outpatients, inpatient drug detox is effective for those who need intensive treatment.

Often, drug detox can start to feel uncomfortable during the stabilization and treatment phase. Below are some of the symptoms and the underlying reasons why drug detox can feel terrible for most patients.

Anxiety and Depressive Moods

One symptom of undergoing drug detox is occasional episodes or full-blown anxiety which can be accompanied by depressive moods. This is because the brain’s chemical makeup is disrupted as drugs are removed from the body. Although it can be tempting to associate the drug detox process to what makes the patient feel these emotions, these are actually caused by the imbalance brought about by the constant use of drugs.

What can I do about anxiety and depressive moods?

Many drug detox programs recommend undergoing psychological therapy, counseling, or having support groups along with the treatment to help in managing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Patients are free to unload their thoughts and feelings during the recovery process.

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting can be expected during the drug detox. During the treatment program, your body is attempting to function once again without the substances, leaving the system confused with the absence of drugs. For example, the heart may respond by having strong palpitations, and the lungs may also react by constricting, making it harder to breathe.

This causes the physical symptoms you may feel like being nauseous and eventually vomiting. Although it can feel terrible, understand that this is a natural process that your body needs to go through in order to achieve stability once again.

What can I do about nausea and vomiting?

Nausea and vomiting can be addressed by the doctor by prescribing anti-emetic medication. Alternatively, there are natural ways to relieve nausea, such as the use of ginger-based products, acupuncture, eating bland foods one small portion at a time, or having adequate sleep. During the drug detox program, you can ask your healthcare provider for more tips on how to relieve nausea and vomiting as well.

Muscle Pain and Tremors

Aside from affecting vital organs, another part of the body affected by the removal of drugs in the system are the skeletal muscles. The brain handles controlling different parts of the body, such as the muscles in our arms and legs. When a patient undergoes drug detox, the area of the brain for motor movement responds with the lack of the substances, causing tremors and pain.

People who undergo drug detox may notice their hands or feet uncontrollably shaking, or they may experience a different ache or pain when trying to move. This can be a debilitating experience and may often cause exhaustion to those undergoing treatment.

What can I do about muscle pain and tremors?

During the drug detox program, your healthcare provider will recommend medications that can reduce tremors and muscle pain. It is important not to take medications that are not prescribed by a doctor. They may counter the effects of the treatment. Additionally, a balance between muscle rest and adequate physical activity will help revitalize the muscles as you push forward through the program.


Insomnia may not be as painful as the other physical symptoms mentioned above, but it can affect one’s overall quality of life. As a patient undergoes the drug detox program, it is expected that some sleepless nights will occur. Aside from the disrupted brain activity, the discomforts of nausea, muscle pain, anxiety, and depression may be co-occurring, which also causes insomnia and vice versa.

What can I do about insomnia?

Some natural ways to help battle insomnia include the use of relaxation activities such as deep breathing and listening to peaceful music. Additionally, essential oils such as lavender and chamomile can help the brain become set in a relaxed state. If symptoms continue to persist, ask your doctor about sleeping aids and other medications that can help promote sleep.

Drug Detox May Feel Terrible, but Finishing the Treatment is a Triumph

If you or a loved one is suffering from a substance use problem and have decided to get help, knowing that it can be a difficult ordeal at the beginning. Drug detox can make you feel terrible because it is an uphill climb–it gets worse before it gets better. However, the rewards of being free from substance abuse are something that patients can set their minds upon when going through this challenging process.

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