Ten Drugs That Make a Detox Tough

“In the end, some of your greatest pains become your greatest strengths.”

Drew Barrymore

It’s normal to feel uncomfortable during a detox

Going through a medically supervised detox will be uncomfortable, sometimes painfully so. During a detox the human body releases strong mood-altering substances, whilst the nervous system reboots and the brain rewires itself.

In a paper titled Complications of Alcohol Withdrawal, published by Louis A. Trevisan, M.D., Nashaat Boutros, M.D., Ismene L. Petrakis, M.D., the authors writes: “Abrupt reduction or total cessation of long-term alcohol consumption produces a well-defined cluster of symptoms called acute alcohol withdrawal (AW). Although some patients experience relatively mild withdrawal symptoms, disease processes or events that accompany AW can cause significant illness and death. After acute withdrawal has subsided, a poorly defined syndrome of protracted withdrawal may ensue.”

The authors continue: “AW and its complications are among the most visible consequences of alcoholism. Those syndromes arise directly from adaptations made within nerve cell communication systems that are targets of alcohol in the brain. Among its actions, alcohol acutely facilitates the activity of GABAA receptor function and blocks NMDA receptor activity. The adaptations within these systems contribute to withdrawal-related symptoms, seizures, and neurotoxicity. Repeated AW episodes appear to increase the risk of future AW seizures.”

What’s a withdrawal from a powerful substance really like?

Going through a withdrawal will vary depending on the substance, one’s physical health, age, and tolerance to the substance. There are often serious risk factors involved, therefore a supervised detox implemented by competent and caring health professionals is advisable. A mild withdrawal from alcohol will produce feelings of irritability, shakes, cravings, diarrhoea, perspiration and shaking. Whereas a severe withdrawal can induce seizures and tremors. Our dedicated team will help and guide you through a bespoke alcohol detox process from start to finish, in the comfort and anonymity of one of our luxury, private alcohol addiction treatment facilities in Mayfair, Knightsbridge and Chelsea, London.

Top ten drugs that make a detox tough

Here are some of the most difficult mood-altering substances to detox from:


An alcohol detox may last up to a week, sometimes ten days or even longer. The first stage usually gives rise to nausea, insomnia, and abdominal pain within eight hours of the last drink. Sometimes, a person dependent on alcohol (also known as alcoholic) will go into withdrawal within an hour of the last drink. Stage 2 symptoms (within twenty-four to seventy-two hours) may include abnormal heart rate, overheating, sweats, high blood pressure, anxiety, and confusion. And the third stage (two to four days) may very well induce hallucinations, rage, fever, and seizures. Again, symptoms will vary. Abruptly stopping alcohol after years of dependency can be fatal.

Because alcohol is very much integral to the social life of many Brits (and many nations worldwide), alcohol is often viewed as more acceptable or “a less harmful vice” than say morphine or crack cocaine. However, alcohol, when abused and relied on to function, can become extremely harmful to the human body and withdrawal can often be risky. An alcohol detox needs to be approached with great care and sensitivity. Prescribed medication usually accompanies an alcohol detox to ease and soothe the aggressive symptoms.

You don’t have to go through this alone. At Addcounsel, our seasoned experts have developed a “whole person” approach to the treatment of alcohol dependence, addressing not just the symptoms but the underlying causes that led to addiction in the first place. We help you develop effective, lifelong strategies for coping and self-management, to ensure a sustained recovery.


Heroin is a powerful opioid. Consequently, the withdrawal process is going to be tough. “Going cold turkey” without medical supervision is not advisable as a detox can be very distressing both physically and emotionally.In an article What effects does heroin have on the body? the author writes: “Heroin binds to and activates specific receptors in the brain called mu-opioid receptors (MORs). Our bodies contain naturally occurring chemicals called neurotransmitters that bind to these receptors throughout the brain and body to regulate pain, hormone release, and feelings of well-being. When MORs are activated in the reward center of the brain, they stimulate the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, causing a reinforcement of drug taking behavior.” The author concludes: “The consequences of activating opioid receptors with externally administered opioids such as heroin (versus naturally occurring chemicals within our bodies) depend on a variety of factors: how much is used, where in the brain or body it binds, how strongly it binds and for how long, how quickly it gets there, and what happens afterward.” Some of the symptoms of withdrawal from heroin may include:

  • Increased breathing rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Dilated pupils
  • Unusually heightened reflexes
  • Sweating
  • Goosebumps
  • Watery discharge from eyes and nose
  • Cramps and muscle spasms
  • Aches and bone pain
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea 
  • Nausea


Detoxing from a fentanyl dependency will be extremely uncomfortable. Contrary to popular belief, however, it’s not as dangerous as withdrawing from chronic alcohol addiction. Like many other prescribed strong painkillers, fentanyl is used to reduce severe physical pain following surgery or immediately after sustaining an injury in an accident. Fentanyl is similar to morphine but, almost unbelievably,one hundred times more potent. Some of the symptoms of withdrawal from fentanyl may include:

  • Tachycardia (increased heart rate)
  • Muscle spasms, bone pain, aches
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia.
  • Anxiety/panic attacks
  • Sweating and chills
  • Increased body temperature


Similar to fentanyl, hydrocodone is used to treat severe pain. Hydrocodone is a potent opioid which can be highly addictive. If abused, it may cause an overdose which can be fatal. Some of the symptoms of withdrawal from hydrocodone may include:

  • Restlessness, anger, irritability
  • Teary eyes/runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Sweats and chills
  • Tremors
  • Gooseflesh
  • Muscle pain, stomach cramps, aches
  • Anxiety/panic attacks
  • Back and/or joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea


Oxycodone, often known as the brand ‘OyxCotin’, is a semi-synthetic opioid medication that is prescribed to treat severe, short-term pain. It is often used to alleviate pain from traumatic injuries after surgery, from cancer, and arthritis. It can be highly addictive and long-term use can lead to a drug dependency and/or addiction. Withdrawing from oxycodone will produce flu-like symptoms. A withdrawal usually starts within twenty-four hours, peaks at around seventy to ninety hours and abate after two weeks.  Some of the symptoms of withdrawal from oxycodone may include:

  • Restlessness
  • Mood swings
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramps and aches
  • Chills
  • Increased heart rate or blood pressure
  • A sense of physical weakness
  • Tiredness/yawning
  • Stress


Morphine is another potentially highly addictive opioid. If used safely, it helps to alleviate physical pain. However, if it is abused, a dependency leading to addiction will likely develop. Some of the symptoms of withdrawal from morphine may include:

  • Runny nose, watery eyes
  • Fever
  • Vomiting, nausea, and headaches
  • Sweats and chills
  • Muscle aches and stomach cramps
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Agitation, irritability, and anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Disorientation and insomnia


Like other strong painkillers, if codeine is used frequently, a tolerance will likely result. This can lead to a dependency and eventually addiction. It is frequently prescribed for persistent/severe pain such as back pain or toothache. Withdrawal symptoms from codeine can vary from mild to severe and include:

  • Muscle twitches and stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Rapid breathing
  • Watery eyes
  • Goose bumps and chills
  • Restlessness, irritability, and mood swings
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Valium (diazepam) withdrawal

Valium is a widely used benzodiazepine prescribed by medical doctors to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks. It is often used during an alcohol detox to alleviate the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. However, valium, itself, can be abused and a dependency/addiction can occur if long-term use and a tolerance has been established. Some of the symptoms of withdrawal from Valium may include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Aches, stomach pains
  • Vomiting
  • Panic attacks, extreme anxiety
  • Agitation, anger, and restlessness
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Racing pulse
  • Irritability

Crystal meth

Crystal meth is one of the most widely used methamphetamine drugs and is extremely addictive. It can damage the human body in a very short space of time leading to rapid weight loss, damaged teeth, sores on the skin and an increased risk of damaging brain cells and the heart. Some of the symptoms of withdrawal from crystal meth may include:

  • Inflamed/itchy eyes
  • Fever (flu-like symptoms)
  • Dehydration
  • Agitation, restlessness, and irritability
  • Anxiety/panic attacks
  • Nausea
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Fatigue
  • Paranoia and hallucinations
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased appetite
  • Lack of motivation
  • Decreased sexual pleasure
  • Suicidal thoughts and severe depression

Crack cocaine

Crack cocaine hit the international headlines back in the mid-1980s due to the crack epidemic sweeping through New York and subsequently many states in the USA. Since then, it’s become a well-established illegal street drug worldwide. Crack cocaine is highly addictive and often leads to addiction. Some of the symptoms of withdrawal from crack cocaine include:

  • Severe anxiety/panic attacks
  • Anger, rage, and mood swings
  • Sweats
  • Strong cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Nightmares
  • Suicidal thoughts

Why Addcounsel?

At Addcounsel, we provide expert treatment for a wide range of drug addictions. Our dedicated team will help and guide you through the entire process from start to finish, in the comfort and anonymity of our discreet and private drug rehabilitation facility in Mayfair, London. Contact us today to start your recovery journey. All inquiries are strictly confidential.



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