A Guide To Withdrawal And Detoxification At Home

Getting Prepared

Whatever your reasons are, you will need to plan your detox carefully. Decide on a time that you’re going to do it. It might be soon, or in a couple of months. Whenever it is, put aside a couple of weeks when you know life isn’t going to be stressful and when you don’t have any responsibilities. If you have children, send them off on a holiday to their grandparents or to a friend. They wont enjoy spending this time with you and you’ll be glad you wont have to worry about them. If you’re in a relationship with another user, then it’s best to either detox together or spend the time apart detoxing separately. If one of you is going to continue using then there is a good chance the others’ detox wont be successful. Maybe even take yourselves off on a holiday together, where the temptation to go and score wont be there.

Some people like to let everyone know that they are going to detox, whereas others don’t want anyone to know. This is up to you. People who truly care about you will support you through this time and will respect your wishes. However, there are also those who wont respect your decision, even resenting it, and may visit you knowing that you are vulnerable to suggestions right now. If you don’t feel strong enough to tell them to leave you alone for a while, take the phone off the hook, unplug it from the wall and/or don’t answer the door. Set up a coded ring or knock for your real friends. Murphy’s Law will probably occur at this time too, where drugs will turn up on your doorstep and they will be free or have easy credit terms. Be aware of this.

Although almost impossible, try to put some money aside. You need to be able to pamper yourself with rewards while you’re detoxing. Going clean, even for a while, can be difficult so don’t feel guilty about indulging yourself in other ways.

Find a comfortable place to do your detox. One reason for doing a detox as an in-patient is that some people don’t have a comfortable place to detox. It is much better if you can make a drink in your own kitchen, watch your own TV, read your own books and listen to your own music. If it’s possible, see if you can spend the time with non-using friends – tell them what you’re up to though! Or, for some, staying with parents can work out well.

Buy in food that isn’t going to take time to prepare. Certainly for the first few days you wont feel like cooking at all, but you must eat, and once your appetite does comes back you’ll be starving hungry. Get lots of juice sachets too. Your body will lose a lot of fluid during your detox and it is very important that you replace it.

If you can, visit a doctor or drug service agency before you detox (see our links page). Let them know that you are going to do a home detox. They can prescribe a lot of medicines that will help you through the worst of it, eg. Maxalon to stop you vomiting, Chlonidine (Dixarit, Catapres) to reduce the sweats (let them know if you have low blood pressure before taking to many of these), anti-diarrhoea pills, Buscopan for stomach cramps, Quinine for muscle spasms etc.

Try to reduce your habit to a manageable level before you start your detox. The less you have to come off, the easier it will be both physically and mentally. However, if you do have a monster opiate habit or are coming off Barbiturates or Benzodiazepines, you shouldn’t even try to detox at home, and especially not alone, unless you’ve reduced your tolerance substantially. There are myths around like “no one ever died from withdrawals”, but they can die from the effects of withdrawals, eg. choking on your own vomit. This is not the case for 90% of people wanting to detox, and those with huge habits tend to know at least a little of what they’re in for with a detox well before they get to that stage. If you can’t reduce your habit by yourself but still want to ultimately kick your habit, talk to your doctor or local drug service about doing a medical detox or going on a Methadone reduction programme.


Remove all the psychological triggers that will be around you during your home detox. This includes getting rid of all your works – syringes, spoons, filters – and may also include removing certain posters from your walls, moving CD’s, videos, DVD’s or books to where they won’t be “in your face” and/or hiding your “favourite” belt for a while. The last thing you want to be looking at on your lounge wall while you’re detoxing will be a “Trainspotting” poster!! Having these things around will only remind you of using if you see them, so they’re better off “out of sight, out of mind”, at least until you feel a whole lot stronger mentally. Get someone else to drop off any old fits at the Needle Exchange for you so that you’re not tempted to get any more cleans.

The first few days are the worst. With opiate withdrawal, although the symptoms are essentially the same for everyone, each individual will have one or two symptoms that will feel like the worst symptom for them. For one person it might be the muscle cramps and spasms, for someone else it could be the sweats or the inability to sleep.

It is unpleasant and it’s not easy. There’s no denying it. But the fear of withdrawal can make these symptoms seem even worse than what they really are. The mind can play a part in this too by amplifying symptoms so that they feel worse than they really are. A great deal of what you’re feeling can also be caused by your own mind, so be aware of this too. But also remember that the worst symptoms will end after a few days. They don’t last forever. 

Some people find it useful to keep a diary of how they’re feeling each day, or use a calendar to tick off the days. This can help you to identify landmarks and hurdles you have overcome along the way, especially later on when you can look back and see how far you’ve come and just what you’ve gone through. Every time you complete a day, then a week, congratulate yourself, you’ve done well. Reward yourself, with small things like chocolate or a night out at a movie.

How Long Does It Take?

It all depends on what you’ve been using, how much, for how long and what your own metabolism is like. Also, remember to start counting the days at day zero, because you were probably stoned the day before you decided to start detoxing! The average detox times for different drugs are given below:

NOTE: These times are given for detoxification only. It can take much longer to get a Clean Urine test,
depending on which drug you have been using. Check clean urine for more details.

The length of a drugs half life can also have an effect on how long your detox could take. Half life is the length of time it takes for half of a drug to get out of your system. For example if you take 50mgs of methadone daily 24 hours later there would be 25mgs left in your system, then you take another 50mgs that means there is now 75mgs of Methadone in your system and 24 hours later that is down to 37.5mgs, which you then top up with another 50mgs meaning you now have 87.5mgs in your system. Eventually you end up with 50mgs left after 24 hours which then gets topped up with 50mgs so really you are on twice as much as what you drink. This also depends on your bodies metabolism which is why there is such a large range of half lifes for certain drugs.

Drug Type Name Half Life In Hours
Benzodiazipines Mogodon (nitrazepam) 26
  Serepax (oxazepam) 5 - 15
  Valium (diazepam) 20 - 40
  Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) 25
  Normison (temazepam) 18 - 30
  Rivitrol (clonazepam) 20 - 60
  Frisium (clobazepam) 18
  Euhypnos (temazepam) 10 - 15
  Tranxene (clorazapate) 2
Opiates Methadone 15 - 32
  Herion 8 - 12
  Temegesic (low dose buprenorphine) 1.2 - 7.5
  Morphine 3
Anti-depressants Trytanol/Endep (amitrityline) 12 - 36
  Deptran (doxepin) 17
  Prozac (fluoxetine) 60
  Tolvon (mianserin) 33
  Nardil/Parnate (phenelzine) 2
  Zoloft (sertraline) 26

Creature Comforts

There are several things you can do to make your detox more comfortable:

    *Drink plenty of water and other fluids (but limit coffee and alcohol). You need the extra fluid to help re-hydrate your body and help flush out the toxins from your system.
   * Eat regularly, even if you don’t feel like it at first. Avoid junk food and fatty fried foods. Stick to healthy food and lots of veges. There are a lot of good healthy foods out there that don’t take much or any preparation at all, and while      you’re in the worst phase of your detox, you wont feel like cooking so you need food that is quick and easy to prepare.
 * Have lots of towels near your bed so that you can just grab a clean dry one when the previous one gets too wet with sweat.

Staying Clean

If you’ve made it this far and decided to stay clean, there are several things you can do to make things easier for yourself.

    * Stay Busy. Boredom is one of the main reasons people get back into drugs. Once you’ve stopped using you’ll find you’ve got lots of time on your hands. If you can, get out of town for a week or so to give yourself time to decide     what you’re going to do. If you can’t get a job, try some voluntary work, or a sport or hobby. Maybe go back to school, do a course of some kind in a subject you’re interested in, train for a new career.
    *Avoid Other Drugs. It’s safest to avoid addictive drugs altogether. Swapping one for another will defeat the purpose of your detox. If you feel the need to use something and herbs and minerals don’t do it for you, then something     like marijuana is probably the safest option.

     *Find Some Support. Seek out friends that you can talk to when things get too heavy. Some people find organisations like Narcotics Annonymous (NA) useful. But they’re not for everyone. Good friends who may or may not be     ex-users can fulfil the same function.

     * Avoid Drug-taking Situations. Many people find that certain cues, or triggers, can start them thinking about using again. When you recognise them, avoid them like the plague!! Eventually you will have enough strength to be     able to deal with them.

    * Use Your Money Wisely. Maybe put some (or all) of the money you would have once spent using aside and save for something special, like that overseas trip, or car. You may need to spend some of it paying off debts     accumulated while you were using, but paying them off can be very satisfying in itself. Just don’t forget to reward yourself for it! Avoid having surplus cash around that’s easy to access, at least for a while.

If At First You Don’t Succeed...

The biggest problem with any kind of detoxing is not so much the physical symptoms but the headspace effects. The confusion, the cravings, the fears and all those emotions coming back can be extremely difficult to deal with. This is one of the reasons why it is good to get into the right frame of mind before you start to detox. There is a big difference between an enforced withdrawal because you’re out of gear or money and a planned withdrawal because you want to.

If you lapse, or relapse, don’t make a big deal out of it. You can always try again tomorrow. Be patient, it’s not easy. The world is full of ex-users, and they all got clean the same way – the hard way!