Detoxing Before A Drug Test, “An Honest Guide To Drug Tests”

Written By Luke Potgieter MS BS - June 30th, 2019
Detoxing Before A Drug Test, “An Honest Guide To Drug Tests”

Drug abuse and addiction are significant problems for people and society in general. One may think of a drug addict as somebody who uses street drugs such as heroin or cocaine, but the reality is that many prescription drugs are also abused and addictive. What happens when it comes to detoxing, then?

Drug addiction negatively impacts every aspect of a person’s life from their livelihood, to the physical and psychological state. It is crucial that individuals seek help and attempt recovery if they are to have any hope of keeping a job and functioning in society without coming into conflict with the legal system.

Besides counseling and drug treatment centers, a person needs to detox. The drugs that have been abused by an individual need to be removed from the body, so in other words, the body needs to be detoxed.

Drugs are toxins that place a significant strain on the functioning of the kidneys and liver, and thus detoxing will have many benefits for a person. Besides no longer being under the influence of mind-altering substances, the body will physically be healthier.

Drug Testing and Employment

Consider that most employers do drug test potential employees before hiring, and you begin to realize the importance of being drug-free. It should also be remembered that alcohol is also a drug that is likely to be screened for. Individuals who need to use certain social services such as entering a homeless shelter are also usually screened for drug use, including alcohol.

Drug testing can be done in several ways.

Drug testing may take the form of urine samples or breathalyzers. Blood tests may also be done to detect abnormal drugs or unusually high levels of specified narcotic drugs.

Depending on the type of drug, it may stay in the body and be detected after a few days or even after several days. The sooner a person chooses to detox, the better as this will set them on the road to recovery and towards gaining employment.

There has been a great deal of publicity and information made available about the rise of opioid addiction. However, these are not the only drugs that are being abused or that people are addicted to. Individuals still use stimulant-type drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines.

Drug tests are designed to detect a range of drugs including stimulants and opioids, and may often include tests for prescription narcotics such as oxycodone, which are commonly abused.

Home Detoxing Options?

Depending on your personal situation, you may be able to take some steps towards detoxing at home on your own. Of course, this does depend on what drugs you have been taking and to what extent you are addicted to the substance. In some situations, it may not be a safe option for you, but if you are only slightly addicted, it may be a viable option to detox at home. For a person who is only lightly addicted to opiates, the home option may work fine.

Some individuals who only occasionally take drugs can potentially detox at home. Drinking lots of water can help to flush your system out, and it prevents dehydration. It is a good idea to avoid taking in any alcohol at this time regardless of what drug you are trying to flush out of your system since alcohol is simply one more toxic substance.

Some drugs take a long time to get out of your system, so this is a reason to start as soon as possible with your detox program. It is usually not a good idea to just suddenly stop taking a drug if you are addicted as sudden withdrawal can be shocking to the system, both physically and psychologically. It really depends on how badly a person is addicted as to how effective and safe a home detox option is. It may be wise to consult with a medical doctor before attempting to overcome drug addiction on your own, especially if you have been using for a long time.

Prescribing medication for home detox

In some cases, a doctor can also prescribe the drug Suboxone to take at home. This can work and be effective in an unsupervised setting with a patient using the medication while breaking their addiction at home1.

It can take some time to rid your system of drugs, and some chemicals stay in the body for quite a long time. Cocaine can remain in the body for 48 hours, and the THC of Cannabis can be detected for as long as 12 weeks after using. Eating healthy fruits and vegetables and drinking lots of water can only benefit the body during this time.

Detoxing is important in not only breaking you of your addiction but in helping to cleanse your body of toxins. Over time and as we age, our body becomes more susceptible to disease, and so the sooner a person begins a healthy lifestyle, the better.

Detoxing in a Clinical Setting

Methadone clinics are useful for patients who are seriously addicted to many types of drugs, including cocaine2, and researchers in London have found that some individuals were able to detox from opiates on their own. Although 61% of patients said, they had tried self-detoxification, only about 41% were successful in the short term3.

Should methadone be used for short-term or long-term detox?

Methadone is a recommended treatment for short term detox of heroin4. It helps patients get over the hardest parts of drug withdrawal; however, methadone itself is a type of opioid. It is thus important that patients do not remain on methadone since they may end up replacing the heroin with the methadone as their drug of choice.

Some scientists recommend using a combination of methadone and clonidine since patients experience less anxiety and can be detoxed in about ten days with this combination of medication4.

A study was done in which patients in California were sent to either a 21-day methadone detoxification program or a 6-month methadone maintenance program 5. Patients were carefully tapered off the methadone, and the heroin use was compared among the two groups.

Can Alcohol Detoxing Be Safely Done at Home?

Long-term users of alcohol can suffer severe withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop drinking on their own. This can actually be dangerous, so it is advisable that the person seek medical help with the detox process.

Medication such as carbamazepine or lorazepam is often used to alleviate serious symptoms that result when a person is withdrawing from alcohol6. The first step in recovering from alcohol addiction is to detox in a medical facility, and then complete follow up treatment, including counseling.

Alcohol detox can be dangerous and thus should always be done in an approved medical facility where the person can be closely monitored.


  1. Bell, James, et al. A pilot study of buprenorphine—naloxone combination tablet (Suboxone®) in treatment of opioid dependence. Drug and Alcohol Review. 3 (2004): 311-317.
  2. Sigmon, S. C., Correia, C. J., & Stitzer, M. L. (2004). Cocaine abstinence during methadone maintenance: effects of repeated brief exposure to voucher-based reinforcement. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 12(4), 269.
  3. Noble, A., Best, D., Man, L. H., Gossop, M., & Strang, J. (2002). Self-detoxification attempts among methadone maintenance patients: what methods and what success? Addictive Behaviors, 27(4), 575-584.
  4. Camí, J., de Torres, S., San, L., Solé, À., Guerra, D., & Ugena, B. (1985). Efficacy of clonidine and of methadone in the rapid detoxification of patients dependent on heroin. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 38(3), 336-341.
  5. Gruber, V. A., Delucchi, K. L., Kielstein, A., & Batki, S. L. (2008). A randomized trial of 6-month methadone maintenance with standard or minimal counseling versus 21-day methadone detoxification. Drug and alcohol dependence, 94(1-3), 199-206.
  6. Malcolm, R., Myrick, H., Roberts, J., Wang, W., & Anton, R. F. (2002). The differential effects of medication on mood, sleep disturbance, and work ability in outpatient alcohol detoxification. American Journal on Addictions, 11(2), 141-150.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.