Common Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

Drug withdrawal can occur when a person who has used drugs or alcohol stops taking the substance and experiences symptoms due to the filtering of the drug from their system. Withdrawal is more likely if the individual has built up a tolerance to the substance.1

The withdrawal symptoms experienced as well as the severity of the symptoms will depend on factors such as tolerance, type of drug, and how someone’s body reacts to the drug and the withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can become unbearable, and a person may begin using the substance again to avoid the effects.1

Below, you’ll learn more about:

  • What withdrawal is.
  • Common withdrawal symptoms that effect the physical body as well as mental ability.
  • Withdrawal timelines of common substances.
  • How to safely detox from a substance to avoid or manage dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

What Is Withdrawal?

Withdrawal is a set of substance-specific symptoms that occur when an individual abruptly slows or stops use of a substance (or substances), particularly if use is prolonged or long-term.4

One characteristic of drug addiction is drug dependence.3 When someone uses drugs regularly, their body adapts to the drug requiring more of it to experience its effects. This adaptation is called “tolerance.” Once tolerance to a substance has occurred, a person is likely to experience withdrawal symptoms.1,3

Common Physical Symptoms of Drug Withdrawal

Drug withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the type of drug that was used. Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild physical discomfort to severe life-threatening symptoms such as seizures or cardiovascular collapse. In general, a handful of common physical withdrawal symptoms include:4

  • Sweating and/or chills.
  • Headaches.
  • Stomach and digestion problems (e.g.,abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.)
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Problems sleeping, including insomnia and/or fatigue.
  • Rapid heart rate and palpitations.

More severe physical withdrawal symptoms can include seizures, which can happen in benzodiazepine, stimulant, and alcohol withdrawal.4

Common Psychological Symptoms of Drug Withdrawal

Drug withdrawal has both physical and emotional symptoms. Some substances, like alcohol, may also have intense emotional withdrawal symptoms. Some common psychological symptoms include:4

  • Irritability.
  • Mood changes or mood swings.
  • Feeling unsettled or unstable.
  • Intense fear disproportionate to societal norms.
  • Intense feelings of sadness.
  • Inability to feel pleasure.
  • Confusion or difficulty thinking clearly.
  • Poor concentration.

Irritability is a symptom of many different substances’ withdrawal syndromes.4 During drug withdrawal, individuals often have trouble thinking clearly and concentrating, and short-term memory functions may be impaired.

Individuals may be at a higher risk for depression, leading to suicidal thoughts, ideations, or actions during drug withdrawal, making medical detox and professional help all the more necessary.4

Levels of various neurotransmitters that help to regulate moods, induce feelings of happiness, and are crucial for learning habits, are impacted by drug abuse and dependence.5, 6 During drug withdrawal, the body may be depleted of these neurotransmitters, which contributes to individuals feeling some of these symptoms.

Medical Detox for Managing Withdrawal Symptoms

Detoxing from any substance can be an uncomfortable, difficult process. Although quitting “cold turkey” is possible for some people, it is not safe in all instances and may not be as effective in the long term.4 A study comparing individuals who quit drinking “cold turkey” versus those who sought help found that those quitting without assistance were less likely to achieve sobriety for a three-year period and were more likely to relapse.4, 7

A medically supervised detox allows the patient to be monitored and kept safe and comfortable during the withdrawal process. This is important for users detoxing from drugs that carry dangerous and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.4

Variables in Substance Withdrawal

Drug withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person, and their severity largely relies on the level of dependence on the drug. The longer a person has used the drug in question, the more severe the potential dependency. Drug withdrawal symptoms can also be severe if the user consumes higher doses.

The route of administration, the amount used at a time, and polydrug (using more than one drug at time) abuse can all influence drug dependency and may complicate withdrawal and treatment. Biological factors, such as metabolism, age, gender, and any medical or mental health conditions, also play a role in the intensity of drug withdrawal.

Genetics and personal or family history of addiction also factors in. Environmental aspects, like home life and exposure to trauma and stress, can also influence the severity of drug dependence and therefore the significance and duration of the withdrawal syndrome.

Withdrawal Timeline

Drug withdrawal may begin as soon as the drug stops being active in a person’s body, and differs depending on the drug involved.4 Typically, opioid withdrawal begins about 12 hours after the last dose (closer to 30 hours for longer-acting opioids like methadone), the National Library of Medicine (NLM) reports. Stimulant drugs like cocaine are usually fast-acting and wear off quickly, so withdrawal symptoms may start sooner.

For most drugs, withdrawal symptoms typically peak within the first few days of stopping use and then start to gradually lessen over time. However, withdrawal timelines can vary due to the variables mentioned above.

After acute withdrawal, symptoms are mostly resolved, although sometimes people may suffer from protracted, or chronic, withdrawal. Protracted withdrawal syndrome can include:12

  • Ongoing drug cravings.
  • Sleep and mood disturbances.
  • Irritability.
  • Physical pain.
  • Decreased energy levels.
  • An inability to feel pleasure.
  • Difficulties with memory and the ability to think clearly.

Protracted withdrawal may continue for several weeks or even months without professional help.12

The presence of co-occurring mental health disorders simultaneously with drug dependence and addiction can complicate and exacerbate withdrawal symptoms. When co-occurring disorders are present, integrated and comprehensive care models work to manage the side effects of both disorders at the same time, as each disorder may contribute to the other.13

Getting Admitted to a Medical Detox Center in Mississippi

Drug withdrawal symptoms can be successfully managed with the help of medications and a high level of supportive care that is provided through a medical detox program and follow-up treatment.

Don’t let the devastating side effects of addiction go on for another day. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and are ready to start the treatment process, call us today at . At our drug and alcohol rehab in Etta, MS our compassionate team use addiction-focused whole person healthcare to help people get on the road to recovery.

Contact our knowledgeable admissions navigators today to learn more about our different levels of care, rehab payment options, how to start the admissions process, and using your insurance coverage for rehab.



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