Drug Withdrawal: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

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While you may have heard of drug withdrawal, you may not know quite what it means.  Withdrawal by definition is, “a term used to describe the physical and mental symptoms that a person has when they suddenly stop or cut back the use of an addictive substance.” 

Withdrawal symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. The specific drug, length of use, and quantity it’s used in can significantly affect the kind of physical and mental symptoms that present during withdrawal.

Furthermore, if the person is willing, or unwilling to stop, this can affect the person’s withdrawal symptoms as well. 

How Long Does Drug Withdrawal Last?

Drug withdrawal can last from just 4 days to weeks at a time, depending on the drug type, length of use, health factors, and more. This process is best done at a detox or rehab facility that specializes in medical detox in order to prevent dangerous or even fatal instances of withdrawal symptoms. 

While people can sometimes be successful at withdrawing at home, in most moderate to severe drug use cases, this is not recommended. 

Detoxing at home puts you at risk for health hazards, and does not give you access to continued care like inpatient rehab or sober living. A rehab facility or treatment center can help you not only get sober safely but also give you the tools and treatments to stay sober. 

Drug Withdrawal Timeline

Drug withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person.  The biggest factors in determining how long drug withdrawal will last are the drug, the length of time it has been used, and the quantity being consumed. Age and health can also play a role in drug withdrawals.  

Below is the basic drug withdrawal timeline with these major groups of drugs.

  •  Short-Acting Opioids (heroin and certain prescription painkillers): withdrawal symptoms generally begin 8-24 hours after last use and last an average of 4-10 days.
  • Longer-acting opioids (methadone): withdrawal symptoms may take 2-4 days to emerge. Withdrawal will likely fade within a period of 10 days.
  • Benzodiazepines (Xanax and Valium): Withdrawal from benzos may start in 1-4 days after the last use, peaking in severity in the first 2 weeks. In some cases, some symptoms of prolonged withdrawal can remain for months or years if untreated.
  • Cocaine: depending on the method of use, acute withdrawal usually begins within 48 hours, and may last 3 days up to 3 weeks.  Crack cocaine has a faster rate of withdrawal.

While the length of time, and severity of the withdrawal from person to person varies, it is highly likely that the person engaging in drug use will be affected by withdrawal symptoms.  

Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

Drug withdrawal symptoms can vary from person to person, depending on their own specific frequency of use, type of drug, and other factors like health conditions. Symptoms vary widely, however when identifying signs of drug withdrawal you can look for a number of symptoms.

So what signs of drug withdrawal should you look for?

Signs of Drug Withdrawal

Sometimes it can be difficult to know if a person is going through drug withdrawals. When determining if someone is experiencing withdrawals, there are a few things specifically to look out for.  

Common withdrawal symptoms can include: 

  • Trembling and tremors
  • Muscle pain or aches
  • Change in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion and paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating 
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

What Does Drug Withdrawal Feel Like?

Drug withdrawals can be extremely uncomfortable. For that reason, it is common for people to simply use again, as the discomfort of not using can be unbearable.  

Often times drug withdrawals are characterized by muscle aches, exhaustion, freezing and sweating, and stomach pains. The mental withdrawals can be as (if not more) daunting as physical withdrawals.  

Acute withdrawals are the first to begin, and they are the call to use again.  As the body rids itself of the drug, the central nervous system is largely affected and therefore can throw the person into a state of mental and physical duress.  

Withdrawal Medication

 Withdrawals are quite difficult to endure, which is why people return to using their drug of choice.  

For many, getting sober alone at home doesn’t work, because the withdrawal symptoms are too painful, and using seems like the only option to ease symptoms. Luckily, there are prescribable medications that can help withdrawal symptoms, and make the process less painful.

A medical detox facility will likely be equipped with suboxone, and/or methadone. Both of these medications are short-term remedies to help with acute opioid withdrawals. They can be crucial in reducing the risk of relapse. 

It is important to remember that withdrawal symptoms will not last forever. In fact, withdrawal symptoms can be a good reminder of the drugs you no longer want in your system. 

Withdrawal Treatment at Ohio Recovery Center

At Ohio Recovery Center, we offer MAT, Medically Assisted Treatment. This is an evidence-based, proven care option that helps clients overcome the struggles they endure in early sobriety and withdrawal.

While MAT is not a cure for addiction, it is an important part of a comprehensive treatment plan.  Using these FDA-approved medications can ease withdrawal symptoms during some of the most crucial moments in early sobriety, and can set you on a good path. Momentum and confidence are important during this time, as many who find themselves in treatment haven’t been able to stop using successfully before.  

At Ohio Recovery Center, we understand that addiction is multifaceted and that there is no one size fits all treatment. We believe that each individual’s journey will be different, and we are well-prepared to provide you or your loved one with a customized treatment plan.Reach out to us today at Call 513-757-5000 to get your new drug-free life started!

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