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 (877) 679-2132 to get your new drug-free life started!

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn