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What Are Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms?

People planning to quit using drugs or alcohol may think of withdrawal in terms of time and type of symptoms. The time element is about how quickly symptoms will begin appearing and how long they will last. Becoming aware of the type of symptoms is really about understanding the potential severity of each one. Today, we’re going to look at some of the common withdrawal symptoms for drug and alcohol use. Also, we’ll share some guidance on why getting professional help before the withdrawal process begins is important.

What are addiction withdrawal symptoms? Some of the most common symptoms of withdrawal from drugs and alcohol include insomnia, anxiety, nausea, and restlessness. Acute symptoms can last several days to a week or two. Symptoms from alcohol withdrawal can begin in a matter of hours. Protracted withdrawal symptoms can last several months.

Some addiction withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening. In cases of alcohol withdrawal, it’s recommended to only experience withdrawal under medical supervision to reduce the risk of complications from delirium tremens (DTs), such as visual and auditory hallucinations.

Common Drug Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms

The duration and severity of withdrawal symptoms from drug addiction can be affected by several factors. The type of drug used is one variable. Another is how deeply impacted a person is by their substance use.

Withdrawal from some prescription painkillers (and other short-acting opioids) can begin in as little as 8 hours and last 4-10 days on average. The symptoms can be unpleasant and uncomfortable. Nervousness or anxiety and sleep trouble are a few examples. Flu-like symptoms can begin, too. Nausea, diarrhea, and muscle cramps are possible as well. Hot and cold flashes and a runny nose are more examples of opioid withdrawal. Quitting longer-acting opioids (e.g., methadone) can take longer for withdrawal symptoms to appear. It’s often 2-4 days, and symptoms can last up to 10 days.

Addiction withdrawal from benzodiazepines begins within 1-4 days and can last a week or two for acute cases. Extended withdrawal, also called protracted, can have people withdrawing from benzos experiencing symptoms for months. At times, the symptoms may disappear and then return suddenly with protracted withdrawal. The list of potential symptoms from benzos withdrawal is quite long and includes anxiety, irritability, and restlessness. Other symptoms can involve hand tremors, hyperventilation, and headaches. Panic attacks and depression can appear during benzos withdrawal, too.

Common Alcohol Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms

For heavy use of alcohol, withdrawal can begin as soon as several hours after a last drink. Someone with an alcohol use disorder may experience these symptoms while drinking less or stopping altogether for a brief period. The brain’s response to the changes in alcohol intake show up in different ways over time.

STAGE 1: Anxiety, nausea, and hand tremors may appear in the first stage of alcohol withdrawal. Heart palpitations and gastrointestinal disturbances may also begin within 6-12 hours after the last drink.

STAGE 2: If untreated on the first day, new symptoms will begin to appear. Blood pressure can go up. Heart rate may increase. These kinds of moderate symptoms can be accompanied by abnormal breathing, confusion, and mild hypothermia. They may last a few days, too.

STAGE 3: Left untreated, stage 2 addiction withdrawal symptoms can last a week or more as more severe symptoms begin to emerge. These can be hallucinations, visual or auditory. Some people will experience impaired attention and disorientation. Seizures are possible, too.

When to Seek Professional Help for You Or A Loved One

The best time to seek professional help for substance use is before withdrawal from substance use begins. In some cases, the end of drug use may be planned. In other cases, it may be reached when a person no longer has access to drugs or alcohol. In either situation, getting help can make a big difference in how the withdrawal process looks and feels.

One main difference comes from choosing a medically supervised detox. A person under the care of medical professionals can safely move through withdrawal symptoms. They avoid the complications that can occur when attempting to detox at home.

With alcohol use disorders, complications from delirium tremens (DTs) are a threat, too. The hallucinations and seizures mentioned above can be part of the DTs a person in alcohol or addiction withdrawal experiences. Although they are not as common as other symptoms, these can be fatal. It’s recommended that anyone attempting to quit drinking do it under the supervision of doctors in a facility equipped for providing a safe detoxification process.


Origins Behavioral Healthcare is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1296.

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If you or someone you love has a substance use or mental health disorder, Origins Behavioral HealthCare can help. We will work alongside you to provide the most comprehensive treatment available.