What Are the Most Common Drug Withdrawal Symptoms?
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Deciding to stop taking a substance is a significant step in the path to sobriety. But withdrawal from any substance can lead to uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous symptoms. Being aware of the symptoms of drug withdrawal and knowing how to manage them can make the process easier.

We will explore what happens to your body during drug withdrawal and the most common drug withdrawal symptoms to look out for. We’ll also share information on how Ember Recovery can help your teen if they need addiction treatment and help with withdrawal symptoms.

How the Body Reacts from Withdrawal from a Substance

When you start to take a substance, you begin to change your body’s balance. In response, your body is forced to adjust, which includes changing the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain.[1] Whatever substance you begin to take also impacts your brain’s reward system.

After taking a substance for a long time, your body can build tolerance. This means you need more of your drug of choice to achieve the same effects that you previously had, taking smaller doses. When you become dependent on a drug, your body requires the substance to avoid withdrawal effects. When you stop taking the drug, your body is thrown off balance again, resulting in various withdrawal symptoms.

Common Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

People can experience several different types of drug withdrawal symptoms no matter what kind of substance they may have been taking.

Withdrawal symptoms can depend on several circumstances[2]:

  • Age
  • Physical Health
  • Mental & Emotional State
  • Withdrawal Process
  • Type of substance and how long you were using it

Symptoms of withdrawal can have both physical and mental effects. It’s important to recognize both because not everyone has the same symptoms.

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

Physical withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Runny nose
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Cravings

Mental Withdrawal Symptoms

There are also mental withdrawal symptoms to be aware of, such as:

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

It’s important to remember that some people may experience minimal withdrawal symptoms that are not severe, while other people may have several high-impact symptoms. No matter what type of symptoms and their severity, you want to be able to monitor the symptoms and get your loved one help when they need it.

How Long Do Symptoms of Drug Withdrawal Last?

Just as people will experience different symptoms, the duration of the withdrawal symptoms will vary from patient to patient. Here’s a look at the typical time it takes to withdraw from specific substances:


Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can start anywhere within several hours after the last drink and peak 24-72 hours after.[3] Since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, abruptly quitting can have dangerous consequences. People with severe alcohol dependence can increase the likelihood of getting a seizure when trying to quit “cold turkey.”

Short-Acting Opioids

Short-acting opioids cover heroin and some prescription painkillers. Withdrawal symptoms can start anywhere from 8-24 hours after someone stops taking them, lasting anywhere from 4-10 days.

Longer-Action Opioids

Methadone is included in this group, and withdrawal symptoms can take 2-4 days to emerge. They typically last for up to 10 days.[4]


Benzodiazepines cover drugs such as Xanax and Valium. These drugs depress the central nervous system and work on the brain by increasing activity at receptors for the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA.[5] Withdrawal symptoms can start anywhere from 1-4 days after someone stops taking the drug. They usually peak in the first two weeks.


When someone abruptly stops using cocaine, they can experience severe and negative mood changes. A dependent user can experience cocaine withdrawal within the first day of their last use. Withdrawal symptoms can last weeks.

How to Manage Withdrawal Symptoms

There are several things that people can do to manage their withdrawal symptoms. If your loved one is experiencing withdrawal symptoms, they can do the following:


Getting physical activity can help to boost a person’s mood.

Eating Healthy

Regularly eating well-balanced meals can help fill your body with protein and the nutrients it needs to recover from drug withdrawal symptoms. Avoiding caffeine, fatty and processed foods is also beneficial.

Drink Plenty of Water

Staying hydrated is essential during withdrawal.

Get Enough Sleep

Although some people may experience sleeping difficulties as a result of withdrawal, getting enough sleep is important. Work to establish a regular sleep schedule and always practice good sleep habits.

Stress Management

Yoga and meditation are often recommended to help people deal with the symptoms of withdrawal. These can help to relax you and lower your anxiety.

In some cases, medication is needed to help manage withdrawal symptoms. Medical supervision is recommended if this is the case.

Seeking Help for Withdrawal Symptoms

There are many instances when withdrawal symptoms because dangerous and even life-threatening. If your loved one experiences any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention right away [1]:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Delusions
  • Trouble breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

If you are unsure if your loved one should seek medical attention, it is always best to be cautious and get them checked out. You also want to support your loved one during the process and let them know they can rely on you. This can also make the withdrawal process more manageable. Being patient and understanding is also beneficial for your loved one during withdrawal.

Treatment at Ember Recovery

At Ember Recovery, we offer drug treatment programs specifically for teenagers. We focus on the battles they face during recovery and can also help them handle withdrawal symptoms.

Our residential youth programs provide a comfortable and home-like atmosphere for teens to battle their substance abuse disorders and the withdrawal symptoms that can occur. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs and how they can help your teen get on the path to sobriety. Our experienced and professional staff is here for you and your family 24/7.



[1] https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-withdrawal-how-long-does-it-last-63036

[2] https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/addiction-withdrawal-symptoms

[3] https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000764.htm

[4] https://www.elsevier.com/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/537031/opioid-withdrawal-ClinicalKey.pdf

[5] https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/what-classes-prescription-drugs-are-commonly-misused