Drug Withdrawal: What to Expect When Withdrawing From Drugs

Drug WithdrawalShape

Drug withdrawal is often a major obstacle on the road to recovery, but it doesn't have to be. Learn about the various kinds of drug withdrawal today.

Coping with drug withdrawal can be an intensely challenging experience, both physically and emotionally. If you or someone you care about is beginning this journey towards recovery, understanding the symptoms, underlying causes, and treatment options is crucial.

This article aims to equip you with the knowledge and resources needed to navigate the complexities of withdrawal safely and effectively.

What Is Drug Withdrawal?

Drug withdrawal refers to the symptoms and physiological changes experienced by an individual after withdrawing from or decreasing their consumption of an addictive drug, whether prescribed medication, illicit substances, caffeine, or nicotine.

Drug withdrawal symptoms may arise with various substances, including prescription, illicit and certain supplements like caffeine and nicotine.

Why Is Understanding Drug Withdrawal So Important?

Understanding drug withdrawal is crucial for persons suffering from substance abuse or addiction because it allows them to anticipate and plan for any challenges they may face during recovery.

Proper drug withdrawal treatment can enhance a person's recovery experience, increase the likelihood of long-term sobriety, and reduce the danger of relapse.

Common Symptoms of Drug Withdrawal

Drug withdrawal has distinct physical and mental symptoms.

Physical Symptoms of Drug Withdrawal

  • Nausea and vomiting: Many individuals experience stomach discomfort and may vomit during drug withdrawal.

  • Sweating and chills: Sweating excessively or experiencing cold chills is a common physical symptom.

  • Tremors and muscle aches: Shaking and muscle pain are often present during drug withdrawal.

  • Headaches: Intense headaches may arise as your body adjusts to life without medication. Increased heart rate and blood pressure: Withdrawal may cause changes to both heart rate and blood pressure levels.

Mental Symptoms of Drug Withdrawal

  • Anxiety and panic attacks: Many individuals suffer from increased anxiety and may experience panic attacks during withdrawal.

  • Depression and sadness: Feelings of sadness and a lack of motivation are common during drug withdrawal.

  • Irritability and agitation: Withdrawal can lead to irritability and difficulty controlling anger or frustration.

  • Mood swings: During withdrawal, mood swings can range from exhilaration to intense despair.

  • Cognitive problems: During withdrawal, you can have trouble paying attention, remembering things, or making decisions.

Behavioral Symptoms of Drug Withdrawal

  • Extreme cravings for the drug and a strong desire to use it: During withdrawal, the desire to use it may be overwhelming.

  • Restlessness and agitation: Many individuals experience a sense of restlessness and may struggle to relax.

  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances: Difficulties falling or staying asleep are common during withdrawal.

  • Changes in appetite: Some individuals may experience increased or decreased appetite during drug withdrawal.

  • Social isolation: People going through withdrawal may isolate themselves from others due to discomfort or shame.

Find Hope at The Forge Recovery Center

Our admissions coordinators are standing by 24/7 to answer your questions, provide guidance, and schedule an initial assessment. Let us help you determine if our programs are the right fit to meet your needs.


What Causes Drug Withdrawal?

Over time, the body gets used to the presence of addictive substances. When those substances leave the body, they throw our systems into chaos as our bodies try to recalibrate themselves. This causes withdrawal symptoms.

  • Prolonged drug abuse: Prolonged drug abuse can lead to physical and psychological dependence.

  • Neurochemical Shifts: Drugs alter brain chemistry, leading to adaptations and, thus, higher doses being required to reach desired effects, leading to dependence.

  • Cold turkey withdrawal: Suddenly stopping drug use without tapering off or seeking medical assistance can trigger withdrawal symptoms.

  • Rapid reduction of dosage: Drastically reducing the dosage of a drug can also lead to withdrawal symptoms as the body adjusts.

Individual Factors that Cause Drug Withdrawal

  • Genetic predisposition: Some individuals may possess genetic vulnerabilities that increase their risk of drug dependence and more intense withdrawal symptoms.

  • Co-occurring mental health disorders: People living with anxiety or depression may be more vulnerable to developing substance dependence and experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

  • Overall health and lifestyle: Poor physical health, insufficient sleep, insufficient nutrition, and elevated stress levels can significantly exacerbate and prolong drug withdrawal symptoms.

  • Previous experiences with withdrawal: Individuals who have gone through withdrawal in the past may experience more intense withdrawal symptoms during subsequent episodes.

Understanding the causes of drug withdrawal is integral in devising appropriate treatment plans and support systems designed to assist individuals through withdrawal successfully and bring about a full recovery.

Types of Drugs Associated with Withdrawal

All addictive drugs can cause withdrawal symptoms. Some drugs, like opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol, can have very serious symptoms, including seizures.


Severe physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal from heroin and other opioids include intense cravings, muscle aches, nausea, anxiety, and insomnia. The withdrawal symptoms from opioid painkillers, like hydrocodone or oxycodone, are comparable to those from heroin and can be challenging to treat.


Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be harmful, even fatal, and necessitates medical supervision throughout the procedure. Rebound anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, tremors, and seizures are symptoms that might be present in serious circumstances.


Extreme cravings, depression, tiredness, and sleep difficulties are some common signs of cocaine and meth withdrawal. Amphetamine withdrawal symptoms include increased hunger, irritability, anxiety, and depression.


Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from moderate to severe. In the worst cases, they can cause Delirium Tremens (DT), a potentially fatal illness. Tremors, anxiety, sweating, nausea, hallucinations, and seizures are a few examples of such signs and symptoms.

Other Substances

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms are typically milder, including irritation, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, and mood changes. Although hallucinogens such as LSD or psilocybin mushrooms do not often produce physical withdrawal symptoms, they can cause psychological pain and a lengthy "comedown" period after consumption.

It is important to note that the severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms vary depending on individual characteristics such as drug use duration and intensity, overall health state, and any co-occurring illnesses. Obtaining professional assistance with withdrawal management is critical in any substance-specific situation.

Treatment Options for Drug Withdrawal

Going through drug withdrawal alone is miserable. It’s also unsafe and a lot less likely to be successful. With the right help, however, it's a less difficult experience.

Medical Detoxification

  • Inpatient detox programs: Inpatient programs provide 24/7 medical supervision and support in a controlled environment. Healthcare professionals monitor withdrawal symptoms, manage complications, and provide medications to alleviate discomfort.

  • Outpatient detox programs: Outpatient programs offer medical support while allowing individuals to stay at home. Regular check-ins with healthcare professionals ensure proper management of withdrawal symptoms.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Substance abuse medicine approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the mainstay of MAT. Opioid dependence is typically treated with methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone. Commonly recommended drugs for alcoholism include naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram. Regular medical checkups and visits are essential to track improvement, alter medication levels, and offer encouragement during the healing process.

Counseling and Therapy

  • Individual therapy: Individual counseling sessions allow individuals to explore underlying issues, develop coping mechanisms and set recovery goals.

  • Group therapy: Group sessions provide a supportive atmosphere where individuals can share their experiences, gain new perspectives from others and receive encouragement and advice.

Support Groups and Peer Support

Addiction rehabilitation programs may include participating in a support group or other peer assistance. In a safe and accepting setting, people with substance abuse problems can meet others going through the same things and learn from one another's experiences. These treatment options can be combined to form an individualized, holistic drug withdrawal and recovery strategy.

Working closely with healthcare professionals and addiction specialists is essential in designing the optimal plan to meet individual needs; recovery is an ongoing journey requiring support and dedication from everyone involved.

Are You Struggling with Mental Health or Addiction?

We Can Help. Call Us Now!

CALL: 877-839-1772

Coping Strategies for Drug Withdrawal

Withdrawal is much less difficult when done with professional help. There’s also a few simple things anyone can do to make the process of drug withdrawal even easier.

Self-Care Practices

  • Regular exercise can enhance overall well-being by reducing stress and boosting happiness.

  • Eating balanced meals and drinking enough water supports the body's ability to recover and produce energy.

  • Adequate sleep: Establishing and practicing good sleep hygiene practices can significantly enhance quality and speed up recovery.

Stress Management Techniques

  • Mindfulness and meditation: Mindfulness can help reduce stress and increase self-awareness during withdrawal.

  • Breathing exercises: Deep, slow breathing can relax and help you cope with stress and anxiety.

  • By gradually tensing and relaxing each muscle group, progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce physical stress and promote relaxation.

Engaging in Enjoyable Activities and Hobbies

  • Enjoy hobbies, creative endeavors, or time outdoors. Do things that make you happy.

  • Find new interests: Engage in hobbies or activities that give you a sense of fulfillment and purpose, enhancing your sense of purpose in life.

Building a Strong Support System

  • Seek support from loved ones: Be honest about your troubles and ask trusted relatives and friends for help.

  • Attend support group meetings regularly to connect with others who are recovering and exchange experiences, advice, and support.

Seeking Professional Help

  • Therapy and counseling: Attend individual or group therapy to discuss your problems, develop coping mechanisms, and get expert advice.

  • Consult medical specialists: If you have any questions or difficulties while going through withdrawal, speak with an addiction specialist or a medical professional.

It might be challenging to reduce drug withdrawal symptoms. Hence, being patient and gentle to yourself throughout the process is essential. Celebrate even the tiniest successes and ask for assistance when necessary. With the correct techniques and assistance, going through drug withdrawal and living a happy, drug-free life is possible. Recovery is a journey.

Importance of Long-Term Recovery

Drug withdrawal is only the beginning of recovery. Recovery itself is a lifelong state that needs to be carefully managed. Addiction centers like The Forge Recovery Center can help you maintain your recovery.

Understanding the Risk of Relapse

  • Identifying personal triggers that may result in relapses, such as stress, particular surroundings, or social circumstances, might help people develop appropriate coping mechanisms.

  • Developing relapse prevention techniques Through counseling or support groups, people can learn techniques to boost resilience and give them practical tools for controlling cravings and sustaining sobriety.

Developing a Comprehensive Aftercare Plan

  • Care continuum: Moving from detoxification and early therapy to long-term aftercare is essential for long-term recovery. This can entail switching from intense programs to outpatient counseling or treatment.

  • Supportive Services: People can get direction, encouragement, and accountability during recovery by regularly accessing ongoing support services, including therapy, counseling, and support groups.

  • Treating Co-occurring Disorders: Successful long-term recovery depends on treating mental health issues that may have fueled substance misuse.

Maintaining Healthy Habits and Lifestyle Changes

  • Support for sobriety: Attending regular support meetings, 12-step programs, or other sober communities can provide a sense of community and a connection to others on the same journey.

  • Good coping techniques: People can manage stress and emotional difficulties without using drugs or alcohol by adopting and practicing good coping strategies, including exercise, mindfulness, journaling, or creative outlets.

  • Positive connections and environments: Long-term recovery can be aided by surrounding oneself with uplifting influences while avoiding people, settings, or circumstances that might serve as relapse triggers.

Long-term recovery is a lifelong process that requires participants to be committed, reflective, and actively involved. People can build a solid foundation for long-lasting recovery that results in meaningful lives free from drugs or alcohol by identifying the risk of relapse, creating an aftercare plan, and implementing healthy behaviors and lifestyle adjustments.

Feel Like Drug Withdrawal Is Too Hard? Help Is Available

As you navigate the complexities of drug withdrawal, remember that you are not alone in this struggle. At The Forge Recovery Center, we are dedicated to providing the guidance and support you need to overcome withdrawal symptoms and move toward a healthier future. Whether you're seeking help for yourself or a loved one today, our expert team is here to offer compassionate care and comprehensive treatment options.

Contact The Forge Recovery Center now and take the first step on your journey to recovery. Your new beginning starts here.

Are You Struggling with Mental Health or Addiction?

We Can Help. Call Us Now!

CALL: 877-839-1772

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

June 13, 2024

Frequently Asked Questions