Drug and Alcohol - Addiction Recovery

Withdrawal: How Long Does Withdrawal Last and More About Withdrawal Symptoms

How long does withdrawal last? Withdrawal symptoms vary based on many different factors. However, withdrawal is much safer and effective with help.

How Long Does Withdrawal From Drugs & Alcohol Last?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

October 14, 2023

The Forge Recovery Center

Breaking free from addiction or dependence can be a monumental challenge. Still, the journey doesn't end once you decide to quit. As you take those brave steps towards recovery, an inevitable question looms:

How Long Does Withdrawal Last?

The answer to this seemingly simple question is far from straightforward, as the duration and intensity of withdrawal symptoms can vary drastically depending on numerous factors. In this article, we'll unravel the puzzle of withdrawal timelines, shedding light on what you can expect as you navigate the path to healing and reclaiming your life. 

What is Withdrawal?

One of the reasons that the consumption of drugs can cause addiction is that it alters the brain's reward region and imbalances delicate chemicals. The part of the brain responsible for the naturally existing neurotransmitter dopamine is known as the reward center. Dopamine conditions our behavior and forces the consumer to consume the substance/item that causes the release of dopamine, which makes them joyful. Over time this becomes a pattern.

Over time, because of using drugs over a continued period, the brain trains our body to behave in a certain way. As a result, releasing excessive dopamine is not a normal phenomenon. It does not allow the reuptake of the already present dopamine in the body. This results in the exhaustion of the natural dopamine present in the body, which is present in the body. 

The process of going through withdrawal occurs when we try to kick our drug habit by denying our bodies access to the substance they have become dependent on. The physical and mental signs accompanying the process of the human body adapting to the absence of a substance from its system are referred to as withdrawal. The withdrawal from many medicines involves both physical and chemical symptoms. The withdrawal from practically every medication involves the mind as well.

Why is Withdrawal So Difficult?

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that over 11 percent of American adults and adolescents aged 12 and older had used illegal drugs within the previous month before being polled. After prolonged use, people usually develop strong withdrawal symptoms, making it difficult for the patient to recover fully without relapsing. It is usually an unpleasant experience when you're trying to withdraw or leave the addiction to alcohol or drugs.

People trying to get rid of alcohol and drug addiction experience withdrawal symptoms, which depend on multiple factors. Primarily the drug that the patient is addicted to has the largest role in the appearance of symptoms or the experience of symptoms. However, other factors like genetics metabolism and genetics also play a role in the experience of withdrawal symptoms.

Usually, when it comes to the first experience of withdrawal signs, it can appear within an hour, a few hours, or days after the last use of the drug. However, if the addiction has been severe regarding certain drugs, the long-term drawl symptoms may last several months.

When a patient tries to get clean, it's easier to start using drugs or alcohol again. The reason is that withdrawal has many unpleasant and sometimes painful effects. Physician-assisted detox programs, also known as medical detox, make withdrawal symptoms less painful and treat any that could be dangerous.

After detox, a treatment program like partial or complete hospitalization or intense outpatient helps with long-term withdrawal symptoms and teaches you how to live a sober life.

What Are Withdrawal Symptoms?

The symptoms of detoxing from substances might vary greatly from one substance to another based on what was being consumed. Shuddering and tremors are two common signs of withdrawal from an addictive substance.

Other symptoms include:

  • Aching or soreness in the muscles

  • Or a decrease in appetite due to hunger

  • Fatigue

  • Sweating

  • Easily irritated and highly agitated

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Confusion

  • Insomnia

  • Paranoia

  • Seizures

  • Dilated pupils

CTA background

We’re here to help you find your way

Would you like more information about mental health or drug addiction? Reach out today.

How Long Does Withdrawal Last: The Various Phases of Withdrawal

  • Acute Withdrawal Period: During this period, the symptoms begin or are most intense for the patient to experience. The acute withdrawal period lasts from a couple of days to a week.

  • Protracted Withdrawal Period: During this withdrawal phase, when the symptoms start to become unbearable, that is the same point where they start to fade.

  • Prolonged Withdrawal Period: Unfortunately, some people experience prolonged withdrawal symptoms, known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS. PAWS can last for months or even years.

Understanding how these stages progress is essential since knowing what to anticipate can assist you and the people you care about in putting the appropriate therapy and backing in place. It is also important to understand why withdrawal symptoms happen in patients dealing with addiction and who are trying to get rid of it.

It is not obvious or evident why one person's experience differs from another's; however, some factors would help you to know the particularities of the effect you might experience:

  • The kind of drug the patient was using

  • How tolerant a person was to the drug

However, some experiences are similar across all forms of substance withdrawal symptoms.

Rebound Effects

Medication was initially developed to treat and suppress these symptoms. After you discontinue the medication, the symptoms return in full force. For instance, while withdrawing from opioids, you may have substantial pain; when withdrawing from benzodiazepines, you may experience anxiety; and when withdrawing from stimulants, you may experience lethargy.

Decreased Tolerance

This happens quite quickly during the withdrawal process. If you go back into old habits, you put yourself at risk of overdosing because your tolerance has decreased.

Depression

One of the most prevalent sides of withdrawal effects is a loss of drive or an inability to perceive pleasure. "Anhedonia" refers to the incapacity to experience joy or contentment. It manifests itself in recovering addicts since their brains were rewired to produce excessive dopamine, sometimes known as the "feel-good chemical." People discover that they cannot experience joy when no dopamine exists in their bodies.

The patients also experience changes in their nervous system. The symptoms might include: 

  • Irregular heartbeats

  • Irregular breathing

  • Blood pressure change

Withdrawal Duration

It is usually anticipated that people who have been using the same form of the drug would have signs of drawls during the same time when they quit. However, the types of drugs that the patient is using and the fashion in which the drug is being consumed are also crucial in determining the overall timetable of the withdrawal.

It is important to understand that the restart and the final resolution of the toxic detoxification process are different in different people due to the differences they have in their substance use, the physical as well as mental health of the patients, if they have experienced drawl symptoms in the past, or the intensity of their addiction to the draft. Generally speaking, the detoxification process can range from a few days to a few weeks.

Sometimes comparing the timings is feasible, but experiences are entirely different. Moreover, when it comes to protracted withdrawal symptoms that usually stay beyond the acute withdrawal time, they are even more problematic and tough to predict.

How Long Do Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

The time it takes for withdrawal symptoms to set in varies significantly from medication to drug. A timeframe for withdrawal can also be affected by other circumstances, including the following: What is the normal dosage of the medicine that you take?

  • How the patient consumed it (snorting, injecting, or any other method, for that matter)

  • Whether they used it in conjunction with other substances

  • The length of time spent using the drug

  • Genetic makeup, metabolic rate, and weight are personal aspects to consider

CTA background

We’re here to help you find your way

Do you have more questions about mental health or drug addiction? Reach out.

Some Typical Withdrawal Periods

Withdrawal is different for everybody, but different drugs have different withdrawal effects, too.

Short-Acting Opioids

These include painkillers available by prescription and heroin and other illicit substances. Withdrawal symptoms from short-acting opioids typically start anywhere from eight hours to a day after the drug has been discontinued. Depending on how severely addicted a person is, the withdrawal process might last anywhere from four to ten days.

Long-Acting Opioids

Typically, it takes between forty-eight and ninety-six hours for withdrawal symptoms to appear when using longer-acting opioids On the other hand, withdrawal symptoms will often start to subside after around ten days.

Alcohol

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms start appearing a few hours before the final drink is had and can persist anywhere from one to three days after that. Delirium tremens can start anywhere from two to three days after heavy drinking is stopped and can linger for as long as 8 days; however, it usually only lasts for a shorter time.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are a class of medications that include popular names like Valium and Xanax. After stopping benzodiazepines, withdrawal symptoms from benzos might start between 24 and 96 hours later. In most cases, the worst withdrawal signs will occur within the first two weeks. However, suppose withdrawal effects are not appropriately addressed. In that case, some people may experience them for weeks, months, or years after they stop using the substance.

How To Reduce the Severity of Withdrawal Symptoms

The most effective methods for reducing the severity of withdrawal signs are to seek medical or other professional assistance. Because of the medications that doctors provide, the effects of many effects of withdrawal might be minimized for the user.

These medicines can assist a person in avoiding sliding into psychosis, severe anxiety, or sadness; they can also help a person avoid hallucinations and delusions and make someone feel reasonably comfortable. Even while no silver bullet drug would alleviate all withdrawal symptoms, getting medical care is one of the most effective strategies to manage the symptoms.

Contacting a reputable addiction treatment facility is better to ensure a smooth and risk-free withdrawal process from substances. This will not only enhance the likelihood that you will remain sober over a prolonged period, but it will also provide you with the greatest amount of encouragement you require in the initial phases of recovery when the desire to use is at its most.

Can Withdrawal Symptoms Be Lethal?

It is important for the withdrawal symptoms from any drug or alcohol to have medical assistance in one way or another. Although it is rare, the withdrawal from certain substances can be lethal. For instance, when a patient is going through alcohol withdrawal, they may experience a syndrome called "delirium tremens." Suppose these side effects are not identified and managed on time. In that case, these can grow into seizures or sometimes potentially kill a person. 

When it comes to opioid withdrawal symptoms, they are barely life-threatening. However, the withdrawal from opioids puts the patient in a challenging and uncomfortable position. Sometimes the use of opioids can be dangerous to a person going for withdrawal without the proper medical advice or assistance and then returning to the use of opioids again. If done so, over time, the patient's tolerance decreases and increases the possibility of overdose, which can sometimes kill them.

In these kinds of circumstances, medical detox, in which medical professionals and nurses can control withdrawal symptoms, reduce unease, and decrease the risk of deadly withdrawal problems, can be extraordinarily beneficial during the early stages of rehabilitation and has the possibility of eventually saving lives.

CTA background

We’re here to help you find your way

Do you need advice about mental health or drug addiction? Reach out today.

Don’t Go Through Withdrawal Alone. The Forge Recovery Center Will Help

Many people fear withdrawal symptoms, and with good reason: they’re difficult. While withdrawal from drugs and alcohol will never be easy, going through them alone is dangerous, very difficult, and unlikely to work.

With The Forge Recovery Center, you won’t be alone. We’ll help you find an effective, trustworthy drug detox center where you’ll be able to get harmful substances out of your system in a controlled, comfortable, and safe fashion. Guided by a trauma-informed philosophy, our addiction center is the ideal place to recover, where the roots of substance abuse can be explored safely.

If you’d like to know how drug rehab can make withdrawal easier, reach out to The Forge Recovery Center today.

Newsletter banner

Sign up for our newsletter

Stay updated with the latest news, resources, and updates from The Forge Recovery Center.