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 / Addiction Information / Drug And Alcohol Withdrawal

Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal

It is important to remember that many substances of abuse may develop physiological dependence if abused in large amounts and for a long time. The withdrawal symptoms that a person may experience are unpleasant when they stop using an addictive substance. The more you know about withdrawal symptoms, the better you will be to get help for yourself or a loved one struggling with substance use. The following topics are discussed here:

What is Withdrawal From Drugs and Alcohol?

After abruptly cutting back or stopping the prolonged use of a substance, withdrawal causes physical, mental, and behavioral changes. As withdrawal symptoms differ with each substance, such as alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines, and sedatives, they may also be quite severe when people are attempting to quit. People face significant risks when they withdraw from opioids, alcohol, and sedatives. They can face mild to potentially life-threatening symptoms. Detoxification under the care of professionals can be a safe method to manage withdrawal.

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Why Does Withdrawal Happen?

A state of homeostasis is a state of balance throughout the body, and the body is constantly correcting any imbalances. However, drinking and using drugs can significantly alter certain types of brain activity, disrupting normal homeostasis. When regularly exposed to a substance, the brain can adapt to balance its chemical effects. The brain can adapt to counteract its chemical effects when regularly exposed to a substance. If you reduce your consumption or stop using, your brain may temporarily struggle to regain homeostasis. Many substances are thought to cause withdrawal symptoms during this adjustment period due to rebalancing several chemical messengers called neurotransmitters.


Moreover, these brain adaptations to continued drugs and alcohol use result in physiological dependence. A dependent individual becomes accustomed to a substance to the extent that they rely on its continued service to function normally. If a person with substance abuse problems attempts to slow down or completely stop their substance use, they are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms.

There are Different Types of Withdrawal Symptoms

The severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on the substance used. The length and intensity of usage are also factors. People experiencing withdrawal symptoms might resort to using the substance again to relieve the discomfort.


Various types of substances can cause withdrawal symptoms. Substances such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids trigger significant withdrawal syndromes. However, stimulant and marijuana users usually suffer less than those who abuse opioids, alcohol, and benzodiazepines regarding withdrawal symptoms. Read on to learn more about withdrawal symptoms with specific substances.

Alcohol Withdrawal

When heavy, prolonged drinking is stopped, withdrawal symptoms can begin between six and 24 hours later. During the next two to three days, symptoms usually worsen, then gradually improve until they are resolved by about the tenth day. The following are some possible withdrawal symptoms:


  • Irritation

  • Irritation

  • Irregularity

  • Sleeplessness

  • Sleepless nights

  • A sweaty body

  • An increase in heart rate

  • An increase in blood pressure

  • Feeling nauseated or vomiting

  • The Tranquility of the hands


There is a risk of life-threatening alcohol withdrawal during acute alcohol withdrawal. As a result, individuals may experience agitation, seizures, and delirium tremens, characterized by difficulty regulating body temperature and blood pressure, sweating, hallucinations, and confusion. You may need immediate medical attention if you experience specific symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. During this challenging early recovery period, medical detox and withdrawal management can help people stay as safe and comfortable as possible.

Withdrawal From Benzodiazepines

The use of benzodiazepines to treat anxiety, panic disorders, and certain seizure disorders every day. Some Benzodiazepines that are used to treat anxiety, panic disorders, and seizures are:



When benzodiazepines are combined with opioids, sedative drugs such as alcohol, or CNS depressants, the result can be dangerous levels of sedation and respiratory depression. This can lead to damaging side effects and even death.


When you stop taking relatively short-acting benzodiazepines like Ativan, withdrawal symptoms might begin within hours to days after you stop taking them or within several days to a week after you stop taking longer-acting benzodiazepines like Valium.


Many symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal resolve within 4-5 days after peaking in intensity. For shorter-acting benzodiazepines, this may take a few days. Some longer-acting benzos withdrawal symptoms may peak in the 2nd week and can subside entirely by the 3rd or 4th week, though low-intensity withdrawal symptoms may last up to 8 weeks in some individuals. Possible withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepines include:


  • Anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Agitation

  • Restlessness

  • Irritability

  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering

  • Achy or tense muscles

  • Rapid pulse

  • Sweating.

  • Hallucinations

  • Delirium

  • Increased sensitivity to light, smells, and sounds

  • Rapid pulse

  • Sweating

  • Tremors

  • Seizures


Withdrawal From Opioids

There are several opioid drugs, including illegal drugs like heroin and prescription pain medications like morphine (Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin). When a person stops using opioids, they may experience opioid withdrawal symptoms. Despite its potential danger, opioid withdrawal doesn't usually pose a life-threatening risk. When a person aspirates vomit into their lungs, it can cause infection; if they continue vomiting and diarrhea, they may become dehydrated and electrolyte imbalanced. There are several signs and symptoms of opioid withdrawal, including:


  • Dysphoria

  • Anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Dilated pupils

  • Chills

  • Goosebumps

  • A tendency to yawn excessively

  • The flu is making you run a fever

  • A watery eye

  • Achy muscles and joints

  • Feeling nauseated or vomiting

  • Diarrhea is a common complaint

Withdrawal From Stimulants

The use of stimulants is often characterized by heavy use (known as binges) followed by crashes, in which the use of stimulants stops and withdrawal symptoms develop. The most popular illegal inspiration is crystal methamphetamine, cocaine, or crack. Other prescription stimulants such as dextroamphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin) can also be abused. The symptoms from stimulants are generally not harmful. While rare, severe depression with suicidal thoughts or behaviors can develop during detoxification. It is essential to monitor these symptoms closely. Again, while rare, stimulant withdrawal may cause the following symptoms:


  • Irritation

  • Intolerance

  • Dysphoria or depression

  • Tiredness

  • Appetit sparked

  • Sleep patterns that have changed- either excessive or insufficient sleep

  • Sleepless nights

  • Irregularities

  • Changing your pace from what you usually do

  • Muscles that ache

  • An intense desire for the drug


Withdrawal From Marijuana

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and other psychoactive compounds are found in marijuana, made from dried parts of the Cannabis plant. It can experience withdrawal symptoms for up to two weeks after quitting long-term, heavy marijuana use, even if it is medical marijuana. These symptoms may include:


  • Irritation

  • Feeling angry

  • Intimidation

  • Anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Irregularity

  • The desire to smoke marijuana

  • Sleeplessness

  • A nightmare that upsets you

  • Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Pain in the abdomen

  • Kopfschmerzen

  • Perspiration

  • Feeling shaky or trembling

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Medically Reviewed:


Rolling Hills Recovery Center

Expert Contributor

Dr. Williams presently serves on the board of Directors for two non-profit service organizations. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pa, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in Clinical Psychology from Union Institute and University. In Cincinnati, Ohio. He is licensed to practice addictions counseling in both New Jersey and Connecticut and has a pending application as a practicing Psychologist in New Jersey.

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Assisting with Withdrawal

People going through withdrawal can get medical and mental health care through professional detoxification and withdrawal management. Support, psychological and physical health monitoring address any physical or emotional symptoms. When medically-managed withdrawal is administered, medications may ease symptoms and prevent complications. You will receive different types of withdrawal management depending on your substance use, withdrawal symptoms, and potential risks. You must discuss the risks and determine the safest and most effective method of withdrawal management with a doctor or treatment professional before you cut back or stop using a substance.


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What is withdrawal from drugs and alcohol?
Why does withdrawal happen?
Different types of withdrawal symptoms
Assisting with withdrawal
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