Author: James Anderson

Drug Withdrawal Symptoms, Treatment, and Management

how to overcome withdrawal

Your body must recover from the damage that drugs and alcohol do, as well as from sleep deprivation, sleep disturbance, overstimulation, and other effects of addiction. But abruptly quitting substances such as benzodiazepines or alcohol can be potentially dangerous, so always consult your doctor to come up with a detox plan. Medically-assisted withdrawal can ensure that you are safe and help to minimize unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. With some substances, people are able to stop their use abruptly and manage their withdrawal symptoms on their own. For example, a person may be able to quit caffeine without assistance and cope with the unpleasant symptoms on their own until they pass. They can even prescribe you medications to help ease the symptoms you may experience and make the withdrawal period easier to manage.

When you stop using opiates abruptly, your body will react, leading to symptoms of withdrawal. For drugs like amphetamine, with a medium half-life—10-12 hours—acute withdrawal can last 2-4 weeks. Withdrawal from amphetamine stimulants begins 2-4 days after the last dose, lasts 2-4 weeks or more. Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that increases dopamine (the “happy” chemical in the brain). This impacts the reward system and the way a person feels pleasure.

how to overcome withdrawal

Withdrawal can be unpleasant and potentially dangerous in some cases. For this reason, you should always talk to your doctor before stopping or reducing your substance use. There may be a way to live longer, happier, and healthier lives with a commitment of just a couple of hours a week. Addiction is not an inevitable outcome for young people with genetic and environmental risk factors. Studies show that there are a number of buffers that can protect teens. However, the opiate methadone is long-acting, and withdrawal follows a different course.

Whether you’re in the initial or later stages of the detox, you should try to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. If you’re still trying to work throughout the duration of your opiate withdrawal, then you might want to use a couple of sick days, or, at the very least, take a minimized workload for the week. The abrupt stoppage of a substance to which the brain has become accustomed exposes all the adaptations the brain has made to its presence. That kicks off a rebound of activity in many neurotransmitters and their receptors in many brain systems. The resulting symptoms constitute withdrawal, and the effects a person experiences are generally the opposite of those induced by the drug abused. Withdrawal symptoms do not occur with all substances; for example, stopping hallucinogens or marijuana does not typically lead to withdrawal symptoms.

Break the cycle and restore balance

Substance withdrawal—a syndrome with physical, behavioral, and cognitive symptoms that happens when a person stops using a substance after regular use—is one reason people struggle with this. With methadone, unlike with fentanyl and heroin, you might feel a delay in withdrawal symptoms. According to the WHO, symptoms happen 1 to 3 days after the last dose, with the most severe symptoms occurring in 7 to 10 days. When you regularly take a substance for a period of time, your body may build a tolerance and dependence on that substance.

Doxepin is another antidepressant that healthcare professionals may recommend to help treat withdrawal-induced anxiety and insomnia. Clonidine is a medication used to treat ADHD and high blood pressure. It’s also been prescribed off-label for managing opioid withdrawal.

How does withdrawal work?

It is often used in conjunction with the opioid antagonist, naloxone., which blocks euphoric effects. Abrupt cessation of stimulants like cocaine produces a different pattern of withdrawal; it occurs in three distinct phases—crash, withdrawal, and extinction—and is not considered medically dangerous. The crash phase, which starts as the drug high wears off, can last for several days—marked by fatigue, flat mood, increased sleep, increased appetite, restlessness, but reduced cravings. Withdrawal symptoms set in, peak, and then decline over the next week to 10 weeks, and can include anxiety, severe drug cravings, lethargy but erratic sleep, and emotional instability. The extinction phase, of episodic cravings, dysphoria, and poor concentration, can extend to 28 weeks. Abruptly stopping use of opiates such as heroin is generally considered extremely unpleasant but not life-threatening.

  1. Medically-assisted withdrawal can ensure that you are safe and help to minimize unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
  2. You might feel anxiety that’s worse than everyday nervousness—a bit like an unpleasant but short-lived anxiety disorder.
  3. Withdrawal begins 8-24 hours after the last dose, reaches a peak at hours, and lasts 4-10 days.
  4. If you have a couple weeks’ worth of medications, you can avoid the need to go out for more.

These may include anti-anxiety medications, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, or other drugs designed to treat nausea or sleep problems. Opiate withdrawal can be a frustrating process with symptoms that, while typically not life threatening, are difficult to manage. Your doctor can help you to manage the symptoms you may experience with personalized recommendations and prescription medications to ease the process. They can also run tests like blood work to evaluate any damage to your system caused by the opiates. The physical effects of the withdrawal period are fairly short, compared to the mental symptoms that may persist. The withdrawal timeline and experience is different for everyone.


Biological changes occur in your brain during withdrawal as your body seeks homeostasis, causing a mix of physical and emotional symptoms. You might experience some, all, or none of these, depending on the length and intensity of your addiction. Overcoming your opiate addiction shouldn’t be something you have to do alone.

Roughly 15,000 people die from heroin-related overdose each year. Over half of Americans aged 12 and older are considered current alcohol users, classified as drinking within the past month, and 15 million people experience alcohol use disorder (AUD). A medical condition that involves overuse or misuse of a substance such as prescription or recreational drug, alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine. If you experience relapse, remember that this is a normal step in the recovery process.

The medication treats withdrawal symptoms for several types of opioids, including heroin. Opioid withdrawal syndrome is a condition in which your body needs time to recover and readjust to the loss of opioids that it got used to. In severe cases, opioid withdrawal syndrome can be life threatening. If you’re using opioids, your body might grow accustomed to their presence and effects. When you’re frequently using, the body develops a physical dependence.

If mood changes are severe, last longer than other withdrawal symptoms, or include thoughts of harming yourself or suicide, get help immediately. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 (or have someone do it for you) for support and assistance from a trained counselor. Fatigue is also a common symptom of depression and an after-effect of anxiety. You also might feel tired from the many thoughts and emotions that can overwhelm you when you don’t have alcohol or drugs to numb them. Physical symptoms of anxiety can make you feel as if something scary is happening.