man with bottle of alcohol

Kudos to you for deciding to break free from drugs—that’s a big deal! It’s okay to feel a bit nervous about what’s coming next, and that’s normal. Withdrawal can be challenging, but it’s only a small part of the bigger picture. Your strength in taking this step is something to be proud of. Surround yourself with support, whether it’s from friends, family, or professionals. Numerous support options are available to assist you throughout the journey.

What Is Drug Withdrawal?

Drug withdrawal refers to the set of symptoms that individuals may experience when they abruptly reduce or cease the use of a substance on which they have developed a dependence. Dependence occurs when the body and brain adapt to the presence of a substance, and suddenly stopping its use can lead to a range of physical and psychological symptoms.

The causes of drug withdrawal are rooted in the body’s attempt to readjust to functioning without the substance. When someone uses drugs regularly, the brain adjusts its chemical balance to accommodate the substance. When the drug is removed, the brain struggles to maintain equilibrium, resulting in withdrawal symptoms.

The specific substances you were using and the amount will determine which withdrawal symptoms you experience and how long they last. Substances like opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol are frequently associated with withdrawal challenges. The initial stage, which is the most intense period, usually spans from a few days to a couple of weeks. However, some symptoms can persist for months in what’s known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

Though the road is difficult, beating addiction and embracing sobriety is absolutely possible. Prioritizing self-care, recognizing triggers, and effectively addressing withdrawal symptoms through medical assistance, medications, therapy, and a strong support system are essential components of this process.

What are the Common Withdrawal Symptoms?

Drug withdrawal is a challenging phase that individuals face when discontinuing the use of certain substances. The symptoms can be categorized into two main types: physical and psychological.

Physical Symptoms

Nausea, a common physical symptom of drug withdrawal, often includes the urge to vomit. This can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, necessitating prompt medical attention.

Excessive sweating, a common withdrawal symptom, can result in dehydration and an elevated risk of infection. Alternating between chills and cold sweats further contributes to discomfort and restlessness.

Tremors and involuntary shaking during withdrawal impact various body parts. Muscle aches and pains are frequently reported, posing challenges to comfort.

Withdrawal disrupts the sleep cycle, leading to insomnia or restless sleep. Such disturbances can intensify irritability and hinder concentration.

Psychological Symptoms

Anxiety, a common psychological withdrawal symptom, manifests as excessive worry and fear. It may escalate to panic attacks involving shortness of breath, chest pain, and a sense of impending doom.

Depression, such as feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair, is common in drug withdrawal. Intense mood swings lead to drastic emotional shifts in individuals.

Increased irritability is a hallmark of drug withdrawal, posing challenges to coping with stress. Agitation and restlessness may complicate interpersonal relationships.

Cognitive functions may be impaired, causing difficulties in concentration and memory. Reports of foggy thinking and confusion affect the individual’s ability to perform daily tasks.

Seeking professional help and having a support system in place are crucial during this challenging time. Understanding these withdrawal symptoms allows individuals and their loved ones to navigate this phase more effectively and promotes a smoother transition toward recovery.

How Long Do Withdrawals Last?

Going through withdrawal from drugs or alcohol is challenging, both physically and mentally. The severity and duration of symptoms can vary depending on factors like the substance, dosage, and duration of use. Withdrawal happens in three stages: acute, protracted, and post-acute. Knowing what each stage involves is essential, as it helps you and your support system arrange the right treatment and resources.

Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal duration varies based on individual health, severity of dependence, and underlying conditions. Symptoms typically begin 6–12 hours after the last drink, peaking around 24-72 hours. The acute phase lasts 5-7 days, with severe cases leading to delirium tremens (DTs). Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), like mood swings and cravings, may persist for months.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Benzodiazepine withdrawal duration varies based on the drug, usage duration, and individual factors. Short-acting benzodiazepines may prompt a quicker onset of withdrawal symptoms. Acute withdrawal typically starts within 1–4 days and can extend for weeks. Protracted withdrawal, lasting months or years, may include lingering issues. Tapering under medical supervision is essential for safe withdrawal management.

Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal duration varies based on the specific opioid, usage duration, and individual tolerance. Acute symptoms begin 6–12 hours after the last dose, peaking within 72 hours. The acute phase resolves in 5-7 days, while post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) may persist for weeks or months. Medical supervision, medications, and support aid in effective opioid withdrawal management.

Stimulant Withdrawal

Stimulant withdrawal, linked to drugs like cocaine or amphetamines, varies in duration and intensity. Acute symptoms usually begin within a day or two, lasting several weeks. Cravings may persist initially, and mood disturbances can linger. While the acute phase resolves relatively quickly, protracted withdrawal symptoms may continue for months. Supportive therapy, counseling, and lifestyle changes play a crucial role in managing stimulant withdrawal.

How to Manage Withdrawal Symptoms Effectively

Going through withdrawal from drugs or alcohol can be an incredibly difficult experience, both physically and mentally. However, there are proactive steps you can take to manage withdrawal symptoms effectively and prioritize your well-being.

Seek Medical Help

Initiate a conversation with your doctor to explore medically assisted detox options. They may prescribe specialized medications to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, curb cravings, and prevent potentially dangerous side effects. Medical detox also offers round-the-clock monitoring, ensuring swift responses in case of emergencies.

Stay Hydrated and Eat Healthy

Drink plenty of water and other clear fluids to avoid dehydration and replenish nutrients. Broth, juice, and herbal tea can also help. Focus on nutritious, easy-to-digest foods like rice, bananas, oatmeal, and yogurt. Avoid excess sugar, caffeine, and processed foods.

Get Quality Rest

Recognize the impact of sleep on withdrawal symptoms and employ relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and gentle yoga before bedtime. Create a conducive sleep environment by limiting screen time and bright lights and opting for a cool and quiet space. Consider melatonin or over-the-counter sleep aids if necessary.

Reduce Stress

Stress and anxiety activate the same pathways in the brain as drugs and alcohol. Practice self-care to keep stress in check. Light exercise like walking, swimming or cycling releases endorphins to naturally boost your mood. Spending time with supportive loved ones, journaling thoughts and feelings, or pursuing hobbies can help take your mind off cravings.

Seek Counseling and Support

Speaking with a professional counselor or joining a support group helps you address the underlying reasons for your substance use. Build a network of people committed to your recovery who can offer empathy, advice, and accountability. Call a free helpline or reach out to local organizations for additional help.

What is the Difference Between Acute Withdrawal and PAWS?

The acute withdrawal period refers to the initial set of withdrawal symptoms that occur when you first stop using drugs or alcohol. This intense phase can last for days or even weeks, depending on the substance. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) refers to the lingering effects that may persist for months or years after acute withdrawal ends.

PAWS can feel frustrating because you’ve already gone through the worst of the withdrawal, but you still don’t feel back to normal. Common symptoms of PAWS include mood swings, anxiety, and depression. fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms tend to come and go, and the severity typically lessens over time. However, certain triggers, like stress, can temporarily cause symptoms to flare up again.

The good news is that there are steps you can take to manage PAWS. Make sure to stay committed to your recovery by avoiding relapse at all costs. Continue attending support groups and counseling. Take care of yourself by maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, practicing mindfulness, and getting enough sleep. Let friends and family know how they can support you during this challenging time.

Medications and therapy may also help reduce prolonged withdrawal symptoms. Anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants can be useful for some people. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly helpful for changing negative thought patterns and developing coping strategies.

While PAWS can feel discouraging, it’s important to remember that sobriety is a lifelong journey.

Remission of symptoms may take six months to two years or longer for some. But by maintaining your recovery program, the symptoms will steadily improve and become more manageable. Your hard work will pay off as you move forward to build a fulfilling life in long-term recovery. Staying focused on your goal of sustained sobriety can help you overcome the temporary challenges of PAWS. You’ve got this!

Seeking Support Through 12-Step Programs

man speaking with sponsor and working 12 steps

Utilizing assistance from 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can contribute to your successful navigation through withdrawal and the maintenance of sobriety. These programs offer community, accountability, and a structured path to recovery.

Meetings are held regularly in most areas. Explore the AA or NA website to locate local meetings in your community. By doing so, you can connect with individuals facing similar addiction challenges and discover a sponsor to provide guidance on your journey.

A sponsor is a fellow member who has achieved sobriety and can offer support. Seek out someone who has successfully overcome challenges with your specific substance abuse issue and request that they be your sponsor. Meet regularly to discuss your challenges, review the 12 steps, and stay committed to your recovery.

The 12 steps involve acknowledging your addiction, making amends, helping other addicts, and improving your spiritual life. Working through the steps with your sponsor’s guidance can transform your thinking and help you develop healthy coping strategies.

Attend meetings regularly and get to know other members. Exchange phone numbers and call on each other for support between meetings. Having a strong support system will help during difficult times and reduce the chance of relapse.

Don’t become overwhelmed thinking about never using it again. Just focus on staying sober today. Take life slowly, appreciate each sober day as an accomplishment and long-term success will follow.

Staying committed to the 12-step program will help you navigate the challenges of early sobriety. Build your fellowship, learn from the experience of others, work to change unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior, and embrace your new life without drugs or alcohol. Leaning on the community in this way can help avoid relapse, allowing you to achieve long-term recovery and a life of purpose and meaning

Discover Healing with Specialized 12-step Programming at Spero Recovery Center

patients managing withdrawal

Wondering, ‘How long do withdrawals last?  ‘ Let us provide the answers and support you need! Embark on your journey to recovery with Spero Recovery Center, where we specialize in empowering individuals through our comprehensive 12-step programming. Reach out to us today to begin your path to lasting recovery. Your brighter future awaits—Spero is here to guide you every step of the way.