How Long Does Withdrawal Last?

Author: NP Addiction Clinic
Published: February 15, 2022

After a period of consistent drug abuse, overcoming an addiction means completing a detox program, which often leads to symptoms of withdrawal.

Although experiencing withdrawal symptoms can sometimes be unpleasant, withdrawing from drugs is the first step in recovery. As your brain and body will have adjusted to the use of drugs or alcohol, they will need to readjust as you begin to withdraw.

The first stage of withdrawal is known as acute withdrawal, which begins within the first day or two after you stop taking drugs or alcohol. But how long does withdrawal last? Read on to find out.

Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal can be one of the most challenging withdrawals to complete. Withdrawal symptoms can arise relatively quickly when you stop using opioids and start the detox process. However, the exact amount of time withdrawal takes depends on factors such as the opioids being used and the length of time they were used for.

For example, someone who has been taking codeine for a short period may experience relatively mild withdrawal symptoms 24 to 36 hours after cessation. At the other end of the spectrum, a person who has been taking fentanyl, which is a very potent and short-acting opioid, for a prolonged time is likely to experience withdrawal symptoms that come on quicker and are much more substantial.

The acute withdrawal period for opioids typically peaks at 48 hours, with most entirely alleviating after five days. In some instances, psychological symptoms may linger for a little longer.

Withdrawal symptoms for opioids typically include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Joint pain
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Excessive sweating
  • Inability to regulate temperature
  • Extreme cravings
  • Flu-like symptoms

When completing opioid withdrawal, there are a number of different medicines that can be used to help reduce withdrawal symptoms. Two of the most effective for withdrawal management are methadone and Subutex (buprenorphine). These work on opioid receptors in the brain and are both long-acting opioids, meaning that you do not get the same high as when using other opioids.

Methadone and Subutex are both controlled substances that can be dangerous when misused. For this reason, they must be only used under medical supervision, for example, as part of the detoxification process at a medical detox program.

Cocaine and Crack Cocaine Withdrawal

Withdrawal effects from cocaine and crack usually arise quickly after the last use. Withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, are not as severe as those that may surface when detoxing from opioids. Still, without medical support, they can be challenging.

Cocaine and crack cocaine withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Slow thinking
  • Fatigue
  • Exhaustion
  • Restlessness
  • Anhedonia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Drug cravings

The symptoms of withdrawal associated with cocaine and crack cocaine can last between a few days and a week.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can involve a host of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. As benzodiazepines are often used to combat anxiety, cessation of use can increase anxiety and panic attacks. Insomnia is also frequently experienced, as is high blood pressure.

Benzodiazepines are one of the few classes of drugs that, besides giving people unpleasant symptoms, can be life-threatening. This is due to the increased risk of seizures when quitting benzodiazepines. For this reason, it is best to complete benzodiazepine withdrawal within a rehab center, where support is available at all times.

The onset of withdrawal depends on how long benzodiazepines are used, but it generally begins within a day or two. Unlike other drugs, benzodiazepines tend to have a protracted withdrawal of 10 to 14 days.

Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal usually starts within a day of stopping drinking. Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Shaky hands
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Restless leg syndrome

Alcohol withdrawal is particularly dangerous, as extreme alcohol withdrawal can cause DTs to surface.  These happen in about 5% of alcohol withdrawal cases and are usually followed by hallucinations and seizures.

When it comes to detoxing from alcohol, it is important that you detox in an environment where you are supported by trained professionals who can monitor your condition and provide you with medicines that can ease the process if needed.

Crystal Meth Withdrawal

Like other withdrawal symptoms, crystal meth withdrawal symptoms start within 24 hours and usually ease within one week. During this period, your ability to function may decrease.

Often, people spend this time sleeping and eating. While the acute withdrawal stage of crystal meth is not as challenging to get through as with opioids, it has a protracted post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) timeline that can last as long as two years in some cases.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome - More Symptoms of Withdrawal

PAWS are the withdrawal symptoms that continue after acute withdrawal ends. While you are not likely to experience symptoms as extreme as acute withdrawal symptoms, PAWS symptoms can still be unpleasant.

PAWS depends on the severity of drug abuse, the drug used, the amount used, and the length of time used. However, the withdrawal timeline for PAWS varies from a few months to two years, with symptoms including:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Low energy
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Lack of libido
  • Chronic pain

These symptoms are also dependent on the level of stress that a person is under. For example, if you experience a substantial amount of stress during the withdrawal process, symptoms may be more severe. This is why it is important to minimize stress levels during the early stages of recovery.

Reducing Withdrawal Symptoms

To help you manage any severe symptoms, it may be in your best interest to seek support and implement a strategy to help you reduce and ease symptoms. Perhaps the most important aspect of this is having emotional support. This might be from friends and family who know you and will be able to offer their advice. Sometimes, though, you may have fallen out with these people, or you may believe that they cannot relate to what you have been through.

If this is the case, attending support groups can be a great place to express yourself while receiving guidance from people who know what you are going through. Attending support groups will also provide you with emotional guidance when you are not feeling at your best.

Reducing stress also means not taking on too much in early recovery. This involves setting clear boundaries with the people around you about what you can and cannot do. If you have toxic people in your life, it might be a good time to cut them off.

If you find yourself tending to work until you feel like you are nearing burnout, you can use early recovery to look at the reasons why you do this. You may find that you are working to distract yourself from complex thoughts and emotions. Ultimately, though, this will lead to increased stress.

Conclusion

Drug withdrawal is often considered the most challenging part of getting sober. It may feel like it goes on forever, but the reality is, when you are experiencing drug withdrawal symptoms, the worst is over in a few days.

Going through the withdrawal process is challenging at the best of times, and it is made even harder when you try to do it by yourself. Yet, in a supportive environment, such as our drug rehab, you will find that you are safe and comfortable.

If you would like to find out more about withdrawal or substance abuse treatment, please contact us today.

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