For those considering quitting the use of an addictive substance, withdrawals are likely at the forefront of their mind. Whether it’s from alcohol, illegal substances, or even anxiety medication, withdrawals can be scary and life-threatening in some cases. In this blog, we share information of what withdrawals are, what they might entail, and how to get help to overcome this time safely.

What are Withdrawals?

The term withdrawal refers to the physical and psychological symptoms that people experience when they abruptly stop or reduce the use of addictive substances. The duration of withdrawal will vary quite a bit depending on factors like the substance involved, the individual’s physical and mental health, the duration and intensity of substance use, and more. 

Factors Influencing Withdrawal Duration
  • Type of Substance:
      • Alcohol: Withdrawal symptoms typically appear within hours or a few days after cessation, peaking within 24-48 hours. They may persist for up to a week.
      • Opioids: The withdrawal timeline can range from a few days to a couple of weeks, with peak symptoms occurring within 72 hours.
      • Benzodiazepines: Withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks or even months, with peak symptoms appearing within 1-4 days.
  • Duration and Intensity of Substance Use:
      • The longer and more intense the substance use, the more prolonged and severe the withdrawal symptoms tend to be.
  • Individual Factors:
    • General health: People with poor physical or mental health typically experience longer and more difficult withdrawal periods.
    • Age: Older people might experience longer withdrawal durations compared to younger ones.
    • Genetics: Variations in genes can influence an individual’s response to withdrawal, affecting the duration and severity of symptoms.
Stages of Withdrawal
  • Initial Stage: Symptoms appear shortly after discontinuing substance use. Common initial symptoms include anxiety, irritability, cravings, insomnia, and mood swings.
  • Acute Stage: This stage is characterized by the highest intensity of withdrawal symptoms, which vary depending on the substance used. Common symptoms include nausea, sweating, tremors, elevated heart rate, and even seizures in extreme cases.
  • Subacute Stage: Symptoms gradually begin to subside during this stage. Physical symptoms may diminish, but individuals might still experience psychological symptoms like depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.
  • Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS): In some cases, recovering addicts may experience protracted withdrawal symptoms, referred to as PAWS, which can last for several months or longer. These symptoms are milder than acute withdrawal symptoms but usually include mood swings, fatigue, and difficulties with concentration and memory.
Individual Variations
  • Substance Use History: The frequency, duration, and amount of substance use can affect the duration of withdrawal. Heavy and long-term users can expect to experience more prolonged withdrawal periods.
  • Underlying Health Conditions: Those with co-occurring physical or mental health issues may experience more complex and extended withdrawal durations.
Finding Professional Help

Withdrawal is a serious and potentially life-threatening process for some substances. Getting professional help from healthcare providers, addiction specialists, or treatment centers is often necessary for effective management and support during withdrawal. There are treatment centers and hospitals that can oversee withdrawals to ensure that a person is able to make it through this transition safely. 

Getting therapy is often a vital part of the recovery process. People who get help when they start the withdrawal process are more likely to stay clean and sober once they complete their withdrawal. A treatment program can provide support and teach you the skills that you need to manage life more effectively without using alcohol or drugs to cope.  

Final Thoughts

Withdrawal durations vary depending on several factors, like the substance used, individual characteristics, and the health of the person affected. While there are generalized timelines, remember that each person’s experience is different. It is always best to consult a professional for personalized guidance and support during the withdrawal process.

New Dimensions Can Help!

New Dimensions specializes in treating alcoholism, substance abuse and mental health issues for adolescents and adults.  New Dimensions staff conduct interventions to help the addicted person get treatment.  A drug addiction intervention is a structured process where family members, friends, and other concerned individuals confront the addict about the consequences of the addiction and the impact that it has had on their lives. If you have a family member who would benefit from an intervention, call 800-685-9796.  To learn more about treatment for addictions or mental health issues for adults or adolescents, visit or contact us at 800-685-9796.

Keywords: Withdrawal; Substance abuse; Addiction; Addictive substances


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