Withdrawal: Types, Symptoms, Treatment (2023)

Withdrawal, or substance withdrawal, is a process the mind and body go through after a person stops consuming a substance or consumes less of the substance.In general, people who consume more of a substance and more often are most likely to suffer from withdrawal. People who have previously gone through withdrawal, have a substance use disorder, or have a mental health condition are also at an increased risk.

Roughly 8.5 million adults suffer a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder at the same time in the United States. Withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe. For example, it could just be a headache or difficulty sleeping, or it may result in death.

This article will review the causes, symptoms, and treatment of withdrawal for a variety of substances.

Withdrawal: Types, Symptoms, Treatment (1)

What Is Addiction?

Types of Withdrawal

Common types of withdrawal include:

  • Alcohol
  • Antidepressant
  • Benzodiazepine
  • Caffeine
  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine
  • Opioid
  • Stimulant


When a person uses a substance regularly, the body and mind get used to that substance. Initially, the substance will throw off the balance in the body, but then the body will adjust to the substance and register it as normal. This leads to a tolerance of the substance, which is when the body does not respond the same way unless the amount consumed is increased.

Addiction vs. Substance Use

Addiction is another risk of substance use. It is sometimes confused with tolerance and dependence. However, it is different. Addiction is a disease that involves not being able to stop using a substance even when continuing has negative consequences. Signs of addiction may include loss of control and denial.

(Video) Drug Withdrawal Symptoms and How to Manage It During Detox

How Addiction Is Diagnosed

The processes of becoming tolerant, dependent, and addicted involve changes in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain and body that send messages between cells. This is how the body and brain communicate to allow a person to think, feel, act, and experience the environment.

Substances can change the way neurotransmitters function, which changes the way substance users think, feel, act, and experience the environment. Depending on the substance, neurotransmitter activity can increase or decrease. With regular substance use, the changes become the new normal. When the substance is stopped or decreased, the person experiences withdrawal.

Withdrawal Symptoms by Drug Type

Some symptoms of withdrawal are common to a variety of different substances. However, withdrawal symptoms can vary by substance. It is important to know the withdrawal symptoms specific to a particular substance. Additionally, the severity of the signs and symptoms may depend on how much of the substance was taken and how long it was used.


Most alcohol withdrawal symptoms resolve within several days, but they can last longer. Symptoms can include agitation, anxiety, decreased energy, delirium, dizziness, emotional outbursts, fever, feeling disoriented, hallucinations, headaches, increased blood pressure, insomnia, irritability, memory loss, nausea, seizures, shaking, sweating, tremors, and vomiting.

Alcohol withdrawal is very serious and could lead to death, so it is important to seek professional help when decreasing or stopping alcohol consumption.

What Is Delirium Tremens (DTs)?

Delirium tremens is an extreme syndrome of alcohol withdrawal. This can result in death, so it is a medical emergency that requires immediate care. Symptoms may include severe agitation, anxiety, disorientation, elevated body temperature, hallucinations, increased heart rate and blood pressure, paranoia, sweating, and tremors.

What to Expect From Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms


Withdrawal symptoms of suddenly stopping certain antidepressants include anxiety, chills, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, headaches, increased depression symptoms, irritability, muscle aches, nausea, sensations of electric shock, sleepiness, and vivid dreams. These symptoms can last a few weeks. Symptoms can be severe, including a return of symptoms of depression, so it is important to talk with a doctor before stopping these medications.


Withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepine include anxiety, cravings, delirium, depression, difficulty sleeping, hallucinations, headache, heart palpitations, panic attacks, seizures, stiff muscles, sweating, tension or irritability, and tremors. Symptoms can last up to a few weeks. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can lead to death, so it is important to seek professional support for this substance.

(Video) Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome Overview


Caffeine withdrawal symptoms include headaches, irritability and other mood changes, nausea, sleepiness, painful muscles, and trouble with concentration. These symptoms can last over a week. Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal range from mild to moderate.

Learn If You Should You Let Your Teenager Drink Caffeinated Drinks


Although marijuana is commonly believed to not be harmful, 47% of people who use the substance regularly experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include abdominal pain, aggression, anger, anxiety, changes in appetite or weight, depression, difficulty sleeping, headache irritability, nausea, nervousness, restlessness, sweating, and vomiting.

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms usually last a couple of weeks, but some may remain for several months. The severity of symptoms can range from mild to severe, and it is important to seek professional support for the emergence of symptoms such as depression.

Cannabis Withdrawal: Definition, Symptoms, Treatment


Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include urges to smoke or use tobacco products, negative changes in mood, restlessness or jumpiness, difficulty concentrating, sleeping difficulties, weight gain or hunger, anxiety, and depression. The withdrawal symptoms tend to be worse in the first week but can last several weeks after quitting.

While most symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are not life-threatening, depression and other mental health concerns that may occur are linked to suicide. Therefore, it is important to seek professional support if any mental health concerns emerge when going through nicotine withdrawal.


Symptoms of opioid withdrawal include aches and pains, agitation, anxiety, cramping, diarrhea, difficulty sleeping, goose bumps, increased heart rate or blood pressure, nausea, pupil dilation, sweating, vomiting, watering eyes or dripping nose, and yawning. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can last a few days to a few weeks. Opioid withdrawal can lead to potentially serious medical complications and relapse, so it is important to seek professional support.


Stimulant withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, changes in appetite, depression, difficulty focusing or concentrating, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, irritability, and mood swings. Symptoms can last for a few days to a few weeks, or longer in some cases. They can range from mild to severe. It is important to seek support for withdrawal symptoms such as depression, especially if there are suicidal thoughts.

How is Cocaine Addiction Treated?

(Video) Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome | Medications, Signs & Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment


Seeking care from a qualified healthcare professional is an important step before reducing or stopping substances. This can help to prevent or minimize symptoms of withdrawal. They are able to help determine the risk of severe symptoms and provide information, resources, and possibly other necessary treatment options.

Treatment of withdrawal depends on the substances used, the symptoms, and the severity of symptoms. This may be done at home or in a medical facility.


Detox, or detoxification, is a process of supporting a person going through withdrawal to help them get the substances out of the body more safely.

Detox can be done at a clinic, hospital, or rehabilitation center and may include medications to manage withdrawal and help to reduce symptoms. After the detox process, continuing treatment with groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous is recommended to keep you substance free.


Tapering is a process of slowly decreasing the use of a substance, such as a prescription medication, over time to prevent withdrawal. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are available to help decrease or stop using some substances. For example, nicotine patches and gum can be used to make it easier to stop smoking.

Prescription medications may also be used. For example:

  • Partial opiate receptor agonist (buprenorphine) medications help to block opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings
  • Benzodiazepines to manage alcohol withdrawal
  • Adrenergic receptor agonist medications help to reduce symptoms of opiate withdrawal

Assistance Helpline

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, dial 988 to contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect with a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.


Withdrawal is a reaction of the mind and body that happens when a person reduces or stops using a substance. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and withdrawal may even result in death. It is important to seek help from a qualified healthcare professional before reducing or stopping substances and to treat withdrawal symptoms.

(Video) Tolerance and withdrawal | Processing the Environment | MCAT | Khan Academy

A Word From Verywell

Withdrawal may come with many emotions and fears, and it can be difficult to ask for help. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use or withdrawal, you are not alone. Reach out to a healthcare professional for support. If you are not sure where to turn, the SAMHSA Helpline is a great resource.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I identify withdrawal symptoms?

    Knowing the possible withdrawal symptoms for particular substances can help aid in their identification if they occur. It is important to talk to a healthcare professional before decreasing or stopping a prescription medication or other substance. Also, it's important to talk with a healthcare professional when undergoing withdrawal symptoms.

  • How long does drug withdrawal last?

    How long withdrawal lasts depends on the person and different elements of their health, as well as the type of substance and how much and how long they have used the substance. It can also be impacted by how the substance was consumed and whether it was consumed with other substances. In general, it can take days to months.

  • Can you die from withdrawal symptoms?

    Yes, it is possible to die from certain types of withdrawal. This is one of the reasons why it is important to seek the support of trained professionals when going through withdrawal. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline is a great resource for help.

    (Video) Opioid Withdrawal Explained in 10 Minutes


What are three things that can help with withdrawal symptoms? ›

Here are 10 ways to get through your withdrawal symptoms with a minimal amount of discomfort:
  • Attend a medical detox program. ...
  • Exercise regularly. ...
  • Eat balanced and nutritious meals. ...
  • Stay hydrated. ...
  • Stick to a structured sleep schedule. ...
  • Join a support group.
Sep 15, 2022

What are moderate withdrawal symptoms? ›

Common symptoms of withdrawal may include:
  • Trembling and tremors.
  • Muscle pain or aches.
  • Hunger or loss of appetite.
  • Fatigue.
  • Sweating.
  • Irritability and agitation.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
Sep 14, 2022

What is the most serious withdrawal symptoms associated with alcoholism? ›

The most severe manifestations of withdrawal include delirium tremens, hallucinations, and seizures. These manifestations result from alcohol-induced imbalances in the brain chemistry that cause excessive neuronal activity if the alcohol is withheld.

What are the different types of withdrawal behavior *? ›

Withdrawal Behaviors in the Workplace

Examples of these behaviors are absenteeism, lateness/tardiness, leaving the job, internal job transfer, and turnover.

Which type of medication is indicated to help the patient manage withdrawal symptoms? ›

Benzodiazepines have the largest and the best evidence base in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal, and are considered the gold standard. Others, such as anticonvulsants, barbiturates, adrenergic drugs, and GABA agonists have been tried and have evidence.

What medication is taken for withdrawal? ›

Medications used in the treatment of withdrawal symptoms include opioid agonists such as methadone and buprenorphine (a partial agonist), as well as alpha-2 adrenergic agonists such as clonidine and lofexidine.

What are some examples of withdrawal symptoms Select all that apply? ›

Some symptoms commonly associated with withdrawal include:
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Changes in mood.
  • Chills or shivering.
  • Congestion.
  • Depression.
  • Fatigue.
  • Irritability.
  • Muscle pain.
Nov 7, 2022

What is an example of a withdrawal symptom? ›

Withdrawal symptoms vary according to the drug of dependence and severity of dependence, but often include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, anxiety and insomnia.

What are the most serious forms of withdrawal syndrome? ›

The most severe type of withdrawal syndrome is known as delirium tremens (DT). Its signs and symptoms include: extreme confusion.
These usually include at least two of the following:
  • tremors.
  • anxiety.
  • nausea.
  • vomiting.
  • headache.
  • an increased heart rate.
  • sweating.
  • irritability.

When do withdrawal symptoms begin for central nervous system? ›

Central Nervous System Depressant Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms typically begin 12 to 24 hours after the last dose of the drug and are most severe between 24 and 72 hours after this dose.

Can anxiety cause withdrawal symptoms? ›

In some cases, withdrawal itself may be a symptom of anxiety. Many people that deal with stress feel an overwhelming urge to be alone. What's interesting, however, is that being alone may actually make the anxiety worse.

What are the different withdrawal symptoms associated with alcoholism brief any six of them? ›

Timeline of Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
  • Anxiety.
  • Shaky hands.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Insomnia.
  • Sweating.
Nov 26, 2021

What is withdrawal syndrome list any two symptoms? ›

Withdrawal symptoms: Abnormal physical or psychological features that follow the abrupt discontinuation of a drug that has the capability of producing physical dependence. In example, common opiates withdrawal symptoms include sweating, goosebumps, vomiting, anxiety, insomnia, and muscle pain.

What happens to your body during the process of withdrawal? ›

Individuals can experience tremors or convulsions, hallucinations, anxiety, disorientation, palpitations, sweating, or even hyperthermia, on top of other acute withdrawal symptoms.

What are the three forms of Withdraw? ›

  • ,
  • he / she / it withdraws. ,
  • past simple withdrew. ,
  • past participle withdrawn. ,
  • -ing form withdrawing. ,

What are the three withdrawals? ›

The 3 types of withdrawals include:
  • Savings.
  • Taxation.
  • Imports.

What is the classification of withdrawal? ›

Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS)Time of Onset
Uncomplicated WithdrawalFirst 6 hours
Alcohol Hallucinosis8-12 hours
Alcohol Withdrawal Seizures12-24 hours
Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium24-72 hours
Nov 23, 2020

What type of medication can have withdrawal symptoms if not stopped gradually? ›

Stopping some medications abruptly — like beta blockers, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants — can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

How do you stop withdrawal symptoms from medication? ›

You could:
  1. Talk to your doctor. They may be able to adjust your dose, or prescribe other medications to help with withdrawal symptoms you're experiencing. ...
  2. Ask if you can switch medication. You could also ask your doctor about changing to a different drug that is easier to taper down from. ...
  3. Reduce your dose more slowly.

Which medication is used to reduce the severity of benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms? ›

Flumazenil. This drug is primarily used to treat Benzodiazepine overdoses, but has shown some success in reducing withdrawal symptoms of long-acting Benzos.

Which of the following is considered as the most effective treatment for substance abuse? ›

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a one-on-one therapy during which you meet privately with a therapist over a period of time. It's often considered the most effective therapy for drug and alcohol use disorders.

How long do withdrawals take? ›

You could experience withdrawal symptoms within a day or two after you stop drinking. If you chronically, heavily abused alcohol, withdrawal symptoms may begin only a few hours after your last drink. Mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically last a week or two.

How long do withdrawals last pills? ›

Opioid Withdrawal Timeline

Generally: Symptoms start sometime between 8 and 24 hours after you last use the drugs. You feel worst between 48 and 72 hours (2-3 days) after your last use. Symptoms stop sometime between 4 to 10 days after you last used.

What are five types of therapy that can be used to treat alcoholism? ›

What Are My Alcoholism Therapy Options?
  • Talk Therapy. Psychotherapy is the classic approach of having a conversation. ...
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) ...
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) ...
  • Motivational Interviewing. ...
  • 12-Step Facilitation. ...
  • Yoga And Meditation. ...
  • Art And Music Therapy. ...
  • Online Therapy.
Jan 3, 2023

What are withdrawal symptoms in relation to drugs? ›

Drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms tend to be a combination of both physical and mental symptoms and may include: Nausea and vomiting. Headaches. High temperature and/or chills.

What does withdrawal symptom mean? ›

A term used to describe the physical and mental symptoms that a person has when they suddenly stop or cut back the use of an addictive substance, such as opiates and opioids, nicotine products, or alcohol.

What is another word for withdrawal symptoms? ›

Synonyms of withdrawal
  • retirement.
  • retreat.
  • pullout.
  • pullback.
  • disengagement.
  • revulsion.
  • recession.
  • recoil.

What to do when someone withdraws from you? ›

What to do when your partner withdraws emotionally
  1. Give them the benefit of the doubt. ...
  2. Try not to panic. ...
  3. Ask questions and listen to their answers. ...
  4. Express what you need. ...
  5. Reevaluate and adjust as needed. ...
  6. Look out for signs of emotional abuse.
Jun 4, 2021

How do you deal with withdrawal symptoms from nicotine? ›

Try nicotine replacement products or ask your doctor about other medications. Remind yourself that cravings will pass. Avoid situations and activities that you used to associate with using tobacco products. As a substitute for smoking, try chewing on carrots, pickles, apples, celery, sugarless gum, or hard candy.

How do you deal with withdrawal symptoms from vaping? ›

Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Water can help ease uncomfortable nicotine withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, sweating, hunger, and fatigue. Drinking water may also help reduce cravings.

How do you help someone who is withdrawing? ›

What to say to someone who's withdrawing due to stress or mental health problems
  1. Ask open-ended questions. ...
  2. Share your own struggles. ...
  3. Suggest Support. ...
  4. Offer practical guidance. ...
  5. Check back in. ...
  6. Set specific times to catch up. ...
  7. Let them know you're there to listen. ...
  8. Let them know you're worried.
Sep 9, 2021

How do you break demand withdraw pattern? ›

Getting Started with Active Listening. The practice of “active listening” could help you get out of the demand-withdraw rut, too. In active listening, you restate what the other person says as a way to be sure that you understood. You also check on what you think the other person may be feeling.

Is withdrawal a trauma response? ›

As soon as a traumatic Event passes, most survivors experience a more-or-less irresistible urge to withdraw to a safe, quiet place. Survivors cycle through intense emotions, feelings, and sensations such as shock, fear, anger.

What are the 5 most common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal? ›

Nicotine withdrawal is the physical and psychological symptoms you feel as nicotine leaves your body.
What are the most common nicotine withdrawal symptoms?
  • Urges or cravings for nicotine. ...
  • Headaches.
  • Nausea.
  • Dizziness.
  • Feeling anxious, jumpy, irritable, grouchy or angry.
Oct 25, 2021

Can caffeine help with nicotine withdrawal? ›

Third, caffeine consumption could make smoking cessation more difficult and increase the likelihood of relapse by adding to or intensifying the symptoms of tobacco abstinence or by altering the cognitive and performance deficits that appear during abstinence.

Does water help nicotine withdrawal? ›

When you quit smoking, it's important to drink lots of water. By staying hydrated, you'll give your body the tools it needs to flush the nicotine and other toxins out of your system. Moreover, drinking water can also help reduce certain withdrawal symptoms like headaches and constipation.

Should I quit vaping cold turkey or gradually? ›

Research suggests that quitting cold turkey may be the most effective way to quit. If you go this route, be sure to throw away all vaping materials, including chargers, pods and juices. Another advantage of quitting cold turkey is you won't feel tempted to reach for “just one puff.”

How long do withdrawals last after quitting vaping? ›

Timeline of nicotine withdrawal

The symptoms peak about 3 days after quitting and then gradually subside over the following 3–4 weeks.

Do you heal after quitting vaping? ›

Within the first 1 to 9 months after quitting vaping, the lung's capacity to clear out mucus and fight off infections significantly increases. This event is even more noticeable than the early signs of increased lung capacity most people will feel shortly after they quit vaping.

Why do you get headaches when withdrawing? ›

Withdrawal headache occurs after someone stops taking a medication or substance that they had been using for weeks or months. According to the International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD-3), these are the substances most likely to cause withdrawal symptoms: Caffeine. Opioid.

Where are withdrawal headaches located? ›

A caffeine withdrawal headache can present as a feeling of pain and pressure that pushes outwards from the brain. Starting behind the eyes, it can move up to the front of the head. Caffeine withdrawal headaches can also present with migraine-like symptoms and as a widespread feeling of throbbing pain.

How long do withdrawal headaches last? ›

If you don't have any underlying medical conditions causing the headaches, and they can be blamed solely on post-acute withdrawal syndrome, the headaches should be gone within 6 months, possibly a year or more – in the cases of severe alcoholism.


1. How long can alcohol withdrawal symptoms last?
(American Addiction Centers)
2. Alcoholism - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, pathology
(Osmosis from Elsevier)
3. Signs and Symptoms of Withdrawal
(AddictionX: Managing Addiction: A Framework for Successful Treatment)
4. Tramadol Withdrawal, Addiction and Treatment - All You Need to Know About Tramadol | ANR Clinic
(ANR Clinic - Advanced Opioid Treatment Center)
(Addiction Mindset)
6. Opioid Withdrawal Timeline and Symptoms: The Painful Truth! | Dr. B
(Dr. B Addiction Recovery)
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