5 Most Common Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

Worried about detox? Finding out the most common drug withdrawal symptoms may ease your fears

If fears about going through detox are keeping you from seeking treatment, finding out the most common drug withdrawal symptoms may give you the courage to enter addiction rehab. When you use drugs or alcohol for a long time or in large quantities, your body and brain become accustomed to functioning under the influence of that substance. Drug withdrawal symptoms occur when you suddenly stop supplying your system with that substance. While these symptoms are never pleasant, they may be easier to endure when you know what drug withdrawal symptoms to expect and how long you will experience them.

The exact withdrawal symptoms that you will experience depends on the specific drug you are quitting, and the length and severity of your addiction. People who have taken medications exactly as prescribed may still experience withdrawal symptoms, because their bodies become reliant on the medication. In addition to the common drug withdrawal symptoms, you will also experience substance-specific withdrawal symptoms.  The most common drug withdrawal symptoms experienced by anyone who suddenly stops substance abuse include:

#1: Cravings

The number one withdrawal symptom when quitting drugs, alcohol, or any type of addicting substance is intense cravings. The urge to take more drugs or alcohol can produce intense cravings that are so strong they affect your thinking process, as your whole focus becomes finding more of whatever substance you are quitting. There are medications that can ease cravings and make it easier to get through detox, but be aware that less intense cravings can linger for days, months, or even years.

#2: Depression

One of the first things that drugs affect is your mood. Most drugs affect dopamine and serotonin levels in your brain, causing your system to produce more of these chemicals. Whether you take uppers that make you feel energized and euphoric, or depressants that produce calm and relaxed feelings, once you stop taking the drugs that affect your brain chemistry you can experience a rebound affect and feelings of dysphoria (opposite of euphoria). Depending on the drug involved, it can take weeks, months, or even years before your brain chemistry gets back to normal.

#3: Anxiety

Anxiety is a common drug withdrawal symptom that nearly everyone experiences. Anxiety symptoms can range from mild feelings of apprehension to outright panic attacks, complete with cold, clammy skin, shaking, and racing heartbeat. These feelings will ebb and surge throughout the detox process.

#4: Sleep disturbances

Sleep disturbances typically occur with withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. Depending on your particular substance abuse, you may experience insomnia or an uncontrollable urge to sleep. Nightmares are common once you do sleep, and extended periods of wakefulness or sleepiness are to be expected.

#5 Nausea and/or vomiting

Gastric disturbances frequently occur during detox as your body adjusts to the lack of drugs. You may experience intense bouts of vomiting or dry heaves during the peak intensity phase of drug withdrawal symptoms, typically two to three days after your last dose.

How long does drug withdrawal last

If you are wondering how long does drug withdrawal last, it depends on the drug of addiction. Drug withdrawal occurs in three phases: the initial phase, the acute or peak phase, and the post-acute phase. General guidelines for the withdrawal process for each drug type are as follows:

  • Alcohol – 5 to 7 days
  • Sedatives (Xanax, Restoril, Paxil) – 4 to 7 days for short acting, 7-14 for long-acting
  • Stimulants (cocaine, amphetamines) – 5 to 7 days
  • Opiates (heroin, OxyContin) – 5 to 7 days
  • Psychedelics (PCP, LSD) – days to weeks

Withdrawal symptoms of alcohol abuse are similar to those experienced with drug withdrawal, except in cases of the most severe alcohol addiction. These individuals will also experience another phase of withdrawal called Delirium Tremens or DTs. People experiencing DTs face symptoms that include hallucinations, agitation, disorientation, fever, and excessive sweating.

Withdrawal symptoms are never pleasant, but going through medically supervised detox can make the experience less uncomfortable. Medications and supportive therapies can be administered that make withdrawal symptoms more bearable and easier to endure.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.