Abusing drugs or alcohol impacts your body, your relationships and your mindset. When you want to recover from an addiction, going through detoxification provides a chance to remove the lingering substances or toxins in your body.

Unfortunately, you will also face withdrawal symptoms. Understanding the symptoms that you will face and the possible options to reduce the discomfort associated with withdrawal symptoms will allow you to focus on your next goal.

What Are Withdrawal Symptoms?

man sitting bedA withdrawal symptom refers to a reaction from your body when you stop using a drug or alcohol. The National Institutes on Health (1) explain that withdrawal symptoms start occurring within a few weeks to a few months after using or abusing a substance.

Physical dependence on a substance does not always result in an addiction. For example, you might have withdrawal symptoms after taking a medication for an injury when you stop taking the drug. Although withdrawal symptoms do not always result in addiction, be aware that physical dependence increases the risk of addiction.

Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety or worries
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • General aches and pains
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Tremors, or shaking

Generally, the symptoms are not dangerous; however, some substances cause more extreme reactions and long-term addiction increases the risk of more severe symptoms.

Severe or potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms include:

“¢ Hallucinations
“¢ Severe shaking
“¢ Delusions
“¢ Severe confusion
“¢ Irritability or violent behavior

Depressed young woman sitting at home.Web MD (2) warns that severe symptoms are potentially life-threatening, so you should always seek medical attention if you experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Generally, it is best to seek a medically supervised detox program when you want to stop using a drug, alcohol or a prescription medication.

The exact symptoms associated with any substance will vary slightly and certain drugs, like opiates or alcohol, are particularly dangerous to health when you have withdrawal symptoms.

What is Detox?

Detox, or detoxification, refers to the process of removing a substance from the body. Essentially, it is a medically supervised program so that you can get past the withdrawal symptoms in a safe environment.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (3) explain that detoxification is the stage of treatment that allows your body to remove the substance, but it is not the final step of reaching your recovery goals.

In most cases, detoxification takes three to seven days. During that time, you will not take the substance and will go through withdrawal symptoms. Since the symptoms are potentially dangerous, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (4) recommends a medically supervised program so that you will not take unnecessary risks with your health.

Following Through With Treatment

After completing a detoxification program and recovering from the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, evaluate your goals and treat the underlying causes of addiction. A professional treatment program provides the tools and treatment that you need to avoid substance abuse in the future. Red heart in gentle woman's handsBy creating a personalized treatment plan, you can set realistic short and long-term goals.

Withdrawal symptoms occur when you are treating an addiction to drugs or alcohol, but a medically supervised program helps reduce the discomfort and addresses potential dangerous. Recovery starts with detoxification and eliminating the drug from your system.

When you complete the initial stage of treatment, you can move forward and start obtaining your personal goals for long-term health and well-being.


  1. Opiate Withdrawal, National Institutes on Health, Medline Plus, April 5, 2013, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000949.htm
  2. Healthwise Staff, Alcohol or Drug Withdrawal, Web MD, March 12, 2014, http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-or-drug-withdrawal
  3. Frequently Asked Questions, The National Institute on Drug Abuse, http://www.drugabuse.gov/frequently-asked-questions#detox
  4. DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction, The National Institute on Drug Abuse, September 2009, http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction