Alcohol types

Withdrawal: types, symptoms, treatment

Withdrawal, or withdrawal from a substance, is a process that the mind and body go through after a person stops using a substance or uses less of it. In general, people who use more of a substance and more often are more likely to suffer from withdrawal. People who have already gone through withdrawal, have a substance use disorder, or have a mental health condition are also at increased risk.

Approximately 8.5 million adults suffer from both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder in the United States. Withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe. For example, it can just be a headache or difficulty sleeping, or it can lead to death.

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

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Withdrawal Types

Common types of withdrawal include:


When a person uses a substance regularly, the body and mind become accustomed to that substance. Initially the substance will upset the balance in the body, but then the body will adapt to the substance and register it as normal. This leads to tolerance of the substance, which is when the body does not react in the same way unless the amount consumed is increased.

Addiction vs substance use

Addiction is another risk associated with substance use. It is sometimes confused with tolerance and dependence. However, it is different. Addiction is a disease of not being able to stop using a substance even if the pursuit has negative consequences. Signs of addiction can include loss of control and denial.

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

Substances can alter the functioning of neurotransmitters, which changes the way substance users think, feel, act, and experience the environment. Depending on the substance, the activity of neurotransmitters can increase or decrease. With regular substance use, changes become the new norm. When the substance is stopped or reduced, the person experiences withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms by drug type

Some withdrawal symptoms are common to a variety of different substances. However, withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the substance. It is important to know the specific withdrawal symptoms for a particular substance. In addition, the severity of signs and symptoms may depend on the amount of substance consumed and the duration of its use.


Most alcohol withdrawal symptoms go away within a few days, but they can last longer. Symptoms may include restlessness, anxiety, decreased energy, delirium, dizziness, emotional outbursts, fever, feeling disoriented, hallucinations, headache, increased blood pressure, insomnia, irritability, memory loss, nausea, seizures , tremors, sweating, trembling and vomiting.

Alcohol withdrawal is very serious and can lead to death. It is therefore important to seek professional help to reduce or stop alcohol consumption.

What is delirium tremens (DT)?

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


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


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


Caffeine withdrawal symptoms include headaches, irritability and other mood swings, nausea, drowsiness, muscle aches, and trouble concentrating. These symptoms can last for more than a week. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms range from mild to moderate.


Although marijuana is generally believed to be harmless, 47% of people who use it regularly experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include abdominal pain, aggression, anger, anxiety, changes in appetite or weight, depression, trouble sleeping, headache, irritability, nausea, nervousness, restlessness, sweating and vomiting.

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms usually last a few weeks, but some can persist for several months. The severity of symptoms can vary from mild to severe, and it is important to seek professional support for the onset of symptoms such as depression.


Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include cravings for smoking or using tobacco products, negative mood changes, restlessness or nervousness, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, taking weight or hunger, anxiety and depression. Withdrawal symptoms tend to get worse in the first week, but can last for several weeks after quitting.

Although most nicotine withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening, the depression and other mental health issues that can occur are linked to suicide. Therefore, it is important to seek professional support if mental health issues arise during nicotine withdrawal.


Symptoms of opioid withdrawal include pain, restlessness, anxiety, cramps, diarrhea, trouble sleeping, goosebumps, fast heartbeat or blood pressure, nausea , dilated pupils, sweating, vomiting, watery or runny nose and yawning. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can last from a few days to a few weeks. Withdrawal from opioids can lead to potentially serious medical complications and relapse, so it is important to seek professional support.


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


Consulting a qualified healthcare professional is an important step before reducing or stopping substances. This can help prevent or minimize withdrawal symptoms. They can help determine the risk of serious symptoms and provide information, resources, and possibly other treatment options needed.

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


Detoxification, or detox, is a process of supporting a person in withdrawal to help them eliminate substances from the body in a safer way.

Detox can be done in a clinic, hospital, or rehabilitation center and may include medication to manage withdrawal and help reduce symptoms. After the detox process, it is recommended that you continue treatment with groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous to keep you drug free.


Tapering is a process of slowly decreasing the use of a substance, such as a prescription drug, over time to prevent withdrawal. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are available to help reduce or stop the use of certain substances. For example, nicotine patches and gum can be used to help quit smoking.

Prescription medications can also be used. For example:

  • Opioid receptor partial agonist drugs (buprenorphine) help block opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings
  • Benzodiazepines to manage alcohol withdrawal
  • Adrenergic receptor agonist drugs help reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms


Withdrawal is a mind-body reaction that occurs when a person cuts down or stops using a substance. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and withdrawal can even lead to death. It is important to seek the help of a qualified healthcare professional before reducing or stopping substances and treating withdrawal symptoms.

A word from Verywell

Withdrawal can be accompanied by many emotions and fears, and it can be difficult to ask for help. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or withdrawal, you are not alone. Contact a healthcare professional for help. If you don’t know 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 identify them if they occur. It is important to speak with a healthcare professional before tapering or stopping any prescription medication or other substance. Also, it’s important to speak with a medical professional when you experience withdrawal symptoms.

  • How long does drug withdrawal last?

    The duration of withdrawal depends on the person and different elements of their health, as well as the type of substance and the amount and duration of substance use. It can also be influenced 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?