Prescription Drug Addiction Withdrawal

Learn about the symptoms, types, and treatment methods for prescription drug addiction withdrawal.

What Is Drug Withdrawal?

Drug withdrawal, also known as detoxification (detox), is the process of a person’s body recovering after discontinuing drug abuse.1 The withdrawal process includes a series of adverse symptoms and can be dangerous if not treated by a medical professional.

Prescription Drug Addiction Withdrawal


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Why Does Withdrawal Occur?

Drug withdrawal occurs when consumption of a substance is ceased after the body becomes dependent on it. Because the body becomes physically dependent on a substance after repeated and prolonged use, a person may experience extreme discomfort when consumption has stopped.

Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

Several symptoms can arise during the process of drug withdrawal or detox. These symptoms will vary in severity depending on the person’s physical health, age, body type, how long they have been addicted to the substance, and the type of drug used. Drug detox side effects can be treated with the assistance of a medical professional.

Here is a list of common side effects caused by drug withdrawal:2

Nausea and Vomiting

During withdrawal from drugs, it is common for a person to experience nausea and vomiting. These symptoms can last for up to a week or longer.


It is likely to experience feelings of depression while detoxing. This symptom can last for several weeks but can be alleviated with therapy and management techniques.


Anxiety is a common side effect of withdrawal. This symptom can last for several weeks but can be alleviated with therapy and management techniques.


Headaches can develop within the first twenty-four hours of the withdrawal process and last for one week. This physical withdrawal symptom can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications.

Excessive Sweating

As a person withdraws from drugs, they may find themselves experiencing sweating excessively. Excessive perspiration progresses the detoxification and allows the body to expel all chemicals and toxins.

Types of Withdrawal

Several types of withdrawal can be experienced depending on the substance the body is detoxing from. In other words, withdrawal symptoms differ from one substance to another, such as duration, physical and mental side effects, and severity.


Prescription drug withdrawal, such as detoxification from antidepressants, can last a few weeks.3 The symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal can include anxiety, insomnia, depression, nausea, dizziness, headaches, flu-like symptoms, and irritability. It is important to seek medical attention if experiencing severe symptoms when detoxing from drugs.


Withdrawal from barbiturates can begin two to four days after ceasing consumption. The symptoms of barbiturate withdrawal can include anxiety, restlessness, dizziness, insomnia, nausea, tremors, seizures, and psychosis. In severe cases, withdrawal from barbiturates can result in death. Therefore, it is important to detox in the presence of a medical professional.4


Withdrawal from inhalants can last for several days, depending on how long the person engaged in inhalant consumption. The inhalant withdrawal symptoms can include hypersomnia, dizziness, nausea, delusions, excessive sweating, and depression.5


Opioid withdrawal can last for up to one week or longer. The symptoms of opioid withdrawal can include flu-like symptoms, yawning, excessive sweating, vomiting, nausea, anxiety, and runny nose. In severe cases, withdrawal from opioids can result in death. Thus, a medically-assisted detox is essential.6


When withdrawing from stimulant drugs, such as cocaine or amphetamines, a person may experience symptoms for up to two weeks.7 The symptoms of stimulant withdrawal can include excessive sleep, hunger, excessive sweating, anxiety, depression, chills, hallucinations, and paranoia.8

Treatment of Withdrawal

There are several options for treating withdrawal, but medications are one of the most effective methods. Withdrawal medications can alleviate the negative symptoms and discomfort associated with detoxification.

Four of the most common withdrawal medications are Catapres, Librium, Buprenex, and Valium.

Catapres (clonidine)

Catapres, or clonidine, alleviates the symptoms involved with opioid withdrawal.9 This medication works by stopping the chemicals in the brain that cause sympathetic nervous system activity and eliminating symptoms, such as sweating, restlessness, and anxiety.

Librium (chlordiazepoxide)

Librium, or chlordiazepoxide, alleviates the negative effects that alcohol withdrawal may have on mental health.10 This medication can regulate panic and anxiety symptoms while providing feelings of relief for the person suffering from withdrawal. Librium can also help stimulate appetite.

Buprenex (buprenorphine)

Buprenex, or buprenorphine, stops withdrawal symptoms involved with opiate detoxification.11 This medication works by acting as a synthetic opioid and helps manage adverse symptoms caused by opioid detoxification. Consuming Buprenex can help stifle cravings for opioids and decrease the risk of relapse.12

Valium (diazepam)

Valium, or diazepam, can be used to treat either alcohol or opiate withdrawals.13 This medication can prevent seizures, alleviate anxiety, and calm the brain.14 It’s essential to understand that Valium is also an addictive substance and should only be used for short-term treatment.

Prescription Drug Timelines of Withdrawal

The timeline for each prescription drug withdrawal varies depending on the person’s physical health, age, length of dependence, and type of substance they are detoxing from.15
Prescription Drug Timelines of Withdrawal

Opiate and Opioid Prescription Drugs Withdrawal Timeline

For prescription drug opioids, such as methadone, the onset of withdrawal symptoms will occur twelve to forty-eight hours after last use and can last between ten and twenty days. For opiates, such as heroin, the onset of withdrawal symptoms will take place eight to twenty-four hours after last use and can last between four and ten days.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline

For benzodiazepine drugs, the onset of withdrawal symptoms will take place one to seven days after the last use and can last between two and four weeks.

Sleeping Pill Withdrawal Timeline

The onset of symptoms for sleeping pills withdrawals will occur one to three days after the last use and can last between two and four weeks.

Gabapentinoid Withdrawal Timeline

For gabapentinoid withdrawal, the onset of symptoms will take place one to seven days after the last use and can last for up to ten days.

Stimulant Prescription Drug Withdrawal Timeline

The onset of symptoms for stimulant withdrawals will occur within twenty-four hours of last use and can last between three and five days.