How Long Does Withdrawal Last?

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That’s a question every treatment center hears on a daily basis. Withdrawal, after all, is dreaded by every individual who has an addiction, whether it’s to nicotine or heroin. How long withdrawal lasts depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The substance you’re dependent on.
  • How much of it is in your system at the time of detox.
  • The severity of dependence.
  • Your age, biology, and general state of physical and mental health.

One thing is certain, though: Medical detox reduces the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, and it can shorten the duration of withdrawal. In general, the answer to how long does withdrawal last is that it ranges anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Here, we look at how long withdrawal lasts for specific substances.

How Long Does Withdrawal Last for Opioids?

Opioid withdrawal produces symptoms like nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea, body aches and chills. These flu-like symptoms typically set in within six to 30 hours after the last dose, depending on whether the drugs in your system are short- or long-acting opiates. Opioid withdrawal symptoms typically peak around 72 hours and last a week or so. Cravings can last considerably longer.

Opioid withdrawal doesn’t have to be excruciating. Medication-assisted treatment is the new gold standard for opioid dependence, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It works by preventing withdrawal altogether and helping to normalize brain function so that you can work on recovering from the addiction.

How Long Does Withdrawal Last for Alcohol?

Alcohol withdrawal usually starts within eight hours of the last drink, but can begin up to a few days later. Mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, mood swings, headache, nausea and vomiting. They usually peak around 24 to 72 hours later, but some symptoms, including cravings and insomnia, can persist for weeks or longer.

Severe alcohol withdrawal is known as delirium tremens, or DTs. It’s marked by sudden, dangerous shifts in physical or mental health, including hallucinations, severe delirium, chest or stomach pain, tremors and seizures. These symptoms typically set in within 48 to 96 hours after the last drink, but they can occur up to 10 days later. Severe alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous or even fatal. Medical detox is essential for alcohol detox in terms of both safety and comfort.

How Long Does Withdrawal Last for Stimulants?

Stimulants like cocaine, meth and prescription drugs like Adderall and Ritalin produce withdrawal symptoms like depression, anxiety, low energy, nightmares and the inability to feel pleasure. Symptoms can begin shortly after the last dose, as is the case with cocaine and meth, or they can set in up to 36 hours later, such as with prescription stimulants.

The duration of stimulant withdrawal can range from a few days to a few weeks. Some symptoms–including depression and intense cravings–can last even longer. Treatment following detox is essential for developing skills to manage cravings and mood.

How Long Does Withdrawal Last for Benzodiazepines?

Like alcohol withdrawal, withdrawal from benzodiazepines like Klonopin and Valium can be dangerous or fatal. Because there are no FDA-approved medications to treat or prevent dangerous symptoms, including heart palpitations, high blood pressure and seizures. Detox from benzodiazepines and other central nervous system depressants will involve tapering off doses to prevent withdrawal altogether.

Detox is Only the Beginning

Detox only treats the physical dependence on drugs or alcohol, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Addiction is far more complex and requires a holistic approach to treatment for whole-person healing. A high quality treatment program is essential for learning to deal with stress and cravings, think in healthier ways and develop a happy, healthy lifestyle that contributes to long-term recovery.

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