Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms, Timelines & Treatment for Various Drugs

Addiction Treatment
Jan Trobisch

Jan Trobisch

Darkness With Addiction

Addiction is a complex concept based on many variables. Each individual has a different experience and comes to addiction in a unique way. For most, understanding they have a problem that requires professional treatment is the first step to overcoming addiction.

People who do not fit the stereotype of a drug addict can find it even harder to recognize the dangers of their behaviors. Statistics show that there is no specific demographic for drug addiction. Every age group, from 12 to 65, is affected by addiction. Illicit drug use is not limited by socioeconomic status, either. Approximately 8.9% of adults who are employed full-time abuse drugs, along with 18.2% of people who are unemployed.


Drug Addict Employment Statistics

The homogenizing factor among people suffering from addiction is that they can be treated, no matter their age or social status. At Synergy Recovery Services, we also believe that everyone suffering from addiction deserves respect and compassion. The differences in treatment for addiction are determined by the substance of abuse and the underlying health issues of each individual.

Detox and Withdrawal

Addiction recovery begins with detoxing, and that is where withdrawal comes in. Substance abusers generally maintain a certain level of that drug in their systems at all times. An alcoholic, for instance, will drink regularly. They may have times when they drink a lot and other times when they just have one or two, but the amount of alcohol their bodies depend on always hovers above certain amount. If they let that level drop any further, they start experiencing withdrawal symptoms and immediately feel the need to put more alcohol in their systems.

Withdrawal is similar for all drugs. As long as the user has enough in their system, there are no withdrawal symptoms. In many cases, the withdrawal symptoms they do feel when they attempt to stop using are what drives the user back to their substance of choice and prolongs the addiction. This means the desire to be drug-free needs to overpower the craving to use drugs and the fear of withdrawal symptoms.

When we talk about recovering from drug abuse, most people are referring to the detox and withdrawal phase. Overcoming addiction is a long-term process that begins with getting the drugs out of your system and holding on until the withdrawal symptoms are over. There is a lot of work to be done after that point, but no recovery can take place until detox is complete. If you’re wondering, “What are the symptoms of drug withdrawal?” and “How long does drug withdrawal last?”, read on.

Symptoms of Different Drug Addictions

All drugs work in your brain through your brain chemistry to produce various effects. Brain chemistry is a complex science that can only begin to explain how each substance of abuse creates a different outcome. As research in this area continues, we get a clearer picture of the exact mechanism that builds addiction and why it is stronger for some substances than it is for others.

There are differences we can see through the withdrawal period that make addiction recovery a little different for each drug. Let’s take a look at some of the common drug addictions.

1. Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol Addiction Withdrawal

Alcohol is one of the most socially acceptable drugs in our society, and because of that, it’s sometimes considered safe. However, recent research in brain chemistry and addiction reveals that alcohol is very addictive, and long-term use might be more damaging to the brain than other drugs that are banned by the FDA.

The signs of alcohol addiction begin with patterned usage. An escalating frequency of alcohol use or an increase in volume of consumption at each event is indicative of addiction. There are some other common signs, like drinking alone or an inability to stop drinking. The cliché line of, “I could stop if I wanted to, but I don’t want to,” is actually indicative of addiction. If you feel like you don’t want to stop drinking even though alcohol may be negatively affecting your health or other aspects of your life, you’re probably addicted.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can feel like a hangover at first, with the headache from dehydration and an overall crummy feeling. As the detox progresses, anxiety, insomnia and depression are likely. Physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include nausea and vomiting, heart palpitations and sweating.

When alcohol withdrawal symptoms are severe, they can include hallucinations, seizures, confusion and fever. Depending on your unique set of circumstances, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening. About 3% to 5% of people going through alcohol withdrawal develop a condition called delirium tremens (DTs) and require life-saving treatment.

If you want to know how long to detox from alcohol, you can use the alcohol withdrawal timeline below as a guide.

2. Opiate Addiction

Opiate Addiction Withdrawal

Opiates are a class of drugs derived from opium, a highly-addictive substance found in the poppy plant. These drugs include morphine, oxycodone, codeine, fentanyl and heroin. Morphine addictions became a problem with soldiers injured in the Civil War. Since then, different versions of this powerful pain killer have been developed and marketed, but they are all extremely addictive. Even heroin, which is mostly known as a street drug was originally developed as a pain reliever.

The high rate of prescription drug addictions is primarily related to opiates. People use them for legitimate medical purposes, but they end up getting addicted to these powerful medications. Signs of an opiate addiction can include severe mood swings, changing doctors frequently and continuing to take pain-relievers long after the surgery or injury was incurred.

When detoxing from an opiate addiction, you can expect to feel symptoms similar to a bad cold. There may be muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea and fatigue. Withdrawal symptoms can also include depression, anxiety and insomnia. The physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal are not life-threatening, but the chance of relapse can be.

Opiate addiction is extremely powerful and almost impossible to overcome without assistance. The cravings during withdrawal are too strong for many people to resist, so they end up using again. The risk of overdose during a relapse is high. Opiate or opioid addiction withdrawal can take several weeks or longer for the craving to go away.

If you are wondering how long heroin withdrawal lasts, the answer is that everyone’s experience is different. However, the timeline below can give you a rough idea. Heroin withdrawal can be difficult, but the bigger challenge is to overcome the desire to start using again and enjoy a lasting recovery.

3. LSD Addiction

LSD is a dangerous hallucinogenic drug that alters perceptions of reality. If you witness someone on an LSD trip, they might have dilated pupils, a rapid heart rate or convulsions. They might seem unusually relaxed and exhibit a loss of coordination for tasks like driving or riding a bicycle. LSD trips can last up to 12 hours, and the person may not make any attempt to hide their condition.

LSD use can produce paranoia, extreme agitation or anxiety. Depression and disorientation are also signs of an LSD addiction. It is possible a person addicted to LSD will enjoy the experience, or they might become terrified until the high wears off.

LSD does not present physical withdrawal symptoms. Instead, they are mostly psychological, but they are still serious. Withdrawal can include flashbacks, psychosis and suicidal thoughts. Flashbacks from LSD withdrawal can come months or even years after the last usage. Anxiety, depression and an overall fear of going crazy are the most common withdrawal symptoms for LSD.

4. Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine Addiction Withdrawal

Cocaine is a strong illicit drug that is very addictive. Any cocaine use can be treated as an addiction, since cocaine is not generally tolerated as a casual recreational drug. The signs of cocaine use include risky behaviors, increased agitation and hyperactivity. You may notice nosebleeds, muscle tics and an inability to focus.

In addition to its activity in the brain, cocaine causes damage to the heart and kidneys. An overall decrease in health or quality of life can be a sign of cocaine addiction. The cardiac damage sustained can lead to heart attack or heart rate and rhythm issues that are serious or even fatal.

Some or all of the damage caused by a cocaine addiction can be mitigated once the usage stops. Withdrawal from cocaine can include symptoms like exhaustion, depression and slowed physical and brain activity. Physical symptoms can include muscle aches, nerve pain, chills and tremors. Nightmares, restlessness and an inability to concentrate may also accompany cocaine withdrawal. The exact cocaine detox timeline can vary.

5. Ecstasy Addiction

Ecstasy Addiction Withdrawal

Ecstasy originally had a reputation for being a party drug, something to enhance the feelings of pleasure in social situations. It was quickly proven to be addictive, and it can be a serious problem. One of the first signs of an ecstasy addiction is that an increasing amount is needed each time to achieve the same high. This is a sign your brain is building up a tolerance to the drug. Another sign of addiction is an increased frequency of use. If you find you started out using once in a while and now you use ecstasy on a regular basis, almost every day, you have developed an addiction to the drug.

When you are ready to quit your ecstasy habit, you can expect to experience some psychological symptoms like anxiety, confusion or depression. Agitation and paranoia are not unusual in ecstasy withdrawal, along with memory problems and difficulty concentrating.

There are few physical side effects, and ecstasy withdrawal is not considered life-threatening. The biggest danger can be relapse, which does present a risk of overdose. The cravings from ecstasy withdrawal can be strong, and combined with the psychological symptoms, they can be too much for a user to overcome on their own.

6. Methamphetamine Addiction

Meth Withdrawal

Methamphetamine is a strong stimulant that is sometimes used to treat attention deficit disorders or obesity. It is also “cooked,” distributed and consumed illegally as a street drug. In large doses, it produces a euphoric effect that becomes addictive and that users crave.

Someone using meth will get sweaty and overheated for no apparent reason. Their pupils will be dilated, heart rate will be increased and they may even be sexually aroused. Other signs of meth use include loss of appetite and excessive weight loss. A person addicted to meth may go long periods of time without sleeping and seem excessively active, even to the point of appearing nervous or anxious.

When detoxing from meth, you can expect several withdrawal symptoms, including fatigue and depression. Mood swings and a flat emotional disposition are common, as are headaches, trouble sleeping and an increased appetite. Meth withdrawal symptoms can include hallucinations, paranoia and confusion. All of these symptoms will be accompanied by intense cravings to use meth again.

7. Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana use can be accompanied by varying degrees of addiction. Marijuana use can cause distorted perception, trouble with problem-solving activities and impaired coordination. Addiction can be marked by insomnia, anxiety and a decreased appetite. Like with other drugs, one clear sign of addiction is the uncontrollable drive to continue using the drug in increased amounts and frequency of consumption.

Symptoms of marijuana withdrawal can differ greatly based on the depth of the addiction. Common symptoms include nausea, mood swings, insomnia and depression. More severe cases are marked by sweating, chills, fever and hallucinations. How long it takes to detox from marijuana varies depending on duration of use and on the individual.

How Long Does It Take to Recover From Different Drugs?

Like addiction itself, recovery is a very personal experience. Although there are similarities to the withdrawal timeline, everyone goes through detox a little differently. There are a number of variables that can affect the detox and withdrawal experience:

  • Type of substance — Opiates tend to get right into the pleasure centers of the brain and develop strong addictions quickly. Opiates and alcohol addictions also have strong physical components that make withdrawing from them different from other drugs.
  • Length of addiction — Even when an addiction develops right away, it continues to deepen over time. The longer you continue to use the drug, the tighter the hold it can have on your brain. For example, a ten-year addiction can take longer to break than one that has just recently developed.
  • Amount of use — How much of a drug you take at one time affects your addiction and, therefore, your withdrawal. Binge drinking, for example, can create as much damage in your brain in one year as casual drinking can have over many years. A binge drinker might have more severe physical withdrawal symptoms, too.
  • Underlying mental health issues — Some addictions develop on top of an existing mental illness, and sometimes an addiction creates another mental health issue. The number and type of co-existing conditions you have will affect your recovery experience. Addiction is best treated in conjunction with any underlying mental illnesses, but tackling two together may require more treatment that just one.
  • Physical health — The brain and body are connected in ways we are still working to understand. Addiction happens in the brain, but it affects the body as well. Conversely, your physical health can affect if and how you become addicted to a substance and how that addiction is treated. If your physical condition, for instance, cannot withstand certain treatments, recovery will be slower until your health improves.
  • Genetics — There is at least a small genetic component in all addictions. Even if we cannot pinpoint or predict how your genetic make-up will affect recovery, it can make your recovery different from someone else’s.

Physical Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

How Long Do Drug Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

Despite these variables, the average detox and withdrawal process is roughly the same for all drugs with a couple exceptions. In the first phase of detox, symptoms will present. They may not seem too intense, but there is generally a desire to make them go away by using again.

The second phase of detox is marked by an increase in symptoms. This is when things can get bad, and medical interventions may be applied to stabilize vital signs or just ease the symptoms. This can be the toughest part of detox.

Symptoms peak in the second phase of detox and begin to subside in phase three. This is when controlling cravings can be especially important. You are almost through and need to begin a rehab program to learn to live without those drugs in your system.

Drug Withdrawal Cravings

All detox and withdrawals go through these three phases, but on these different timelines:

Drug Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3
cocaine 1-3 hours 24-72 hours 7-70 days
alcohol 8 hours 24-72 hours 7-14 days
opiates 8-12 hours 12-48 hours 5-10 days
marijuana 24 hours 24-72 hours 10-15 days
Ecstasy 12-24 hours 36-72 hours 10-15 days
Meth 1-3 hours 24-48 hours 7-24 days


These are just approximate timelines for withdrawal. Some withdrawal symptoms will linger beyond the end of the last phase of detox, and some might appear or reappear later. Cravings can come and go and become intense for some period after detox, which is why detox needs to be followed by a rehab program. The treatment you get in detox is just the very beginning of what you need to overcome an addiction to drugs.

Addiction Outpatient Detox Bakersfield, CA

When you or a loved one is faced with an addiction to any substance, the time to seek help is now. The sooner you can begin treatment, the better your outcome will be. Addiction can be treated, but the timeline for treatment and recovery looks different for each person.

It is always advisable to seek medical supervision for medication assisted treatment, no matter what substance or combination of substances you are dealing with. A medical professional can guide your process and protect you from any life-threatening conditions it might create.

Although drugs are bad for you, once they are in your system and your brain is used to living with them, it can be complicated to get rid of them. Once the drugs are gone, your brain must adjust everything to the new conditions. In some cases, this is a lot of change and can take some time.

Drugs not only affect your brain, but they also can change how your body functions. Your body naturally seeks balance, so when you consume drugs, it adjusts to a new normal condition. During the transition away from dependence on drugs, it may take time for your brain to properly regulate your heart or respiration, for example.

While your body is undergoing such a drastic change, it is best to have the support of a medical professional. In addition to life-saving treatments, you might be a candidate for medical detox, which is the use of medication to ease the symptoms of withdrawal.

Drug Withdrawal Effects on Body

Establishing Health With a Rehabilitation Program

Most importantly, medication assisted treatment needs to be incorporated with a solid rehabilitation program to help you overcome the addiction. Detox gets you over the drugs, but without rehab, you are likely to use again. It would need to be repeated if the drug use started again. Relapse is often dangerous, and withdrawal symptoms are not necessarily any better when you repeat detox.

At Synergy Recovery Services, we offer a outpatient detox program that is coordinated with outpatient rehab services to help you move toward a lasting recovery. Our recovery services are discreet to protect your privacy and they are delivered in a spa-like setting. Call 661-878-9930 to find out more about how Synergy Recovery Services can treat you or your loved one with the medical expertise and compassion you need at this difficult time.

Schedule Appointment