Tips for Fever Management During Withdrawal

woman taking her temperature and feeling forehead

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A fever can be a withdrawal symptom among people who have been addicted to various substances, or even after a period of intense substance use. Fever symptoms may range from mild to severe. Although mild fevers can accompany a variety of substance withdrawal syndromes and is usually self-limiting, fever can also be a component of a particularly dangerous type of alcohol withdrawal.

What Is a Fever?

Body temperature varies from one individual to the next, and according to factors like time of day and menstrual cycle, but generally, a temperature of 99 to 99.5 F (37.2 - 37.5 C) is considered to be a fever in adults.

Additional Symptoms of Fever

Along with a fever, you may have these symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Appetite loss
  • Shivering
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Achy muscles
  • Dehydration

Fever in Withdrawal

Doctors take withdrawal fever very seriously, and in detox, all fevers are thoroughly investigated to make sure that they are not the result of an underlying infection, which should be treated immediately.

Drug users may be more vulnerable to infections for a variety of reasons, and both drug effects and withdrawal symptoms may mask the need for urgent treatment for another condition. 

Home Treatment

To monitor and treat your withdrawal fever at home:

  • Take and record your temperature. Abstain from smoking or hot fluids for 15-30 minutes before taking your temperature.
  • Although recommendations vary, generally speaking if your temperature goes above 101.3 F (38.5 C), take the correct dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Do not use painkillers containing codeine or any other opiate or opioid during withdrawal
  • A tepid bath or sponge bath can help lower body temperature, but do not use cold or iced water, as shivering will increase internal body temperature.
  • Remove layers of clothing. Do not bundle up even if you feel chilly or shivery.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, popsicles, and clear soup.

When to Seek Help

Seek medical assistance immediately if:

  • Your temperature goes above 103 F (40 C), and doesn't come down within an hour of home treatment.
  • Your fever persists for more than 24 hours.
  • You have a serious medical illness, such as a heart problem, sickle cell anemia, diabetes, HIV or cystic fibrosis.
  • You have any confusion or a seizure with the fever.

Symptoms of Addiction

Symptoms of alcohol or substance use disorders may include the following:

  • Not being able to stop using the substance, even though you've tried
  • Spending money you can't afford on the substance
  • Participating in activities you normally wouldn't in order to get the substance, for example, stealing
  • Having a strong desire to regularly use the substance, whether daily or multiple times a day
  • Experiencing strong cravings for the substance
  • Concentrating more and more of your efforts on getting and using the substance
  • Making sure you have an ample supply of the substance
  • Driving or other activities that could cause injury while you are under the influence of the substance
  • Interference with your work, school or home life because of the substance use
  • Developing a tolerance for the substance so that it takes more of it to get the same effect
  • A decline in your level of personal hygiene or grooming because of the increased substance use
  • Not having as much energy or participating in as many activities as you used to

A Word From Verywell

If you want to stop taking an addictive substance or alcohol, talk to your doctor about your treatment options. Treatments can help you manage the withdrawal process more safely and minimize the risk of future relapse. Going off the drug under the supervision of your doctor means that you can be carefully monitored.

Your doctor may also recommend the use of a medications such as methadone or buprenorphine to help minimize manage your withdrawal symptoms. Such medications often allow people to stop using substances gradually, reduce drug cravings, and lessen the likelihood of a relapse. Psychological treatments can also be helpful for long-term recovery.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. Fever. Reviewed December 31, 2019.

  2. Marsden J, White M, Annand F, et al. Medicines associated with dependence or withdrawal: a mixed-methods public health review and national database study in England. Lancet Psychiatry. 2019;6(11):935-950. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(19)30331-1

  3. Muncie HL, Yasinian Y, Oge' L. Outpatient management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Am Fam Physician. 2013;88(9):589-95.

  4. Vallance K, Stockwell T, Pauly B, et al. Do managed alcohol programs change patterns of alcohol consumption and reduce related harm? A pilot study. Harm Reduct J. 2016;13(1):13. doi:10.1186/s12954-016-0103-4.

By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD
Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada.