Understanding Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

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If you have been using certain addictive drugs and you stop suddenly or abruptly or you cut down your use drastically, you can experience a variety of symptoms known as withdrawal. The intensity and length of these withdrawal symptoms can vary widely, depending on the type of drug and your biological make-up.

While the physical symptoms of withdrawal might last only a few days or a week, the psychological withdrawal, such as depression or dysphoria, can last for weeks.

Symptoms for Specific Drugs

For detailed information about withdrawal symptoms associated with specific drugs, please see:

  • Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms: Not everyone who stops drinking alcohol has withdrawal symptoms, but most people who quit suddenly after drinking for any length of time can experience a wide range of symptoms. Many times those symptoms will trigger a relapse. 
  • Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms: Those who have become addicted to heroin experience probably the most intense withdrawal symptoms, according to addictions expert Elizabeth Hartney, Ph.D., but even the worst of those symptoms will subside in five to seven days. However, for some post-acute withdrawal syndrome can last for weeks or even months.
  • Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms: Compared to alcohol and other drugs, the withdrawal symptoms some marijuana users experience when they try to quit are on the mild side. But, some of those symptoms are unpleasant enough for some that they decide to go back to smoking.
  • Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms: Smoking cessation expert Terry Martin says not everyone experiences all of the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, but the ones that they do face are usually short-lived. There are steps you can take to reduce those symptoms, too.
  • OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms: The severity of OxyContin withdrawal symptoms is usually related to how long you have taken the medication and how much you took. If you took the painkiller only as directed, you may not experience any withdrawal symptoms at all, or very mild ones.
  • Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms: The symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal can vary from individual to individual, but most people will experience some discomfort when they quit taking the medication. Even when taken only as prescribed, Vicodin can cause some withdrawal symptoms for some patients. Some describe the symptoms as like having the flu.


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in most cases, the symptoms associated with drug withdrawal are easily treated with medications that reduce or eliminate the discomfort. But, treating withdrawal is not the same as treating the addiction itself.

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