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What Is Drug Withdrawal Detox?

Learn about drug withdrawal, the detoxification process, what to expect, and how to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

What Is Drug Withdrawal?

In 2019, over 20.4 million people aged twelve or older in the United States had a substance use disorder. Drug addiction is a severe and widespread problem that can have devastating consequences.1

One of the most challenging aspects of overcoming addiction is dealing with withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal can occur when a person suddenly stops taking medication or decreases their intake, and withdrawal symptoms typically begin within a few hours to a few days after the last dose of the drug and last for weeks or even months.

Drug Withdrawal Detoxification

Withdrawal symptoms can be intense and uncomfortable, but drug withdrawal detox can help to make the process more manageable. Drug withdrawal detox is a process that helps rid the body of toxins and ease withdrawal symptoms.

drug withdrawal

Why Does Withdrawal Occur?

Withdrawal occurs because the body becomes accustomed to the presence of a drug. As a result, the body can no longer function properly when a person stops taking the medication or decreases their intake.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

There are various symptoms of withdrawal, including:

  • Trembling and tremors
  • Muscle pain or aches
  • Hunger or loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia

Drug Withdrawal Timelines

People often want to know how long drug withdrawal will last. Unfortunately, the answer to this question is complicated. Withdrawal timelines vary depending on the following factors:

  • Duration of use
  • Frequency of use
  • Quantity used
  • Substance used

Risks of Withdrawal

Withdrawal can be difficult, uncomfortable, and, in some cases, life-threatening. The following include common risks associated with withdrawal:

  • Seizures
  • Mental status changes
  • Increasing panic and anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Significantly elevated blood pressure and heart rate
  • Abdominal pain
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Changing responsiveness to light shined in pupils
  • Hyperactive deep tendon reflexes

Feelings of anxiety and fear describe Cluster C disorders.

Types of Drug Withdrawal

Below are common substances that cause withdrawal:

Treatment for Withdrawal

There are several treatment options available for people suffering from withdrawal. The most common approach is to provide detoxification and rehabilitation services in a hospital or residential facility. This allows patients to receive twenty-four-hour medical care and support while they detoxify from the substance and begin the process of recovery. In some cases, medication helps to manage withdrawal symptoms.

If you or someone you know is suffering from withdrawal, it is essential to seek professional help as soon as possible.

Detoxification and Withdrawal Management

By cleansing the body of harmful toxins, drug detox can help reduce withdrawal symptoms and prepare the individual for further treatment. Additionally, detox can help identify any underlying medical conditions contributing to the addiction and provide a period of stabilization where the individual can develop healthy coping skills.

How to Prevent Drug Withdrawal From Happening

There are a few things that people can do to prevent drug withdrawal from happening, such as:

  • Find a safe and comfortable place to detox, like a hospital, rehab facility, or even at home under medical supervision.
  • Taper off the drug rather than quitting cold turkey to help minimize withdrawal symptoms.
  • Have a support system in place during detox, such as family, friends, or a professional therapist.

Withdrawal management is an essential part of detoxification, as it involves managing any symptoms that may arise when substance use stops or reduces. Withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and even dangerous, so it's essential to have a plan in place before detoxing. Detoxification and withdrawal management are two critical pieces of total body health.

Medications Used for Withdrawal Management

A few different types of medications may be used for withdrawal management, some of which will be detailed below.

Catapres (clonidine)

Catapres is a medication typically used to treat high blood pressure. It can also help with withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, and muscle aches.

Librium (chlordiazepoxide)

Librium is a medication that belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are often used to treat anxiety and seizure disorders. Librium can help with symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, and insomnia.

Buprenex (buprenorphine)

Buprenex is a medication that belongs to a class of drugs called opioids, which are typically used to treat pain. Buprenex can help with anxiety, muscle aches, and nausea. Buprenorphine is an effective treatment method for opioid use disorder. One study found that buprenorphine treatment resulted in reduced withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and opioid, cocaine, and marijuana use and increased retention rates.2

Valium (diazepam)

Valium belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines work by slowing down the central nervous system and are typically prescribed for anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures. Valium can help relieve irritability, insomnia, and body aches, and it can also help to reduce cravings for substances of abuse.

Ativan (lorazepam)

Ativan is the brand name for lorazepam, a benzodiazepine medication used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizure disorders. It is also one of the most commonly prescribed medications for alcohol withdrawal management.


Methadone is a long-acting opioid agonist that works by binding to the brain’s receptors, reducing cravings and the symptoms of withdrawal. Methadone can be taken orally or injected and is typically given daily. One study found methadone to reduce the risk of overdose by 76% after three months of treatment and 59% after twelve months.3
drug withdrawal symptoms

Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment Programs

Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs are two of the most common types of care for people suffering from withdrawal. Inpatient treatment is typically more intensive, requiring patients to stay at a facility to receive twenty-four-hour treatment.

On the other hand, outpatient treatment allows patients to live at home while they receive care. Both programs can provide treatment in individual or group settings, including medication, therapy, and other support services.4

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)

Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) are outpatient treatments that are typically more intensive than traditional outpatient care. PHPs require patients to participate in therapy for several hours each day.

Patients in a PHP typically receive individual and group therapy and medication management. Services are generally provided five to seven days a week for several hours daily.

Residential Treatment

Residential treatment programs (RTP) provide twenty-four-hour care in a structured setting. In addition, patients receive individual and group therapy, medication management, and other support services.

Get Help for Drug Withdrawal at Anew Treatment Center

Drug withdrawal can be a challenging and unnerving experience. The symptoms can be uncomfortable and even dangerous, and the temptation to use again can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there is help available. At Anew Treatment Center, we offer a safe and nurturing environment where you can detoxify from drugs and begin the process of recovery.

Our highly trained staff will provide twenty-four-hour supervision and support, as well as comprehensive care that includes medical monitoring, nutritional counseling, and individual therapy. We understand the challenges of drug withdrawal and are here to help you through every step. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please call us today. We can help you get the treatment you need to start living a sober, productive life.

The Bottom Line

Drug withdrawal is not a linear process. Withdrawal symptoms can be unpredictable and may come and go over several weeks or even months. Nevertheless, with time and patience, most people can successfully detox from drugs and lead happy and healthy lives.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, don't hesitate to seek help, many resources are available. You can overcome addiction and lead a fulfilling life with the proper support.

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