Facts About Withdrawal (Drug & Alcohol)

When people abuse drugs and alcohol, they can grow physically and psychologically dependent on them. When a heavy drinker or drug user abruptly decreases or stops their alcohol or drug use, they experience withdrawal. 

One surprising fact about withdrawal is that the symptoms can differ depending on the substance. However, both alcohol and drug withdrawal share a combination of mental, physical, or emotional symptoms that can vary in severity. 

Symptoms can range from mild tremors and irritability to more severe symptoms, such as vomiting, paranoia, and seizures.

People often need support to manage drug or alcohol withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse. For sustained abstinence, people in recovery need psychosocial treatment from medical professionals they trust.

Withdrawal Quick Facts

  • Signs of alcohol withdrawal often appear within several hours after the last drink and peak over the next 24-72 hours. Delirium can also happen during this time and can last up to eight days.
  • Some drugs, like heroin and prescription painkillers, can cause withdrawal symptoms 8-24 hours after their last use. Symptoms last between 4-10 days.
  • Longer-acting opioids like methadone can take 2-4 days before withdrawal symptoms begin. These symptoms often fade within 10 days.
  • Withdrawal from drugs like Xanax or Valium often starts within a few days. For the first two weeks, symptoms may be severe, and without successful treatment, can remain difficult to manage for months or even years. 


Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

For heavy alcohol users, quitting alcohol all at once—“cold turkey”—without support, can be a mistake. Withdrawal for people with serious alcohol dependency can be severe—with a higher risk for seizures and other withdrawal-related issues. 

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Quickened Pulse
  • Perspiration
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Irritations
  • Headaches
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures


Because alcohol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system, alcohol withdrawal can become life-threatening. Medical detox is a safe alternative to quitting on your own and can benefit those wishing to break their addiction to alcohol.

Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone suddenly quits or reduces their drug use, they can experience the physiological response of withdrawal. It happens because their body has grown dependent on the drug and has trouble adjusting when it is no longer present. 

The fact about withdrawal is that if left untreated, drug withdrawal can result in serious health problems or even death.

Drug withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Dilated Pupils
  • Tremors
  • Muscle Soreness
  • Hunger
  • Exhaustion
  • Perspiration
  • Irritation
  • Depression
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures


Commonly Asked Questions

Can you die from drug or alcohol withdrawal?

Drug or alcohol withdrawal can be severe, particularly if it’s not managed by qualified medical staff. In some rare cases, it can be lethal.

Does insurance cover withdrawal recovery?

Sometimes insurance covers withdrawal recovery, but you’ll need to double-check with your provider and your insurance to find out.

Why is medical detox necessary?

Alcohol and drug withdrawal symptoms can be painful and even dangerous. Medical detox helps you navigate this change and learn strategies for maintaining a successful recovery. 

Completing a withdrawal and detox program is the first step. At Buena Vista, trained professionals create a personalized recovery plan that addresses your unique needs and goals.

Contact Buena Vista Recovery for more information about our drug and alcohol addiction recovery program.