Is Withdrawal Management Different With Alcohol Versus Painkillers?

July 18, 2023

Written By: Buena Vista Recovery

When you use a substance long-term, you will build up a tolerance to it. Because of this, in order to get the same effect, you will tend to use more and more of a substance. Over time, your body becomes dependent on the substance. Whether it is alcohol or painkillers, you will feel withdrawal symptoms when you do not have the substance in your body. Fortunately, there is help. When you turn to Buena Vista Recovery for withdrawal management by way of a medically supervised detox, you can safely alleviate these withdrawal symptoms. However, the specific withdrawal symptoms and method of withdrawal management will look different for alcohol and painkillers. Therefore, individualized treatment is important to help you throughout the detox and treatment process.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Your withdrawal symptoms will be unique to your own situation and particulars. The length of time you have been using a substance, the amount you have been using, and your genetics can all play a role. However, every substance has withdrawal symptoms that are more common for that specific substance, including alcohol and painkillers.


Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal appear when you stop or reduce the amount of alcohol you are drinking. These symptoms generally occur within a few hours of your last drink and are a result of long-term dependence. The symptoms are due to your body becoming reliant on ethanol after long-term exposure.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe. Mild symptoms include headache, anxiety, tremors, and an upset stomach. Moderate symptoms include mild hallucinations and seizures that commonly occur within 12 and 24 hours of your last drink. When you experience extreme withdrawal symptoms, you will have severe sweating, visual hallucinations, and extreme stress on the body including high blood pressure.


Opioids are strong painkillers that are highly addictive. They are prescribed as a way to manage both acute and chronic pain issues. However, opioids are also sold illegally and you may have used both prescription and non-prescription opioids as a way to manage pain. Long-term use of opioids leads to dependence. Therefore, you will experience withdrawal symptoms when you decrease or stop using painkillers.

Symptoms of painkiller withdrawal can begin within eight hours of the last dosage. However, this will vary depending on the type of painkiller you are using. Painkiller withdrawal symptoms commonly include an upset stomach, nausea, or vomiting. Additionally, it is common during painkiller withdrawal to have trouble sleeping and anxiety. Other symptoms include sweating, muscle cramps, ad hot and cold flashes.

Withdrawal Management: Alcohol

When you are dependent on alcohol, going through withdrawal is part of the healing process. It is necessary to get you to the other side of the withdrawal symptoms and get all alcohol out of your system. However, alcohol withdrawal can be severe. Therefore, withdrawal management is important.

If you are experiencing mild or moderate withdrawal symptoms, withdrawal management is fairly simple. It will include monitoring your vitals, providing supportive care, and ensuring that you are as safe and comfortable as possible throughout the process. However, severe withdrawal symptoms may require additional care measures. Long-acting benzodiazepines are drugs that help prevent or manage seizures and other dangerous withdrawal symptoms that can cause permanent damage or death.

Withdrawal Management: Painkillers

Getting through withdrawal is also part of the treatment and healing process for painkiller addiction. Similar to alcohol withdrawal, it is important to get all painkillers out of your system. This allows you to begin to recover. Withdrawal management is important as it helps you stay in treatment and keeps you safe during the withdrawal process.

The type of withdrawal management used for detoxing from painkillers will vary depending on your unique symptoms. Supportive care including observation, hydration, and vitamin supplements are all helpful for mild withdrawal symptoms. Essentially, medication is only used to manage symptoms as needed. However, for moderate and severe withdrawal symptoms, opioid medications are used to manage cravings and protect you from more severe physical symptoms.

Individualized Treatment in Withdrawal Management

Your dependence on one or more substances is unique and needs to be considered during withdrawal management. Buena Vista Recovery offers individualized treatment that helps to manage the withdrawal and detox that you may need to undergo. This tailored treatment approach means it is not a cookie-cutter kind of program.

For example, if you are dependent on multiple substances, the approach to withdrawal management will be very different than if you are dependent only on one. This is because medications that are used to manage symptoms of painkiller addiction should not be used to manage symptoms of alcohol addiction.

While there are general rules of thumb for withdrawal management, your particular needs and history will be taken into account. As a result, you will get the care that you need at the moment that will be most effective for you in healing from addiction and moving forward with your life. Going through withdrawal is hard, but you do not have to do it alone. Working with an addiction treatment center is the best way to guarantee your safety and improve your ability to heal from addiction long term.

Withdrawal is unfortunately a reality of healing from addiction. However, you do not have to do it alone. Withdrawal management is a way to help you get through withdrawal symptoms and come out the other side with your body healing from that dependence. At Buena Vista Recovery, we can help you manage your withdrawal symptoms. We address withdrawal management for different addictions, taking your unique needs into consideration in the process. To learn more about detox and addiction treatment at Buena Vista, call (480) 741-9414. You can talk to a staff member about how we can help you take the first step toward a life in which you are not dependent on addictive substances.