Fears of withdrawal from drugs and alcohol are a major barrier to quitting substance abuse. One of the most frequently asked questions remains, “How long does withdrawal last?” The short answer is that it depends on the substances used, how long the substances were used for, and various personal characteristics. Learn what to expect during drug withdrawal, the answer to how long does withdrawal last, and how a detox clinic or addiction treatment center can help keep you comfortable during the withdrawal process.
Veterans and Substance Abuse
Military members and veterans face stressors that the general population does not. Due to this, active and retired military personnel have higher drug and alcohol use rates. This often occurs as a form of self-medication to reduce symptoms from conditions like PTSD, depression, and anxiety, all of which veterans often face. Alternatively, chronic pain from service-related injuries may also open the door for drug use among veterans. In either case, once the body expects the presence of certain chemicals, drug withdrawal symptoms will occur when the drug is suddenly absent.
Understanding the withdrawal process will go a long way to calming fears of quitting drugs or alcohol. Below we address a few common frequently asked questions regarding withdrawal symptoms including, “How long does withdrawal last?”.
What Is Withdrawal?
Drug withdrawal describes the symptoms that the mind and body experiences while detoxing from chemical substances. Drug dependency and addiction occur because the body comes to rely on the substance to function normally. Further, the body accommodates chemical substances by altering its own chemistry to retain a sense of balance (called homeostasis). Therefore, when drug use is stopped, the body must again recalibrate to reach a balanced state.
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Withdrawal symptoms can present physically and emotionally and can range from mild to life-threatening. Because of the unpredictability of drug detox, it is always recommended that a medical professional is consulted before quitting drugs or alcohol cold turkey.
What Are Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms?
Addiction withdrawal symptoms range widely depending on the substance. Many times, rebound symptoms of what the drug was suppressing will occur. For example, someone quitting benzodiazepines, a common type of anti-anxiety prescription medication, may feel rebound anxiety as part of the detox process.
Some of the most common symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Runny nose or congestion
- Heart palpitations
- Flu-like symptoms
- Mood swings
- Muscle or joint pain
- Sleeping problems
While alcohol and drug withdrawal symptoms can cause intense discomfort, numerous medications can alleviate the detoxification process.
How Long Do Withdrawal Symptoms Last?
Most drugs used for a long period of time will produce signs of withdrawal. And, naturally, the amount of time it takes to move through withdrawal will depend on the drug along with numerous personal factors. However, while the drug and alcohol withdrawal timeline will vary widely between people, there are some general patterns for the duration of drug-specific withdrawal that answer the question, how long does withdrawal last.
Stages of drug withdrawal include acute and prolonged phases. This means that there are immediate, intense withdrawal symptoms followed by less intense but longer-lasting withdrawal symptoms.
Some of the most common drug withdrawal timelines are as follows:
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms generally begin several hours after drinking has stopped and will peak within three days. If delirium tremens occur, these usually start within two to three days.
The worst of alcohol withdrawal should be over around three days after the last drink. However, less intense symptoms could be felt for several more weeks.
Opioids include prescription medications like Percocet (hydrocodone), OxyContin (oxycodone), and illicit drugs like heroin. In general, opioid withdrawal symptoms begin soon after the drug leaves the body, peaks, and then tapers off.
For short-acting opioids like heroin, symptoms could appear within a few hours to a day after last use, peak within a few days, and complete within around two weeks.
For longer-acting opioids like oxycodone or methadone, withdrawal could take a few days to begin and several weeks to complete.
Benzos are prescription medications usually used to combat anxiety and insomnia. They are also available in short and long-acting forms, and withdrawal symptoms depend on which type of benzo was used.
Short-acting benzodiazepines, for example, ProSom or Halcion, can produce withdrawal symptoms within hours after cessation if the body has become dependent on the drug. Usually, these symptoms will peak after a few days and resolve within a week or so.
On the other hand, it may take several days to a week for withdrawal symptoms from long-acting benzos, such as Valium, to occur. These symptoms will peak around week two and may take a month or longer to resolve.
Due to the profound chemical changes that occur in the brain during long-term benzo abuse, withdrawal symptoms may also result in a condition called protracted withdrawal. In these cases, it may take months to over a year for symptoms to resolve. To avoid this, it is not advisable to quit benzos cold turkey. Instead, a qualified addiction specialist can recommend a schedule to gradually reduce exposure to benzodiazepines in hopes that withdrawal symptoms are minimized.
Stimulants include prescriptions like Adderall as well as illegal drugs like methamphetamine (meth) and cocaine. Typically, the initial stages of stimulant withdrawal are characterized by a crash. This is usually followed by depression, which occurs due to the brain’s chemical changes caused by stimulants. Unfortunately, mental health changes like depression can take months to resolve.
The general stimulant withdrawal timeline includes an onset of symptoms within a few days of last use followed by a peak after a week or two. Physical symptoms then lessen over time. However, mental symptoms like cravings could go on for months. Because of these variants, it isn’t always possible to answer, how long does withdrawal last.
Coping with Drug Withdrawal
Drug withdrawal can be unpleasant but the severity of symptoms lessens fairly quickly. While mild symptoms can be managed at home, they can lead to an intense desire to use again. This is one of the reasons why detox at home has such a high failure rate. If you’re planning on quitting a drug habit, enlisting the help of a support network is helpful to get through withdrawals. However, there are some drugs that are dangerous to withdraw from alone, like alcohol and benzos. When life-threatening reactions are possible, medical supervision is imperative from both a safety and comfort perspective.
How Veteran Addiction Treatment Can Help with Withdrawals
If the mystery behind, “How long does withdrawal last?” and other unknowns surrounding detox are keeping you from enrolling in addiction treatment, rest assured that veteran-specific detox clinics are equipped to handle all your concerns.
At Heroes’ Mile addiction treatment center in Central Florida, our veteran rehab program can help you tackle conditions like drug and alcohol withdrawal. Further, with counseling and addiction treatment we are able to treat your condition beyond drug withdrawal and detox to see that you have the best chance to thrive during recovery.
Our approach to treating veterans is simple but important, to provide mental health and addiction services to veterans, by veterans, so that common ground can be established upfront. Additionally, our Florida veteran rehab provides treatment options to best serve a variety of lifestyles. Examples of these include:
- Medically Supervised Drug and Alcohol Detox
- Residential Substance Abuse Rehab for Veterans
- Partial Hospitalization Program for Veterans
- Intensive Outpatient Program for Veterans
At Heroes’ Mile in DeLand, Florida, we want you to know that you do not have to suffer alone with addiction. Our veteran-led programs are here and are dedicated to your recovery. To learn more about our veteran rehab options, call our admissions specialists at 888-838-6692 or fill out our confidential online form.