Drug Addiction Withdrawal Timeline

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Examining the Drug Addiction Withdrawal Timeline for Commonly Abused Drugs

Withdrawal symptoms bar the gates of recovery; every person who wants to quit their addiction to drugs and alcohol must first get through withdrawal to begin their journey to better mental and physical health. It is a wide-reaching disease that affected over 20 million people in the United States according to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. In order to better understand what’s involved with stopping substance abuse, we will explore the drug addiction withdrawal timeline for various substances as well as some of the symptoms one can expect.

Prescription Pain Relievers and Heroin (Opioids and Opiates)

Opiates refer to more natural forms of the drug such as heroin whereas opioids refer to synthetic versions. Both affect the brain in the same way causing a severe dependence that can result in opiate withdrawal symptoms such as abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, depression, agitation and excessive tearing. Opiate withdrawal is expected to set in after roughly 8-12 hours of abstinence and to peak after about 24-48 hours. In most cases of this drug addiction withdrawal timeline, it takes about 7-10 days before the person is over the worst of it.


Alcohol is one of the most dangerous abused substances with regards to the negative effects such as the severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The most dangerous of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms are delirium tremens (DTs). In rare cases, it can be so severe that it leads to death.

The drug addiction withdrawal timeline for alcohol begins at roughly 8 hours after the last drink. The symptoms begin to peak, which includes the start of DTs, at around 1 to 3 days from the start of detox. It’s common for severe cases of alcohol withdrawal to cause symptoms that can continue for weeks, but in more common cases, the symptoms dissipate in roughly 7 days.


Cocaine is a potent stimulant that rapidly leaves the system. Withdrawal symptoms from cocaine are usually mostly felt in the psychological domain. Symptoms include severe depression, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety and craving among others.  Detoxifying from cocaine usually takes around 7 days, but post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) may persist for months. The symptoms of PAWS are generally the psychological symptoms such as depression. The first symptoms appear within a few hours and peak around 2-3 days into the detox.

Benefits of a Medical Detox Program

If you’ve experienced some of the symptoms of withdrawal and are concerned about dealing with them, then it is advised that you make use of a medical detox program at a rehab.  Instead of having to go cold turkey and face to full brunt of the withdrawal symptoms, a medical detox program allows you to take advantage of the withdrawal medications available today. Each substance category, such as opioid and stimulants, has their own set of medications, including such medications as methadone, naloxone and buprenorphine.

The benefits of using a medical detox include ensuring that possible health risks are effectively dealt with, the reduction of withdrawal symptom severity and even the reduction of detox length in some cases. One of the most important benefits of a medical detox at a rehab is that cravings are reduced, which then helps to decrease the likelihood of relapse.

Of course, detox cannot cure an addiction and after a medical detox, addicts are advised to make use of the many treatment programs that are designed to help with long-term sobriety. Without such treatment, relapse becomes far more likely.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.