Prescription Drug Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline and Detox

Prescription Drug Withdrawal, Timeline, Detox and Recovery

Prescription drug withdrawal is what happens to the mind and body during your recovery from addiction or dependence. There are a lot of different medications on the market that can become addictive. In fact, it’s possible for people to become addicted accidentally, and some may not realize they’re dependent upon them at all.

If you have been taking a prescription drug for quite some time, you may be addicted to it. If you are, it’s important to know what your recovery options might be. Detoxing is often the very first step when someone is recovering from a prescribed medication.

You might not have realized that stopping your medication could result in withdrawal. You may be wondering what the timeline for recovery would look like, or what methods of detox might be best for you. We’d like to take this opportunity to provide you with all the information you need.

Why do People Experience Withdrawal From Prescription Drugs?

When you become addicted to a prescription medication, your body becomes used to it over time. This means that both your physical body and your mind come to expect the usual doses of it.

When you suddenly stop taking your medication, neither the body nor the mind knows how to respond. It can come as quite a shock to your system, and the result is withdrawal symptoms.

Fortunately, the symptoms you experience won’t last forever, even though it can seem that way at the time. Eventually, they will improve and then go away.

It may help to look at this way – it took you a while to adjust to taking these medications. You probably started with a fairly low or moderate dose and then increased it over time. It will also take you some time to adjust to no longer taking it.

What Does it Feel Like?

Prescription drug withdrawal may be the worst experience you ever have. People usually suffer from both physical and mental symptoms, and they can become downright debilitating. You may find that you feel:

  • Mentally confused
  • Like you’d do anything to take your medication
  • Completely unmotivated
  • Shaky all over your body
  • Angry and easily agitated
  • Anxious or depressed
  • Physical pain in your muscles and joints

This is just a short list of common symptoms. They can vary; depending on the type of drug you’re addicted to. These and other symptoms can make it nearly impossible to stop using. Some people are even afraid of going through withdrawal, and they would rather stay addicted.

What Does it Mean to Detox?

When you detox, you’re going through a process to remove toxins from your body that are related to your medications. You’re also receiving treatments to help make you feel more comfortable as you recover.

Detoxing is very important, and it’s offered by many prescription drug rehabs all over the country. The right treatments can help you avoid possible complications from withdrawal. They can also relieve many of your symptoms, or at least lessen their severity.

Detoxing should only be done by professionals. It’s most often offered through specific detox centers, although hospitals can provide the service too. It’s also possible for a doctor to help a patient get off prescription drugs using various detoxification methods.

The Top 10 Prescription Drugs That Cause Withdrawal When They’re Stopped

There are several medications on the market that will cause withdrawal when addicted people stop taking them. Keep in mind that withdrawals are only a factor once you have become addicted or dependent on a medication. If you’re only taking it for a short period of time, you probably don’t have anything to worry about.

The top 10 prescription medications that can cause withdrawal symptoms are:

  1. Oxycodone – This is an opioid painkiller that is quite popular due to its potency and effectiveness.
  2. Adderall – This is a stimulant medication that is used to treat ADHD and ADD in both children and adults.
  3. Ativan – This medication is a benzodiazepine that is used to treat anxiety.
  4. Xanax – This drug is similar to Ativan. It also belongs to the benzo classification, and it’s often used to treat severe anxiety.
  5. Fentanyl – This opioid drug is one of the strongest ones in this classification. It’s used to treat severe pain.
  6. Vicodin – This medication is also an opioid painkiller. It’s used to treat moderate to severe pain.
  7. Methadone – This opioid drug has a few different uses. It can be used to treat pain, and it’s often given to people who are addicted to other opioid drugs during detox. It’s very effective to help with withdrawal.
  8. Ambien – This is a sleep aid that is only available by prescription. It’s supposed to be used on a short-term basis, but doctors will often prescribe it for long periods of time.
  9. Valium – This drug is a benzo medication that can be used to treat panic disorder and anxiety disorder.
  10. Suboxone – Like methadone, Suboxone is used to treat opioid addiction. Many people are surprised to find that it carries its own addictive qualities.

What Types of Symptoms Will You Experience?

If you’re planning to come off your prescription medications, it’s important to know what to expect. Again, each different type of drug has its own withdrawal symptoms. You’ll notice that some of these do overlap, but others are quite unique.

It will help you to know what you can expect when you stop taking your medication. Here is a list of prescription drugs and what people experience when going through withdrawal.

There is a long list of prescription opioid medications that can lead to withdrawal. They include:

  • Amytal
  • Buprenorphine
  • Codeine
  • Darvon
  • Darvocet
  • Dilaudid
  • Demerol
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Lorcet
  • Lortab
  • Methadone
  • Meperidine
  • Morphine
  • Opana
  • Oxycodone/Oxycontin
  • Percocet
  • Suboxone
  • Tramadol
  • Vicodin

Common Withdrawal Symptoms

If you’re addicted to prescription painkillers, you’ll probably experience some of the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Achy muscles
  • Bouts of restlessness
  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Tearing eyes
  • A runny nose
  • Problems sleeping
  • Excessive yawning
  • Cravings for your medication
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting

Possible Complications

There are several complications that can occur when someone stops taking opioid drugs. The most common one is nausea and vomiting. If you vomit while you’re asleep and you’re lying on your back, you could aspirate and choke. You could also develop pneumonia as a result.

If you develop diarrhea, you could lose fluids and electrolytes, which can lead to dehydration. This could potentially lead to problems with your circulation and even a heart attack.

Finally, some people could be at risk for seizures if they stop taking their opioid medications. These can come on all at once, and might even be fatal.

The Duration of Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal takes place in two different phases. The entire duration of it will last for about a week, although for some people, it can take longer.

The first phase begins within about 12 to 24 hours after the last dose. At that time, symptoms should be relatively mild, and they will increase in their severity. Over the next three days, they will become more intense until they reach the peak. That happens around the 72-hour mark.

The second phase takes place between the third and fifth day. During this time, many symptoms will start to subside. The person may still have some mild signs of withdrawal, such as feeling tired and having mild aches and pains. By the end of this phase, they should be feeling a lot better.

This is a great video of two doctors discussing what prescription opioid withdrawal is like:

Prescription stimulant use is on the rise in our country. More children and adults are being diagnosed with ADHD or ADD now than ever before. When they stop taking these drugs (whether they have a prescription or not), withdrawal is the result.

Some of the more popular prescription stimulants include:

  • Adderall
  • Ritalin
  • Strattera
  • Concerta
  • Dexadrine
  • Vyvanse

Typical Withdrawal Symptoms

Someone can experience withdrawal after taking any of these drugs for a long period of time. In fact, they could have symptoms even if they’ve always followed all of their doctor’s dosing instructions.

Some common prescription stimulant withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Feeling extremely tired and fatigued
  • Drug cravings
  • Having symptoms of depression
  • Insomnia and other sleep issues
  • Low energy and lethargy
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Anger and agitation
  • Feelings of sadness

Possible Complications

The most serious potential complication that can occur when coming off prescription stimulants is severe depression. There have been cases in which depression becomes so prominent that the individual begins having suicidal thoughts. Some people may even act on these thoughts instead of getting further help.

The Withdrawal Timeline

As the drug leaves the body, withdrawal symptoms typically get worse before they get better. Everyone is different, but without treatment, it’s possible to experience signs of withdrawal for as long as a year.

It can take between 24 and 72 hours before you begin feeling the effects of withdrawal. This can be misleading, and it can cause people to think that quitting on their own won’t have any serious consequences.

People usually reach the peak of withdrawal by the one-week mark. It can take as long as to four weeks before their symptoms gradually diminish and then disappear.

Antidepressant withdrawal is often referred to as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. There are several different medications that fall under this classification. They include:

  • Zoloft
  • Celexa
  • Prozac
  • Paxil
  • Lexapro
  • Luvox

These and other, similar drugs work really well for people suffering from anxiety and depression. Every year, there are millions of people who take these medications, and their number is growing. In fact, antidepressant use has increased by about 65% over the last 15 years.

Withdrawals People Usually Experience

Antidepressants are often considered to be some of the safest drugs on the market. People are often shocked to learn that they will encounter withdrawal symptoms when they stop them.

Some common symptoms of withdrawal for antidepressant medications include:

  • A return of their depression symptoms
  • Symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks
  • Fatigue and excessive sleep
  • Insomnia with vivid dreams
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as aches and chills
  • Bouts of nausea
  • Sensations that feel like electric shocks
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

Complications During Detox

There are several complications that can occur when you stop taking antidepressants. You may experience diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration. You could also have visual disturbances, which might include hallucinations or delusions.

Some people will develop psychosis, depersonalization or even have suicidal thoughts. There are even those who go into a state of catatonia, which can make them unresponsive.

For many people, their symptoms of depression become severe. As a result, they may start having suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

The Withdrawal Timeframe

The symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal will usually begin when about 90% of the drug is out of the body. Each medication has a different half-life, so this timeframe may vary.

Most experts indicate that withdrawal symptoms usually last for about a week or two. However, there are some cases when they could last as long as six weeks.

You’ll probably begin to have symptoms within the first 24 hours, but it could take longer. After about a week, your symptoms will reach their peak. After seven days, you’ll notice that some may disappear while others become less severe.

By the third week, you may notice a lingering sensation of depression. But the other symptoms you had should be mostly gone.

Benzodiazepines are some of the strongest drugs in the world. They’re usually prescribed to treat anxiety, seizures or insomnia. These drugs should only be given on a short-term basis. Unfortunately, people can remain on them for years, which can result in an addiction.

Some common benzodiazepines include:

  • Ativan
  • Halcion
  • Klonopin
  • Librium
  • Seroquel

Common Symptoms of Withdrawal

Because of the potency of benzos, it makes sense that stopping their use would cause withdrawal symptoms. Some common signs of benzodiazepine withdrawal include:

  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Problems with concentration
  • Increased irritability
  • Emotional outbursts or mood swings
  • Impaired memory
  • Body aches and pains
  • Muscle stiffness and soreness
  • Difficulty with sleep

Complications While Detoxing

It is very dangerous to detox from a benzo medication on your own. There can be many complications that can occur once these drugs are out of your system. These are often referred to as benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.

It’s possible to become severely depressed and even have suicidal thoughts once benzos are stopped. You could also develop seizures, which can be life threatening.

Many people will develop Derealization and paranoia when they quit taking benzos. This type of mental health response is much more typical for people who are taking short-acting benzodiazepine drugs, such as Triazolam.

How Long do Symptoms Last?

First and foremost, you should know that there is no definite time period for how long your symptoms will last. Some people say they only last for a few days, while other suffer with them for weeks, or even months.

The symptoms will usually appear within six to twelve hours after the last dose of the drug. Withdrawal will often peak at around the one-week mark. During the second week, symptoms will begin to subside.

For people who don’t get professional help, it’s possible for benzo withdrawal to last for years. They may experience some relief off and on, but it’s not uncommon for withdrawal to come back full force from time to time.

According to the American Sleep Association (ASA), as many as 70 million adults in the United States suffer from a sleep disorder. Insomnia is the most common one, and 30% of adults report short-term issues. 10% of adults in our country report suffering from chronic insomnia.

It’s no surprise that these drugs are so highly prescribed. Some of the more popular sleeping medications on the market include:

  • Lunesta
  • Ambien
  • Sonata
  • Restoril
  • Doxepin
  • Zolpidem

Typical Withdrawals

Sleeping pills carry a long list of withdrawal symptoms. Keep in mind that if you’re taking one of these drugs, you might not have all of them. But you could have several on this list:

  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Drug cravings
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Body spasms
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Hallucinations and delirium
  • Bouts of confusion
  • Tremors in your hands
  • Irritability

Possible Complications During Recovery

Like other medications, it is possible to experience complications during the recovery process. You may experience an increased heart rate or high blood pressure. These are issues that need to be brought to the attention of your doctor.

Some people may develop severe tremors or even have seizures once these drugs are stopped. This is unusual, but it has been known to happen.

When some individuals stop taking sleeping pills, they can experience rebound insomnia. This means that the condition is compounded and their sleeping problems are worse than they were before.

Drug Withdrawal Duration

One woman in the UK discovered just how addictive prescription sleeping pills could be. She needed to have surgery on her shoulder, and required two separate corrective operations afterwards. What followed was terrible pain and anxiety that made sleep impossible.

Her doctor prescribed her a sleeping pill to help her go to sleep and stay asleep all night long. Eventually she wanted to get off it, and what followed was the worst year she ever had. She had only taken them for six months.

The woman stated, “It was horrible. I’d go to bed at the normal time, but just lie in bed wide awake for hours. I felt depressed. I had no energy in the morning to do anything. It was the darkest year of my life. I was only getting a few hours’ sleep a night.”

If you attempt to quit on your own, withdrawal can last for several months, up to a year. This is why it’s best to choose a professional detox. Those who do may only experience symptoms for a few weeks.

Depressants are medications that can include several other classifications. For instance some are also benzos and others are classified as barbiturates. Some examples of depressant drugs include:

  • Cipralex
  • Tranquilizers
  • Zoloft
  • Zyprexa
  • Seconal

Common Symptoms of Withdrawal

The most common withdrawal symptoms that people taking depressants might experience include:

  • Sexual problems
  • Insomnia or other sleep disturbances
  • Problems with breathing
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Drug cravings

Problems Some People Experience

For people taking higher doses of depressants, withdrawal symptoms can become severe. There can be many complications that arise during the detoxification period. Some of them include:

  • Extreme agitation
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Intense cravings
  • A high body temperature
  • Hallucinations and delirium
  • Seizures or convulsions

The Length of the Withdrawal Period

It usually takes about a week to ten days to get through depressant withdrawal. This time period can be shortened when you choose to detox at a professional treatment center.

Depending on the drug, it can take between 6 and 24 hours before withdrawals begin. Once the symptoms begin to surface, they should seem relatively mild. Most people are very familiar with early withdrawal because they’ve experienced it before.

As time goes on, the severity of withdrawal should increase. You may notice newer symptoms developing that you didn’t have when you first quit. Most people experience the peak of their withdrawals by about the third or fourth day. After that, they should have fewer symptoms, and they should feel more manageable.

Barbiturates aren’t prescribed as often as they once were. Most doctors favor benzos over them because they are highly addictive. Still, there are some people for whom they work really well.

Some examples of barbiturate drugs include:

  • Amytal
  • Butisol
  • Numbutal
  • Seconal
  • Donnatal
  • Fioricet
  • Fortabs

Typical Withdrawals

The symptoms of barbiturate withdrawals can be very dangerous. These are medications that you don’t want to risk quitting on your own.

Some of the typical barbiturate withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • A high body temperature
  • Shakiness and tremors
  • Violent behaviors
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Slower breathing rates than normal

Difficulties During Detox and Recovery

It’s quite common for people to experience difficulties when they are detoxing from barbiturates. You could have complications such as:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory depression
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Slipping into a coma

How Long Will Symptoms Last?

Your symptoms will be the most intense during the first 24 hours off the drug. The first three days are the most dangerous because you’re at a high risk of seizures. It’s very important to have constant medical monitoring around the clock during this time.

Your symptoms may linger for the first week after your last dose. You could have moments that are more difficult to manage than others. Some people even develop psychosis during this time.

By the second week, you may continue to have the same types of emotional symptoms. You may even notice an increase in the severity and intensity of your mood swings. Sleep issues will persist during that time.

Any sleep problems should begin to settle down during weeks three and four after your last dose. You may still have some lingering symptoms of withdrawal as well, but most will have resolved.

Prescription Drug Detox Information

What Factors Affect How Long a Prescription Drug Stays in the System?

There are so many variables that influence how long drugs stay in your system after you stop taking them. Everyone is different, and some people may metabolize them slower, whereas others metabolize them faster. Let’s take a closer look at what some of these variables are.

  • The Drug’s Half-Life – The type of drug you’re using has a direct effect on how long it stays in your system. The term half-life is used to measure how long it takes for half of the drug to leave the body. Once the first half is eliminated, the body begins working on the next half. That process will continue until it is gone.
  • Your Genes and Metabolic Rate – Genes actually play a critical role in metabolizing substances. Some people simply do it faster than others.
  • Your Age – As a general rule, younger people are able to eliminate substances faster than older people.
  • Your Weight – If you weigh more, you can expect that to influence how fast a drug leaves your system. People who weigh less tend to metabolize drugs faster.
  • Your Frequency of Use – If you have been several doses of your prescription medication per day, it will take longer to metabolize it.
  • Your Duration of Use – It usually takes longer for long-term users to metabolize drugs than it does for short-term users.

How Can Prescription Drug Detox Help You Through Withdrawal?

Going to a prescription drug detox program will help you in several ways. First, you’ll find that it will help to control the severity of your symptoms. You may notice that they’re not as bad as they were if you had previously tried to quit on your own.

It’s also possible that you won’t experience some of the more common symptoms at all. This is a great benefit, and it will help to contribute to your long-term sobriety.

Detoxing can also protect you against experiencing many of the complications that can accompany withdrawal. Even if you do have issues, you’ll be under medical monitoring during the most critical points in your quit. Your team of professionals can always intervene, and their presence may even save your life.

You may feel that you’re not quite ready to commit to a professional detoxification facility for your recovery. In fact, you may be wondering if there are safe ways to detox at home.

Many people attempt to self-detox, but please be forewarned. Attempting to recover from a prescription drug addiction on your own is never recommended. Many at-home detoxification methods are dangerous, and could result in a relapse.

Natural Remedies

A simple Google search will uncover plenty of natural remedies that claim to help with the detoxification process. You can find everything from information on what foods to eat to vitamins and supplements to take. These methods sound promising, but they can be risky.

As of right now, you won’t find any FDA approved natural remedies. This should raise some suspicion and we hope it results in you avoiding them.

Drug Detox Kits

You may have seen many drug detox kits at your local pharmacy. They are even available through several online retailers, including Amazon. They sound like they would be a good alternative to a professional program. However, they’re really no better than natural remedies.

There is no good way to detox from prescription drugs with a kit, a drink or any other type of over the counter solution. It’s best to choose a professional setting where you can get the help you need.

Quitting Cold Turkey

Sometimes people decide that they are going to forgo the option of detoxing altogether. This most often occurs for people who got addicted to their prescription drugs on accident. There are also those who think going cold turkey is a lot like ripping off a bandaid. They figure it might hurt for a short period of time, but then it should be much easier.

In theory, it sounds good. However, you run the risk of being thrown into withdrawal with this method. Your symptoms could come on very quickly and become very difficult to handle. Most people discover that they’re relapsing as a way to find relief from their symptoms.

Types of Withdrawal Treatments for Prescription Drug Addiction

You will be much better off attending detox and receiving withdrawal treatments that have been proven to be effective. Your doctor will talk with you about the various forms of detox that are available to you. For someone who is addicted to prescription drugs, your treatment plan may look like this.

The first goal will most likely be to taper you off your medication. This is done gradually, and it gives your body time to adjust to smaller doses over a period of several days.

Please don’t try to taper your drug yourself at home. Your doctor will put you on a schedule so that it’s done correctly. If you try to do it yourself, you may go too slow or too fast for your body to handle.

Most detoxification programs offer medical detox because it’s so effective. Of course, your treatment will vary depending on the type of drug you’re addicted to.

Medical detoxing means that you’re given medications to help you with your withdrawal symptoms. For instance, if there is a high risk of seizures, your doctor may place you on an anticonvulsant drug. They may change your medications a few times during the process.

Most prescription drug detox centers understand the value of holistic treatments for withdrawal. This method doesn’t involve the use of medications at all. Instead, it relies on using dietary changes, meditation, exercise and other natural forms of treatment.

When you first enter the detox program, your health may not be the best. Taking prescription drugs excessively is often very taxing on the liver and kidneys. Their health is important because it’s their job to detox your body. Holistic detox can help to restore them so that they’re better able to perform their jobs.

Medications that Work Well to Treat Withdrawal

There are several medications that doctors often prescribe to treat withdrawal symptoms. For example, if you are addicted to opioid painkillers, you may begin medication assisted treatment, or MAT. This form of therapy involves taking a different drug that directly treats your withdrawal symptoms.

Some of the drugs that are commonly given to opioid addicts include:

  • Subutex
  • Suboxone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naloxone
  • Methadone

Vivitrol is a newer medication that has been approved to treat opioid addiction. It isn’t an opioid drug like Suboxone, but it works in much the same way. This medication is given as a monthly injection, which makes it very convenient as well.

Lucemyra is the newest drug on the market for treating opioid addiction and dependence. It works by specifically treating the worst symptoms of withdrawal, such as:

  • Overcoming feelings of panic and depression
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Shakiness
  • Intense cravings for the drugs

This is a very informative video that explains how Lucemyra works:

Can Withdrawal Symptoms be Stronger After You Relapse?

Because addiction is considered to be a disease, relapsing is often a big part of the recovery process. However, some people may find that they experience stronger withdrawals when they attempt to quit later on.

There could be a few different reasons why this happens. The first is the fact that when you relapse, you’re training your brain to believe that you need to use. Going back to a drug that you quit is just like you saying, “See? I told you I couldn’t live without it.” That means that your mind might have a harder time letting go when you decide to quit again.

The other reason might be because of the simple fact that every quit attempt is different. The next time you stop taking a prescription drug, you’ve been addicted to it longer. That means that your withdrawals might be stronger.

Is Detoxing the Only Type of Treatment You’ll Need?

Far too often, people assume that once they’ve detoxed from prescription drugs, their addictions are cured. It would be wonderful if that was the case, but it’s simply not true. Detoxing is a very important first step, but it’s not the only step you should take in your recovery journey.

After you’ve gone through the detox process, the next step is to go to a prescription drug rehab. While you’re there, you’ll receive therapy, and the reasons behind your addiction will be addressed.

It’s difficult to say why people get addicted to prescription drugs, and everyone has their own reasons. These reasons can include:

  • Using the medications to self-medicate a co-occurring disorder.
  • Taking prescription drugs excessively because you’ve formed a tolerance to your normal dose.
  • Taking the drugs because you like the sensations of euphoria.
  • Using them because they help you forget about your problems.
  • Taking them because you’ve given in to peer pressure and it seems like everyone is using.

You’re unlikely to recover unless the root cause of your addiction is uncovered and treated. That is what you’ll experience when you go to rehab. Therapy will help you learn more about yourself and your addiction.

Crack Cocaine Addiction and Treatment

Where to Find a Prescription Drug Detoxification Center Near You and How to Get Started

At Northpoint Washington, it’s our desire to help anyone who suffers with an addiction to prescription drugs. Detox is such an important part of your recovery, and it’s a step that you shouldn’t consider missing.

When you’re choosing a facility for your recovery, you’ll want to make your selection very carefully. This means finding a program that:

  • Can provide you with both detox and rehab services.
  • Offers treatment for co-occurring disorders.
  • Will participate with your insurance to minimize your out of pocket costs.
  • Is accredited by The Joint Commission.
  • Views you as an individual and provides you with your own, personal treatment plan.

You’ll find all of that and a lot more right here at Northpoint. We’ve had the pleasure of working with people from all over the country. We know how hard it is when a prescription drug addiction threatens to take over your life. Whether you became addicted accidentally, or you use these substances recreationally, we’re here to assist you.

Do you have additional questions about prescription drug detox that you need answers for? Please let us know how we can help you by contacting us today.

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