One of the biggest fears of anyone dealing with an addiction or substance use disorder is the fear of a painful withdrawal. Many types of drugs and alcohol will cause withdrawal, and withdrawals are often thought of as physical symptoms, but can also be mental and emotional for a person who is stopping the use of substances. The fear of a painful withdrawal experience can keep a person using drugs and alcohol for many years.

What is Withdrawal and What Substances Cause Withdrawal Symptoms?

Withdrawal is the physical and mental symptoms that occur after a person stops or reduces the intake of drugs and/or alcohol.

The substances most often considered when thinking about physical withdrawal are:

  • alcohol
  • opioids like heroin and fentanyl
  • prescription painkillers like OxyContin or Percocet
  • benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Valium or Librium

However, other drugs such as cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, or even marijuana, can cause withdrawal symptoms. For those types of substances, withdrawal symptoms can be more mental and/or emotional, but they can also cause some level of physical withdrawal.

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

For the most common substances associated with withdrawal, it is the physical withdrawal symptoms that scare people the most. Some examples of these physical withdrawal symptoms are:

  • fatigue
  • hot and cold sweats
  • intense muscle aches and pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • headaches
  • clammy hands
  • the feeling of being unable to sit still or “crawling out of your skin”

Often, people withdrawing from heroin or other types of opioids will describe it as the worst possible flu or it feeling like “the flu times 100.” It is an extremely uncomfortable or painful process, if done alone and without the care and support of medical professionals and medication.

All substances also carry the potential for major mental and emotion withdrawal symptoms. Some examples of this are anxiety, depression, pain attacks, reduced motivation, apathy, or finding difficulty experiencing pleasure. Many substances can also carry with them the dangerous risk of extreme psychological and other physical symptoms, such as delusions, hallucinations, and seizures.

The good news is that withdrawals from drugs and alcohol does not need to be painful. Many people who use drugs have attempted to detox themselves in the past, or to stop or moderate their drinking or drug use. This typically is unsuccessful and creates a core memory for them about the pain and discomfort they experienced while attempting to stop or cut down their use on their own. Instead, it is important to recognize that drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms are not uncommon, millions of people that have found recovery from addiction have gone through them, and that there are avenues of support to make detox from drugs and alcohol manageable and sometimes even comfortable. This is not to say that a detox or dealing with withdrawals will be a walk in the park and necessarily pain free. It is also important to recognize the dangers of drugs and alcohol, the effect that months and years of drug and alcohol use and misuse can have one the body and mind, and that like getting through many difficult situations, there will most likely be some level of discomfort.

How to Best Manage Withdrawal Symptoms

However, thanks to medical and clinical professionals and many different types of FDA-approved medications, if someone is willing to seek help and enter a medical detox and addiction treatment facility, the detox process and withdrawal symptoms are easily managed and can be done so fairly simply and with a lot less discomfort or pain than typically assumed. 24/7 doctors and nurses and clinical professionals are available for care and support. Medications are used to manage many different withdrawal symptoms. And during detox, like in all areas of recovery, a community of recovery support is there. This type of team approach with all angles covered makes the detox process go quick and relatively without pain or discomfort. More good news is that most withdrawal symptoms do not last long- sometimes a few days to a little over a week- so that anyone is able to get through it with the proper treatment, care, support, and medications. Doing so also helps the individual going through detox be better prepared to not return to drug and alcohol use once they begin to feel physically and emotionally better. It is common for someone to detox themselves, get through the difficult withdrawal symptoms, and then almost immediately return to active use, setting up a vicious cycle of withdrawal-feel better-relapse-repeat. Instead, when deciding to enter a detox, receive treatment, and begin to feel healthy again both physically and mentally, a person can utilize the professional tools and support to plan ahead for a long-term journey of sobriety and recovery from addiction.

If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorders, please give us a call. Innovo Detox offers the latest in evidence-based medical, psychiatric, and clinical care for those in need of detox and medical stabilization in Pennsylvania and the surrounding Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or a loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a detox, rehab, treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (717) 619-3260 or email our team at For more information on our company or services, please visit our website at