Withdrawal is one of the toughest things a user or drinker must go through on their quest for sobriety. It’s something that wreaks havoc on the body as well as the mind and can get so bad that it makes an addict question if getting clean is worth the suffering.

That’s a testament to the power of these substances and how much they mess with the wiring of our systems. Knowing what withdrawal looks like from various substances can help you or your loved one get through it.

Withdrawal happens very shortly after you stop taking a substance. Even something as innocuous as skipping that standard coffee in the morning can lead to headaches in the afternoon.

Why Do Drug Withdrawals Occur?

Continual and persistent drug or alcohol use really does alter the circuitry of how our minds work. Constant abuse leads to increased cravings and ultimately a dependency on those chemicals to get through the day. Our minds and bodies yearn for the drugs or alcohol, scream for them in fact, which is why getting a drink or a hit starts to become priority number one for an addict.

This is also why withdrawals occur.

The brain simply gets used to the presence of a particular substance, as does the body. Your sense of normal is built on it and when you abruptly cut the supply, your body and mind react strongly to the break in that flow. The intensity of that reaction, of that withdrawal, and how long it lasts is dependent on the substance you were using.

Signs of Drug Withdrawal

Broadly speaking, some signs of withdrawal happen commonly across all types of drugs. Things like: changes in appetite and mood, nausea, fatigue, irritability, difficulties sleeping, sweating and vomiting are generally part of the experience of withdrawal.

There are however signs of withdrawal that are more specific to certain drugs and alcohol (please note this isn’t a comprehensive list):


Withdrawal from drinking comes with insomnia, anxiety and agitation.

Lighter drinkers are less likely to go through intense withdrawal but heavy drinkers are at a vastly increased risk of developing a serious form of withdrawal called delirium tremens (DT) which manifests in shaking, confusion and hallucinations. DTs are extremely severe and potentially fatal.


Opioids are exceptionally addictive so dependence can happen quickly. Withdrawal is characterized by increased anxiety, sweating, muscle and body aches, diarrhea and general flu-like symptoms. Medical detox is commonly used to mitigate the symptoms.



Another highly addictive substance, cocaine’s withdrawal signs are much more psychologically based than physical. After someone stops using, they become more depressed and irritable. They can have hallucinations, psychotic episodes and be in a constant state of tiredness.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

In addition to the immediate effects that withdrawal has on an addict, it’s important to keep in mind that that isn’t necessarily the end of the withdrawal process.

Acute withdrawal is the initial phase in which the aforementioned signs and symptoms happen and a lot of it is related to the physical recalibration of the body. Post-acute withdrawal is experienced psychologically, in the mind, and can happen weeks, or even months, after the last trace of drugs or alcohol have left the body. This is essentially part of the process of your mind dealing with the changes from substance abuse and can come and go. 

How to Get Help With Drug Addiction

The best odds for beating addiction are when you or your loved one seeks outside help from professionals. Withdrawal can be dangerous when dealt with alone and detoxing is only part of the equation. Lasting sobriety is much more likely to be realized by committing to a thoughtful and holistic recovery program. That’s just part of what we offer at Star Recovery Center, give us a call if you need more information on withdrawal.