The Addiction Withdrawal Timeline

If you have substance use disorder or suffer from alcoholism but want to stop drinking or using drugs, you may have thought about stopping cold turkey. That’s when you abruptly stop using the substance you're addicted to. While it is commendable to want to quit drinking or using drugs, the problem with the cold turkey approach is that your body has grown accustomed to having the substance in your system, which means that your body may have started to develop a physical dependency.

Withdrawal Timeline and Symptoms

You are likely to have withdrawal symptoms once you stop using drugs. For many types of substances, it’s often best to have a medically supervised detox to help you through the withdrawal process. Below are the withdrawal symptoms and timelines for some of the most common substances of addiction. 


Because alcohol is processed so fast in the body, withdrawal symptoms may develop and subside quickly. However, although the withdrawal phase may be short, it may also be harmful and cause life-threatening symptoms in certain people, including withdrawal delirium and seizures. 


Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may vary from minor to extremely severe. A wide range of symptoms might occur throughout a detox process. A person may experience mild symptoms such as restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia. More severe withdrawal signs may include hand trembling, hypersensitivity to light and noise, rapid heartbeat, and disorientation in rare instances. 


The onset and resolution of withdrawal from alcohol can vary and can sometimes be unexpected. To accurately predict who will and who will not have life-threatening symptoms during acute withdrawal can be difficult for medical practitioners.


Symptoms of withdrawal often appear during the first four to six hours after stopping or drastically lowering alcohol intake. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are most acute on the second or third day of abstinence. Although symptoms could lessen by the fifth day, moderate withdrawal signs could persist for a month in rare cases.



Opiate or opioid withdrawal symptoms can be severe, although they are not generally life-threatening. Only a doctor with specialized training in addiction medicine can be trusted to help someone stop using opioids. An inpatient facility is the safest place to begin the withdrawal process. The patient will be closely monitored for withdrawal-related concerns and given support as they work through them.


The first two days after quitting use are the most difficult because of the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. Within six to twelve hours after the last use, symptoms appear. It is possible to have panic attacks if the symptoms are so severe that they cause the person to become agitated or irritable. People often experience high cravings for opioids and a strong urge to use again during this early withdrawal stage. Relapse is also more likely to occur within the first two days of discontinuation.


During the third to fifth days, symptoms should begin to subside. There is a possibility that some people may still have slight nausea, shivering and goosebumps, stomach pain, and perhaps vomiting. Although not as bad as the first two days, a person may have continued anxiety. The most severe symptoms should subside on days six and seven.



When a person has a stimulant addiction and stops using the drug, the withdrawal symptoms may be tough to deal with emotionally and physically. Some of the longer-lasting effects may last for up to five months after the cessation of usage. Still, the duration of withdrawal symptoms depends on the amount of the drug used, coherence with a detox tapering schedule, history of previous addictions, and other considerations. Professional assistance may be a vital resource throughout the recovery period.


Most kinds of stimulant withdrawal have a similar pattern. For each drug, the time it takes for the effects to wear off varies greatly. Methamphetamine addicts, for example, may have depressive symptoms that persist for longer than cocaine users. Withdrawal symptoms can begin within a few hours after discontinuing stimulant use but could take up to a day. While each person’s experience is different, the symptoms roll out relatively in three stages: early, middle and late. 


In the first three days, the early stage, a person may feel agitated, anxious, or have body aches and become fatigued. In the middle stage, from the fourth day up to 10, a person may have symptoms of sleepiness, irritability, insomnia, and worsening fatigue. In the last stage, which could take some time to resolve, symptoms may include mood swings, problems with concentration, depression, and anxiety. 


When quitting drugs or alcohol, it's important to remember that the detox phase is only the first step in recovery. It would be great if you could simply quit cold turkey and hope to feel better almost instantly. But unfortunately, that's not how it works. 


Addiction withdrawal can cause gripping physical pain and come with distressful psychological repercussions. These symptoms can cause many people to relapse and give up on their recovery. It will help you immensely if you get assistance from a reputable addiction treatment center like Wish Recovery for medically supervised detox alongside professional counseling and therapy sessions.

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