Almost every time people talk about substance abuse rehab, withdrawal symptoms are also mentioned as part of the conversation. It only makes sense that that happens, because dealing with uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms is one of the most challenging aspects of recovery. In this blog post, we are going to explore what happens to people’s bodies when they suddenly abstain from a substance they had frequently been using. From what they are to why they happen, here’s everything you need to know about withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal Symptoms Are Real

The physical impact that substance abuse has is real and lasting, and it can permanently affect a person’s body. When someone who has become dependent upon a substance suddenly stops taking it, their body naturally reacts in a way that makes the person very uncomfortable, sometimes for a long period of time. This is due to the chemical imbalances that have happened inside the person’s brain and body. The symptoms are not made up or imaginary, they are a direct result of chemistry and biology—specifically, they are a result of how people’s bodies react to foreign chemicals.

Common Withdrawal Symptoms

No two people react to addiction in the same way. On top of that, no two substances affect people’s bodies in the same way. This means that withdrawal symptoms can vary greatly from person to person and are dependent upon a variety of factors, including:

  • The physical characteristics of the person, including their age, weight, height, gender, race, and physical health, among others
  • Which substances the person has been abusing
  • How long the person has been abusing substances
  • The person’s genetics (some people face a greater risk of becoming addicted and/or suffering from intense withdrawal symptoms than other people)

In general, different categories of drugs affect people’s bodies in similar ways. While the individual symptoms that a person might face during recovery will vary, here are some common symptoms that almost everybody faces as they begin to recover from addiction to these substances:


  • Heroin, prescription painkillers, and other opioids: Flu-like symptoms (nausea, cough, sore throat, fever, chills, runny/stuffy nose, headaches, fatigue, etc.) that last an average of 5 days.
  • Benzodiazepines: Symptoms range from moderate anxiety, panic, irritability, and insomnia, to life-threatening conditions such as heart palpitations, high blood pressure, and seizures. These symptoms last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years.
  • Cocaine: The symptoms begin within a few hours of the last dose and typically last anywhere between 1 to 10 weeks. The symptoms include, but are not limited to, depression, anxiety, restlessness, nerve pain, chills, and exhaustion.
  • Alcohol Withdrawal: These are some of the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, anxiety, hallucinations, seizures, and loss of appetite that lasts anywhere between two hours to four days after the last drink.